- Divine Mercy
The school of spirituality, as indicates the name itself, signifies a style of Christian life and system of his forming in which all the elements of spirituality such as: the image of God, prayer, asceticism, ascetical practices, interpersonal relationships… are strictly related to each other. Each school of spirituality has its own founder, doctrine and disciples, who live according to its rules. Schools basically differ among each other in three elements: model of sanctity, suggested means to its achievement and tips regarding the interior life. To the great schools of Christian spirituality belong, among others, the Benedictines, Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites or Jesuits. The school of St. Faustina, which grows from her charism and mystical experience, joined the group in our times.
The school of St. Faustina’s spirituality is rooted in the mystery of Divine Mercy which lies in its foundation and in the center itself, and is the binder of all the elements of the interior life. It forms the image of God, sacramental life, asceticism, namely, everything which compounds the reality in the relation between man and God. Hence the school of St. Faustina’s spirituality is marked out and characterized by the coming to know the mystery of Divine Mercy and contemplating it in everyday life and the ensuing attitude of entrustment to God and merciful love toward neighbor. The image of this school is completed by the following features: having love for the Church, Eucharist and devotion to Our Lady. These elements, which also appear in other schools of spiritualities, in the school of St. Faustina have a typical “aspect” of mercy.
The foundress of this school – Saint Faustina – was directly formed by Jesus Himself. He was her Master, He taught her through different mystical experiences and words, formed her spirituality to show through it a model of Christian perfection completely founded on the mystery of the Divine Mercy. The school of St. Faustina is profoundly evangelical because it revokes to the foundation of Christianity (the attitude of trust in God and mercy towards neighbors) and at the same time is universal because it is reserved and accessible for every man without consideration of the type of vocation, social conditions or others. The contemporary apostles of Divine Mercy, who carry the gift of the message about merciful love of God for every human being, form their spiritual life in the school.
The first task in the school of St. Faustina’s spirituality is coming to know God in the mystery of His Mercy. The Apostle of Divine Mercy did it first by very simple means, such as meditation of the Word of God, spiritual reading, listening to conferences, reflecting on the mysteries of the rosary and the stations of the way of the cross, participating in days of recollection and retreats, profoundly experiencing the holy sacraments, the solemnities of the Church throughout the liturgical year. Not only did she come to know the mystery of Divine Mercy on the ground of the Holy Scriptures, Liturgy of the Church…, but she also tried to perceive the signs of His love in her own life. In daily check of conscience she asked: what has God done for me today? Such knowing the mystery of Divine Mercy caused that the mystery of God’s love was not abstract, something beautiful yet unattainable or out of reach; rather, it takes on concrete forms in the ordinary life of man.
In doing so, Sister Faustina saw that her entire life was immersed in the mercy of God.
In it my soul bathes daily…, There is not a moment in my life when do not experience Your mercy (Diary 697). It is like the golden thread running through our life, which maintains in good order the contact of our being with God. … My senses are transfixed with joy, she admitted sincerely, when God grants me a deeper awareness of that great attribute of His; namely, His unfathomable mercy (Diary 1466).
Sister Faustina realized very clearly that the knowledge of the mystery of Divine Mercy is not attained by one’s own efforts alone but that the work of the human intellect must be strengthened by divine grace. Thus, she pleaded,
O My Jesus, give me wisdom, give me a mind great and enlightened by Your light, and this only, that I may know You better, O Lord. For the better I get to know You, the more ardently I will love You (Diary 1030; cf. Diary 1474).
Sister Faustina noticed also that it is possible to come to know God, not only by the intellect, but by the practice of love of neighbor, too. I have learned and experienced, she ascertained in the Diary, that souls living in love are distinguished in this: that they are greatly enlightened concerning the things of God, both in their own souls and in the souls of others. And simple souls, without an education, are outstanding for their knowledge (Diary 1191).
Such coming to know God in the life of Sister Faustina was strengthened by the gift of acquired contemplation and through it she penetrated very deeply this mystery of our faith in order to let it know to the world. Through her records saved in the Diary we can know God better in the mystery of His merciful love towards man.
The contemplation of Mercy in daily life is the characteristic aspect in the school of St. Faustina’s spirituality. Acquired contemplation, as Tanquerey maintains, is a simplified affective prayer, the act of fixing a simple gaze on God joined with an affection of admiration and love. Souls that reach the state of contemplation need neither long meditations nor intellectual probing, since they come to know God rather spontaneously and without interference; they walk to some extent before the face of God, and they love God almost instinctively, just as a child loves its kind mother. For those souls it is difficult to conceive how anyone cannot love God, how anyone can live without Him.
Saint Sister Faustina teaches us to contemplate God in daily life – to encounter Him in one’s own soul and to live one’s whole life with Him.
I look for no happiness beyond my own interior where God dwells, she avowed in the Diary, I rejoice that God dwells within me; here I abide with Him unendingly; it is here that my greatest intimacy with Him exists; here I dwell with Him in safety; here is a place not probed by the human eye. The Blessed Virgin encourages me to commune with God in this way (Diary 454; cf. Diary 1793).
A simple practice for the contemplation of God in daily life was exercised by sister Faustina at the convent life, and when she wanted to change it, the Lord Jesus did not give her permission to do so, knowing how great an advantage it brings for the spiritual life. This practice consists in uniting herself with Jesus dwelling in her soul e.g. through an ardent act of prayer (short prayerful invocation). A consequent use of this practice brings abundant fruits in the spiritual life: it develops a personal bond of love with God and leads to a fuller participation in the life and mission of Jesus. It allows for common life with Him in one’s own life in all dimensions.
With Him I go to work, Sister Faustina wrote, with Him I go for recreation, with Him I suffer, with Him I rejoice; I live in Him and He in me. I am never alone, because He is my constant companion. He is present to me at every moment (Diary 318).
Such practiced contemplation of Mercy in daily life does not demand seclusion from the world, staying in the convent. It may be adapted to every vocation. In the times of great fear, lack of the feeling of safety and love, God through the life of St. Faustina reminded us about the truth of His indwelling in the human soul, about which St. John wrote in his Gospel, and called to stay with God in the depths of one’s own existence.
The word trust in the school of St. Faustina’s spirituality signifies the attitude of man towards God. In the signature of the image, which Jesus ordered her to paint, are the words: Jesus, I trust in You! Trust is the first response of man to knowing and experiencing the attentive merciful love of God. This word has unusually rich contents because it signifies not only faith in the existence of God, in His omnipotence, in the truths revealed through Him, but it also denotes an all-embracing attitude of man towards God, which expresses the fulfillment of God’s will contained in the commandments, in the duties of our state of life, as well as in the recognized inspirations of the Holy Spirit. In the writings of Sister Faustina, trust is identical with the biblical conception of faith and so it means entrustment of own life to God as the best Father who does not desire anything other than man’s temporal and eternal happiness. God’s will – as Sister Faustina often used to say – is for us mercy itself. It is the fulfillment of God’s will that is a concrete measure of trust towards God. The Lord Jesus said to Sister Faustina,
The graces of My mercy are drawn by means of one vessel only, and that is trust. The more a soul trusts, the more it will receive. Souls that trust boundlessly are a great comfort to Me, because I pour all the treasures of My graces into them. I rejoice that they ask for much, because it is my desire to give much, very much. On the other hand, I am sad when souls ask for little, when they narrow their hearts (Diary 1578).
The attitude of trust has a dynamic character and in Sister Faustina’s life it yielded continuous growth until her complete entrustment to God in all dimensions of life. In order to develop the attitude of trust, Sister Faustina made use of very simple means, ordinary and accessible to everyone, such us: development of faith, hope, love, humility, and contrition – virtues conditioning the attitude of trust, but also the practise of daily fulfillment of God’s will even in very small things. But the point is that she used them consistently, and this often required great fortitude of spirit, radicalism, and tenacity in fighting with her spoiled nature – as she would put it. Building up the attitude of trust demanded her continuous conversion. She had to overcome herself, not only as regards her weaknesses, but also as regards her natural capacities; e.g., the logic of reason. Because, oftentimes, God would place her precisely in such situations where she had to deny her reason, suspend the logic of human thinking so as to trust Him, and consequently, to accept and carry out His will. The Lord Jesus highly valued Sister Faustina’s efforts to develop the attitude of trust, saying:
You have great and incomprehensible rights over My Heart, for you are a daughter of complete trust (Diary 718).
The word “trust” in the school of St. Faustina’s spirituality describes the relation of man towards God, while the word “mercy” characterizes interpersonal relations whose origin, model and motive lies in the merciful love of God. Jesus said to St. Faustina,
I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it. I am giving you three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbor: the first – by deed, the second – by word, the third – by prayer. In these three degrees is contained the fullness of mercy, and it is an unquestionable proof of love for me. By this means a soul glorifies and pays reverence to My mercy (Diary 742).
Nowadays there exists plenty of false conceptions of mercy, which are often identified with indulgence, pity, the denial of justice, therefore the proper and profound conception of mercy, which Sister Faustina had, deserves attention. Human mercy for St. Faustina is very strictly related with God’s mercy and so it is based on objective truth – the word of God; it sets up the fulfillment of the demands of justice, which is the basic limit of love and it fruits in concrete deeds.
Mercy is the flower of love (Diary 651) or deed’s mercy (cf. Diary 651)
In her life and in the writings witnessing of mercy towards neighbors must include first of all a dignity of needy man, and next his corporal and spiritual needs. A dignity of every man, given him through God already on the reason of creation and redemption, is this value, which is common for needy one and for person doing good. Noticing this dignity, given through God, in needy man and underlined by Christ, had an essential meaning for practice of mercy, and marks out the personalistic school of St. Faustina’s mercy from other models which appeared in the history of the Church.
In this interpretation, mercy – which has its source, model and motive in God, and which concentrates on man’s dignity – in Sister Faustina’s school of thought determines a style of life. Not only does it encompass sporadic or occasional acts of mercy performed towards those who are in need, but it also requires a Christian attitude towards the neighbor in all his dimensions, guided completely by merciful love.
I want to be completely transformed into Your mercy, Sister Faustina prayed, and to be Your living reflection, O Lord. May the greatest of all divine attributes, that of Your unfathomable mercy, pass through my heart and soul to my neighbor (Diary 163).
This transformation of life into mercy denotes exactly an entire life-style, and not only one of its numerous features.
Although the trait of the love of the Church appears in many schools of spirituality, in each of them it has its own specific coloring. Sister Faustina sees the Church as a great gift of God’s mercy, an extremely generous gift, because it constitutes space for the union of life between the Creator and Saviour and man. In her writings she frequently uses the image of the Church as a mother who by the very nature of things is merciful to her children, and the image of a Mystical Body of Christ in which every part lives in unity with the Head and other parts.
Sister Faustina had the opportunity to convince herself not only through the spirit of faith, but also through her numerous visions and mystical experience that it is precisely the Church that constitutes the union of man’s life with God and that it is a space containing His living presence.
When I steeped myself in prayer, I was transported in spirit to the chapel, where I saw the Lord Jesus, exposed in the monstrance, she recorded in her Diary, in place of the monstrance, I saw the glorious face of the Lord and He said to me, "What you see in reality, these souls see through faith." (Diary 1420).
A sign of God’s mercy for Sister Faustina was not only the very fact of founding the Holy Church and the living presence of God in it, but also His activity directed towards man, expressed particularly through the word which enlightens and through the sacraments in which He grants various graces which are necessary for man in order to attain future life. In her litany appeals as well as in other passages of her Diary, Sister Faustina writes about this directly and openly, mentioning different manifestations of God’s great mercy, such as holy baptism, justification through Jesus Christ, endowing man with immortal life, offering man the possibility of conversion, of receiving sacraments in which Jesus grants various types of graces for each and every moment of human life…(Diary 949, 1286 et al.).
Another manifestation of God’s mercy in the Church is for Sister Faustina the spreading of God’s holiness among creatures. Only God is holy and His holiness is so great that all heavenly powers tremble before it, losing themselves in never ceasing adoration; they express their adoration for Him calling: Holy, Holy, Holy…(Diary 180). This holiness of God, as Sister Faustina puts it in her Diary,
is poured out upon the Church of God and upon every living soul in it, but not in the same degree. There are souls who are completely penetrated by God, and there are those who are barely alive (Diary 180).
Although God pours His holiness on all souls, yet man’s sanctification depends also on his freedom, on his acceptance of the wealth of gifts which God had left for him in the Church. Yet, the very chance of transforming one’s life, of improving it with the help of supernatural means, the invitation to share the community of life with God, the possibility of an ever fuller participation in the life of Jesus and in His mission, were perceived by Sister Faustina as great gifts of God’s mercy, which were totally undeserved by man and were received by him only out of the merciful love of his Creator and Saviour. Perceiving this immense love of God in the Church, Sister Faustina could in all sincerity of heart confess her great joy which she expressed in the sentence,
What a joy it is to be a faithful child of the Church! (Diary 481).
Such perception of the Church awakens in her the spirit of gratitude towards God and mobilizes to care about great sanctity.
Every school of spirituality refers in some way to the most life-giving sources of sanctification, the Holy Sacraments. Sister Faustina regarded all the sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, as great gifts of Divine Mercy. Jesus Himself uncovered before her the magnitude of these gifts.
Tell souls, Jesus spoke about the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where they are to look for solace; that is, in the Tribunal of Mercy. There the greatest miracles take place, are incessantly repeated. To avail oneself of this miracle, it is not necessary to go on a great pilgrimage or to carry out some external ceremony; it suffices to come with faith to the feet of My representative and to reveal to him one’s misery, and the miracle of Divine Mercy will be fully demonstrated. Were a soul like a decaying corpse so that from a human standpoint, there would be no restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. Oh, miserable are those who do not take advantage of the miracle of God’s mercy! (Diary 1448).
Sister Faustina marveled at merciful love of God present in every sacrament. The most she wrote about Jesus’ goodness who when departing from this world, wanted to remain with us and left Himself in the Sacrament of the Altar, opening ajar the door to His mercy.
There is no misery that could exhaust You! You have called us all to this fountain of love, to this spring of God’s compassion. Here is the tabernacle of Your mercy, here is the remedy for all our ills. To You, O living spring of mercy, all souls are drawn; some like deer, thirsting for Your love, others to wash the wound of their sins, and still others, exhausted by life, to draw strength(Diary 1747).
The magnitude of this gift, wrote Sister Faustina, cannot be comprehended by any brain, human or angelic; that is why, we shall only get to know it fully in eternity. If the angels were capable of envy, she confessed in another Diary entry, they would envy people Holy Communion, in which God unites with His creatures most closely.
He does not enter into such close union even with the angels (c.f. Diary 1804).
The awareness of the magnitude of this gift was the reason why there arose within her a spirit of profound gratitude and great respect towards such a humble Divine majesty; there also arose a feeling of great love for the One who had loved man to the end, and was ready to give up His own life for sinful man, becoming for him the Bread, which gives eternal life. She got to know the divine power of the Eucharist and she knew how to make good use of it; that is why, her life became totally transformed both in her thinking and actions; to use the language of St. Paul, the old man within her had died, and the new man, modeled upon Christ, in whom all faculties were harmoniously united and focused on the supreme good, that is God, was. The manifestations of God’s mercy in the Eucharist, are particularly visible in those aspects which were experienced by Sister Faustina. The Eucharist was for her an area of her personal encounter with living God; it was a space of her co-sacrifice, in which she offered herself up together with Christ for the salvation of the world as well as of her close union with Him in the Holy Communion.
Our Lady of Mercy takes a special place in the school of St. Faustina’s spirituality. Sister Faustina took the devotion to Our Lady from family home, but in her religious life it deepened significantly. It was fostered not only by the spirituality of the Congregation, whose main Patroness is Our Lady of Mercy, but also by a very personal contact with Mary. In numerous apparitions, visions, meetings Mary revealed to Sister Faustina the mystery of the Divine Mercy in her life, she taught her, strengthened, accompanied in her prophetic mission.
I am Mother to you all, thanks to the unfathomable mercy of God(Diary 449), said Mary, I am not only the Queen of Heaven, but also the Mother of Mercy and your Mother (Diary 330).
For Sister Faustina, Mary was above all the Mother of God’s Son – Mercy Incarnate and out of God’s mercy also the mother of every man. As a careful and the best mother and the Mistress of spiritual life, she taught her the contemplation of God in her soul, obedience to the will of God, the art of love of the cross and care for these virtues, which condition the attitude of trust in God and mercy towards neighbors.
I saw the Mother of God, Sister Faustina noted, who said to me, Oh, how pleasing to God is the soul that follows faithfully the inspirations of His grace! I gave the Saviour to the world; as for you, you have to speak to the world about His great mercy and prepare the world for the Second Coming of Him who will come, not as a merciful Saviour, but as a just Judge. Oh, how terrible is that day! Determined is the day of justice, the day of divine wrath. The angels tremble before it. Speak to souls about this great mercy while it is still the time for mercy. If you keep silent now, you will be answering for a great number of souls on that terrible day. Fear nothing. Be faithful to the end. I sympathize with you (Diary 635).
When the Congregation chose Mary for the Heavenly Superior General (15 August 1937), Sister Faustina envisioned all sisters covered by Her coat and heard the words of a great promise:
Everyone who perseveres zealously till death in My Congregation will be spared the fire of purgatory, and I desire that each one distinguish herself by the following virtues: humility and meekness; chastity and love of God and neighbor; compassion and mercy. After these words words, the whole Congregation disappeared from my sight, and I remained alone with the Most Holy Mother who instructed me about the will of God and how to apply it to my life, submitting completely to His most holy decrees. It is impossible for one to please God without obeying His holy will. My daughter, I strongly recommend that you faithfully fulfill all God’s wishes, for that is most pleasing in His holy eyes. I very much desire that you distinguish yourself in this faithfulness in accomplishing God’s will. Put the will of God before all sacrifices and holocausts (Diary 1244).