“And you, Faustina, a gift of God to our time, a gift from the land of Poland to the whole Church, obtain for us an awareness of the depth of divine mercy; help us to have a living experience of it and to bear witness to it among our brothers and sisters. May your message of light and hope spread throughout the world, spurring sinners to conversion, calming rivalries and hatred and opening individuals and nations to the practice of brotherhood. Today, fixing our gaze with you on the face of the risen Christ, let us make our own your prayer of trusting abandonment and say with firm hope: Christ Jesus, I trust in you!“
– Pope John Paul II, Homily on the Canonisation of St Faustina, 30th April 2000
Today, 5th October, the Church celebrates the memorial of Saint Faustina, the great Apostle and Secretary of the Divine Mercy. It is through the revelations of Our Lord to this humble nun that the wrold received the Divine Mercy devotion, the essential elements of which – the Image of Divine Mercy, the Chaplet, the Feast of Mercy – many today are familiar with.
Saint Faustina was declared a Saint by Pope John Paul II in April 2000 – “the first Saint of the Third Millenium”, as the Pope noted. The timing of her canonisation and the Holy Father’s pointing her place as the first Saint of the new era were no coincidence; rather, this was a very deliberate act on the part of the Church. So why was this?
The Twentieth Century was marked throughout it’s years by many terrible atrocities and two World Wars; true and lasting peace seemed to elude the world and nation was set upon nation, each seeking the destruction of the other.
Along with this, the Church suffered greatly during those years – and that suffering continues even now.
One raw and bleeding wound in the Church of today are the many who – by their words and actions, intently or otherwise – separate themselves from the Holy Father, who alone is the authentic Shepherd of the Church upon earth; there are many who have forgotten to discern what they see and hear and read, who mistrust the very one whose task it is to lead the Church, and who have placed their trust elsewhere, apart from the Shepherd. And when the Shepherd is struck the sheep scatter.
It was very much the Age of Martyrs, too, becoming reminiscent of the Apostolic Era, the earliest days of the Church. Even today, in so many places the practice of the Faith is to risk one’s freedom and one’s life, with Christians a greatly persecuted group. While many will remain faithful, many others will abandon the Faith – and this is what we are seeing.
At the root of many of the problems of our age is a very simple – yet devastating – one; the loss of Faith itself. So many just do not believe. And when men do not believe in God, all they have left to believe in is self. History shows us over and over the folly of placing oneself above God.
And so it is into this particular context that the Lord, in His infinite wisdom and providence, gave us Sister Faustina.
Like all of us, Faustina was asked to slowly become forgetful of self, to place her trust in the Lord alone, and to allow herself to be guided and formed by Him, and in doing so, walking the path of sanctity to which every one of us is called – for the call to holiness is indeed universal, as the Second Vatican Council tells us.
We might have the idea that because she was to become a Saint, everything came easy to Faustina; nothing could be further than the truth. Also like every one of us, she often had doubts, frequently experiences great trials, was mistrusted and disbelieved by many around her – and yet despite this, she kept going, placing her trust in the Lord. We see this repeated over and over in the lives of the Saints. And if the Church places these holy people before us as our models and exemplars in the living out of the Faith, then we, too, must walk the same path if we wish to reach the same destination.
Today, we might take the Divine Mercy devotion for granted, even if only a little; the forms of the devotion are accepted, embraced and explicitly proposed to us by our mother, the Church – indeed, the Feast of Mercy is now an official feast day of the Church. In Faustina’s day, this was not the case – those in authority over her did not always accept what she was telling them about the Lord’s revelations. Even after her death, the form of devotion she proposed was explicitly banned by the Church, as she had earlier foretold it would be. It was twenty long before the ban was overturned, as the Church realised the reasons for the ban were based on faulty translations of her Diary, her authentic message telling a different story.
For us today, the message of Divine Mercy is very pertinent, very much of our time. It is a message of trust in the Lord, Who is real and Who loves us, and Who calls us to Him; that, no matter the trials and tribulations of the life each one of us leads, His Heart is for every one of us an infinite ocean of grace and mercy and peace. This is especially the case for sinners – no sin is greater than the mercy of the Lord, Who desires our return, if only we will acknowledge our sin and ask His mercy.
In Heaven, Saint Faustina has consistently proven herself to be a very powerful advocate and intercessor. She does not fail those who ask her assistance in prayer. Above all else, she obtains for us the grace to really trust in the Lord, Who is mercy and love itself.