“I bear a special love for Poland..”
– Diary of St Faustina, entry #1732
Certain nations seem to be especially beloved of the Lord and His Mother.
Such is the case with France; the number of approved appearances of the Blessed Virgin in that beautiful country is testament to this, as are the words of Our Lady in Her appearances to St Catherine Laboure at the Rue du Bac, Paris, in 1830 – during which, She foretold with great sadness the misfortunes which were about to befall that blessed land.
Another example is Portugal – the appearances of Our Lady there at Fatima in 1917 is most surely connected to the consecration of the nation to the Mother of God by King João VI in 1646, this coronation being reflected and ratified in the coronation of the Statue of the Virgin of Fatima, and again in the consecrations of the Portuguese nation made by the Bishops of Portugal.
A third example of a nation beloved of Heaven is that of Poland. The Blessed Virgin has been venerated there in a special way by means of the honour paid to the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa, the ‘Black Madonna’, since at least 1382. The image of the Blessed Virgin was crowned by King John II Casimir Vasa in April 1682. One account of the history of the Image says this –
“The icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa has been intimately associated with Poland for the past 600 years. Its history prior to its arrival in Poland is shrouded in numerous legends which trace the icon’s origin to St. Luke who painted it on a cedar table top from the house of the Holy Family. The same legend holds that the painting was discovered in Jerusalem in 326 by St. Helena, who brought it back to Constantinople and presented it to her son, Constantine the Great.
The oldest documents from Jasna Góra state that the picture travelled from Constantinople via Belz. Eventually it came into the possession of Władysław Opolczyk, Duke of Opole, and adviser to Louis of Anjou, King of Poland and Hungary. Ukrainian sources state that earlier in its history it was brought to Belz with much ceremony and honors by King Lev I of Galicia and later taken by Władysław from the Castle of Belz, when the town was incorporated into the Polish kingdom. A popular story tells that in late August 1384, Ladislaus was passing Częstochowa with the picture when his horses refused to go on. He was advised in a dream to leave the icon at Jasna Gora.
Art historians say that the original painting was a Byzantine icon created around the sixth or ninth century. They agree that Prince Władysław brought it to the monastery in the 14th century.”
Not surprisingly, this image was venerated in a special way both by Saint Faustina and also by Saint John Paul II. Indeed, the image is intimately involved in the very first ‘Divine Mercy Sunday’, celebrated at Ostra Brama by Blessed Fr Michael Sopocko. And on that occasion, the Image of Jesus as Divine Mercy was exposed and venerated for the very first time in public. Saint Faustina describes this event in her Diary. She also described the Lord Jesus speaking about Poland on a number of occasions, but particularly in this entry –
“I bear a special love for Poland, and if she will be obedient to My will, I will exalt her in might and holiness. From her will come forth the spark that will prepare the world for My final coming” (Diary, 1732)
So what is this ‘spark’ of which He speaks? It is nothing other than the Divine Mercy devotion itself. Certainly, ‘Divine Mercy’ itself is not a new concept in the Church – it is as ancient as the Church itself, if not more so. However, the revelations given to Saint Faustina proposed a new form and a particular expression of devotion to the Merciful Lord, and inspired a remembrance of this most ancient concept from days past. Of course, ‘Divine Mercy’ is not a ‘concept’ at all – it is a Person, that of the Merciful Lord Jesus.
Saint Faustina’s Diary also noted the obstacles which would later be placed in the way of this devotion, with the Lord telling her that it would seem as though all her efforts had come to nothing; but, this would be temporary only, and would be proof that this work was in fact His work. And so it came to pass, with the banning of the new form of the devotion by the Vatican – due to faulty translations of the Diary which appeared to skew the theology it contained. Years later it was the Archbishop of Krakow himself, later to become Pope John Paul II, who would be instrumental in rescinding the ban, before the new form of devotion to Divine Mercy went on to set the world alight, spreading to every continent of the world. Now, the Image of the Merciful Jesus is found throughout the world; from the most humble beginnings, it has grown and is transforming the world little by little.
And so, the words of the Merciful Lord have proven true. Two of His faithful servants, both from Poland, have played an enormous role in giving us the Divine Mercy devotion as we know it today, and so it can be rightly said that the ‘spark will come forth from Poland’.
We are fortunate to be living in this ‘time of Mercy’. But we would do well to remember the second part of the words above, those relating to this devotion being a preparation for the final coming of the Lord. As He tells us in the Diary – these are the Days of Mercy and we would do well to avail ourselves of this Mercy while there is time; for they will be followed by the Days of Justice.
This is a time of grace for the world, granted from the immeasurable Love of the Merciful Lord. This devotion to Jesus as Divine Mercy has the full approval of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, and was deeply beloved of one of the greatest Saints of our times – Pope John Paul II, as well as our present Holy Father, Pope Francis, whose papacy is founded on the Person of the Merciful Lord, as the present Extraordinary Holy Year attests.
Despite this, we are not bound to believe the revelations given to Saint Faustina, nor are we bound to follow or practice this form of the devotion. They fall into the category of ‘private revelation’, not the public revelation which ended with the death of the last Apostle.
What is clear, however, is that this devotion is a call from the very heart of the Gospels, as the Popes have noted themselves, and urges us to return to the Gospel message of merciful love, revealed most intimately in the Cross of Christ and in His Resurrection. It is also a direct appeal from the very Heart of Christ, which is the Fount of all Mercy and Grace, to be merciful to others, as He is merciful to us. This reminder is the whole point of the Year of Mercy we are currently enjoying.
May the Lord, Who is Mercy, bless us and fill us to overflowing with His own mercy.