Death of Maria Faustina Kowalska Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

A humble nun and mystic, Kowalska left behind her diary Divine Mercy in My Soul, which became a classic of Christian mysticism and spawned a devotion to the philosophy of divine mercy in the Catholic Church.

Summary of Event

Born August 25, 1905, Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska was the third of ten children in a very poor but devout family in Glogowiec, Poland. Although she lacked a proper education, her writings formed the basis of the Catholic philosophy of divine mercy, and she would become one of the most prominent Polish nuns in history. Her beginnings, however, were spartan. Stories about Kowalska’s family recall that its members were so poor that Kowalska and her sisters had only one dress fit to wear to church and had to take turns wearing it, so the sisters all went to Mass at different times. [kw]Death of Maria Faustina Kowalska (Oct. 5, 1938) [kw]Maria Faustina Kowalska, Death of (Oct. 5, 1938) [kw]Kowalska, Death of Maria Faustina (Oct. 5, 1938) Divine Mercy in My Soul (Kowalska) Roman Catholic Church;saints Philosophy;divine mercy [g]Poland;Oct. 5, 1938: Death of Maria Faustina Kowalska[09840] [c]Religion, theology, and ethics;Oct. 5, 1938: Death of Maria Faustina Kowalska[09840] [c]Publishing and journalism;Oct. 5, 1938: Death of Maria Faustina Kowalska[09840] Kowalska, Maria Faustina Sopocko, Michael John Paul II

At an early age, Kowalska knew that she was destined for a holy life and asked her parents if she could join a convent. Her parents feared losing their favorite daughter, however, and they refused. The young woman became involved in dancing and other popular activities until one day she had a vision of God while she was at a dance. God asked her why she was wasting her life and not devoting herself to him, and he told her she should board a train for Warsaw and enter a convent.

She traveled to Warsaw and attempted to enter many convents, but none would allow her to stay. Finally Kowalska was accepted by the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, a group that worked with troubled young girls. After working for some time as a servant to pay the sum required to join the convent, Kowalska entered as a postulant on August 1, 1925. A year later, she became a novice, and her name changed from Helena Kowalska to Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Jesus appeared to Kowalska on February 22, 1931, as a being of immense mercy who held one of his hands to his brilliant white robe and the other up in blessing. He revealed to her that she was to spread a message about the mercy of God and have an image painted of him exactly as he appeared to her. She was also instructed to found a Catholic congregation that would focus on the divine mercy of God. Kowalska’s superiors balked at both ideas and forbade them.

Kowalska was saved, however, by her appointment to a new spiritual adviser, Father Michael Sopocko, who believed in her visions. Sopocko asked Kowalska to describe all her visions in a diary, and he commissioned a painter to portray Jesus according to Kowalska’s description. At first Kowalska had a great deal of trouble writing, and her lack of education and frequent errors in spelling and grammar caused her to suspect that some of her thoughts might be heretical. She was also ostracized by nuns in the convent who thought that her visions were fictitious and that Jesus would not take an interest in a poor, lower-class nun.

In 1936, Kowalska became so sick that her superiors sent her to a sanatorium in Pradnik, Poland, where she began proselytizing to fellow patients, visitors, and anyone else who would listen. During the summer of 1938, Kowalska was so ill that she could not write in her diary, and she died in her convent on October 5, 1938. She had not been able to found a religious congregation based on the principle of divine mercy, but she had left behind her diary, which was eventually published as Dzienniczek Słlugi Bożzej S. M. Faustyny Kowalskiej: Profeski wieczystej zgromadzenia Matki Bożzej Miłlosierdzia (1981; Divine Mercy in My Soul: The Diary of the Servant of God, Sister M. Faustina Kowalska, 1987). The book served as a guidebook to divine mercy.

Kowalska’s spiritual adviser, Father Sopocko, took over her heavenly mission and spread divine mercy’s message. In 1941, a religious order was founded to celebrate and study divine mercy. However, disaster struck this community in 1958, when the Holy See (the government of the Roman Catholic Church) declared the teachings of divine mercy to be heretical. Theologians did not take into account Kowalska’s lack of education, and as a result they interpreted some of her grammatical errors as arguments against the Church and as disloyal to the pope.

Devotion to divine mercy was declared heretical, but the archbishop of Kraków, Karol Józef Wojtyła, allowed the painting of Jesus that Father Sopocko had commissioned to remain on display so that petitioners could still pray to it. In 1965, Wojtyła, then cardinal of Kraków, launched an investigation into the life of Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska, and this investigation concluded that the teachings of divine mercy were not heretical. On April 18, 1993, Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska was beatified, and she was canonized on April 30, 2000, by Wojtyła, who by then was Pope John Paul II.

Significance

For a large number of Catholics, Kowalska’s writings spawned a new understanding of human beings’ relationship with God. Her teachings also inspired Wojtyła, who became Pope John Paul II. Saint Faustina’s work became one of the standard texts read by Catholics, and the diary of this uneducated nun took on an importance that rivaled works of popes and even other saints. Her book’s popularity was especially amazing in the light of the vast difference in opportunities available to uneducated nuns from poor families and educated nuns from richer families.

The concept of divine mercy guided many in the Catholic Church during the twentieth century, and Saint Faustina became something of a national hero in Poland. Many of the quotations that she attributed to Jesus in her diary speak of Jesus’ special love for that country, a very interesting notion that conflicted somewhat with Poland’s especially horrific experiences during World War II, which began the year after Saint Faustina’s death. Divine Mercy in My Soul (Kowalska) Roman Catholic Church;saints Philosophy;divine mercy

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kosiki, George W. Study Guide to the Diary of Saint Faustina. Toronto: Marian Press, 2003. A very good, directed study of Kowalska’s writings.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kowalska, Maria Faustina. Diary of Sister M. Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul. Toronto: Marian Press, 2003. Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska’s diaries, translated from Polish. An excellent resource. Spans more than six hundred pages.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Stackpole, Robert. Pillars of Fire in My Soul: The Spirituality of Saint Faustina. Toronto: Marian Press, 2003. Gives a good understanding of Faustina’s connection to God and how that connection has been viewed by others.

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