- Divine Mercy
There are truths of the holy faith which, seemingly, are known and frequently mentioned, however, they are neither well understood nor lived. That was my experience as regards the truth of Divine Mercy. So many times did I think about this truth during meditations, especially during retreats, so many times did I speak about it during sermons and so many times did I repeat this truth by saying liturgical prayers. However, I did not penetrate its meaning and importance to spiritual life. Especially, I did not understand, and even could not agree, that Divine Mercy is the greatest attribute of the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sanctifier. A soul, simple, pious and closely united with God was needed who – under Divine inspiration, as I believe, told me about this and spurred me to study, do research and ponder over the subject. The late Sister Faustina (Helen) Kowalska was this soul from the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. She achieved something slowly: today I consider Divine Mercy worship and, especially, the institution of the Feast of Divine Mercy on the first Sunday after Easter one of the main goals of my life.
I met Sister Faustina in summer (July or August) 1933, when she was a penitent in the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Vilnius (25 Senatorska Street), in which I was the regular confessor then. She drew my attention because of her unusually subtle conscience and close union with God: most of the time there was nothing to absolve her from and she never offended God by a mortal sin. At the very beginning she told me that she had known me for a long time because of a vision. She also told me that I was to be her spiritual director, who was to fulfil some of God’s plans which were to be conveyed by her. I ignored what she had told me and I put her to a test which, with the Superior’s permission, made Sister Faustina look for another confessor. After some time she came back to me and said that she would endure everything but she would not leave me any more. Here, I cannot repeat or rather reveal all the details of our conversation, whose part can be found in her diary, which she wrote at my request, because after that I forbade her to speak of her experiences during confession.
In 1924, one spring morning, when I was Superior of the house in Żytnia Street, I was told by a person working at our gate that a young girl had come to ask to be admitted to the Congregation. So I went down to the parlour and opened the door slightly, however, at first glance, the candidate, who was sitting in such a way that she did not see me, did not make a good impression on me because her appearance was a bit shabby. I thought: well, she is not for us! I closed the door quietly with the intention of sending in another sister to tell the candidate that her request had been turned down.
However, at that moment it came to me that it would be more in accordance with the love of neighbour to ask the girl a few general questions and only then to say goodbye. Therefore, I returned to the parlour and started talking with her. Then I noticed that on further acquaintance the candidate made a much better impression, that her smile and facial expression were nice, that there was a lot of simplicity and honesty about her and that what she said was very sensible. Therefore, I soon changed my mind and I started to feel like admitting her. The main difficulty was that Helenka Kowalska was poor, not to mention the lack of a dowry, from which the Holy See easily dispensed sisters. She did not have any trousseau and we did not have any fund for it either. However, I suggested that she could go to work as a housekeeper and save a few hundred zlotys for the trousseau. She was very eager to do that and we agreed that she would bring the money to the gate in order to give it in for safekeeping. It was decided that she would do that. Soon after I said goodbye to her and forgot about it.
I was Sister Faustina’s superior in Vilnius, where she came to stay in 1929. She seemed to me to be a serious sister who had spiritual maturity already. Sister Faustina was secretive, so I did not disturb the silence in her soul. Later, when outside help was required to paint the image and she could not manage to do that on her own, her revelations became clearer to me, however, despite that, I did not want to ask her a lot of questions. In my opinion, the matters were more serious, more experience was needed and that’s why when she had various doubts, most frequently I referred her to our Mother General, Michael.
I was pleased to look at her peace when she worked; she could work and then take breaks and do spiritual exercises. In the beginning I noticed that she went to the chapel frequently and she was preoccupied with this. The sisters were overworked and many of them said: it’s good to go to the Lord Jesus and leave us to ourselveswithout help. I told her to make efforts to aid them, to make it easier for them so that they also do the spiritual exercises and I did not have to say it again since that time.
She was eager to do each of her duties. Although she had not been trained, she thought that obedience would do the rest, which was the case, indeed. When she started working in the garden she could not do anything there. Slowly she learnt a lot. She put her heart into working there, especially into a small greenhouse, and she eagerly gathered all information about this subject from specialists. The wards liked working with her and appreciated that she was gentle with them. She was very patient and was never heard to say that our wards were useless, that she could not teach them anything etc. She always very patient with them and they found her smile nice and appealing. The wards emphasized that, among other virtues, she had the one of obedience.