St Faustina: A Model for our Path to Sanctity

The feast of St Faustina, celebrated on Wednesday 5 October 2022, brings to my mind the great need of letting the Lord make us holy. St Pope John Paul II used to say: The saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church’s history. Hence, by delving deeper into their lives we can receive that much needed renewal and spiritual refreshment our being is craving for.

Undoubtedly, St Faustina Kowalska is one of the greatest mystics of the Church. However, she had to pay a heavy price for the singular mission she was called to by Our Lord and Saviour, the Merciful Jesus. Physical and spiritual suffering, and, most of all, the humiliations she had to endure, were her daily bread and butter. Nevertheless her total surrender to God’s plan for her life story in view of the splendid mission of divulging God’s mercy among humanity was extraordinary. That is why she is Christ’s beacon of that saving holiness that you and me direly need to live our human and Christian life.

Thanks to her holy life deeply steeped in God’s mercy, St Faustina teaches us to be closer to Jesus in the Eucharist. In her Diary Faustina confessed: The most solemn moment of my life is the moment when I receive Holy Communion and for every Holy Communion I give thanks to the Most Holy Trinity” (Diary, 1804). What place does the Eucharist have in my spiritual life? Is it its epicentre?

Second, Faustina teaches us to grow and deepen our prayer life. She says in her Diary:  …A soul should be faithful to prayer despite torments, dryness, and temptations; because oftentimes the realization of God’s great plans depends mainly on such prayer. If we do not persevere in such prayer, we frustrate what the Lord wanted to do through us or within us. Let every soul remember these words: ‘And being in anguish, He prayed longer’ (Diary, 872). Do I pray? When encountering life turbulence do I keep praying or give up my lifeline communication with God?

Third, this great Polish holy nun encourages us by her life to be merciful to others. In entry 163 of her Diary Faustina writes: O Lord. I want to be completely transformed into Your mercy and to be Your living reflection. May the greatest of all divine attributes, that of Your unfathomable mercy, pass through my heart and soul to my neighbor. Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbors’ souls and come to their rescue. Help me, O Lord, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbors’ needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings. Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all. Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbors and take upon myself the more difficult and toilsome tasks. Help me, O Lord, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness (…) Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor. (…) May Your mercy, O Lord, rest upon meAm I merciful? Do I see in the sufferings of my neighbour the suffering of Jesus himself?

Fourth, St Faustina inspires us to let God make us holy through small actions done out of great love. In her Diary, Faustina says: I strive for the greatest perfection possible in order to be useful to the Church… I have come to understand how great an influence I have on other souls, not by heroic deeds, as these are striking in themselves, but by small actions like a movement of the hand, a look, and many other things too numerous to mention, which have an effect on and reflect in the souls of others (Diary, 1475). Am I loving through small actions done with great love?

Fifth, trusting God and continually asking for his help is the secret for one’s true spiritual progress. She wrote in entry 1495 of her Diary: Oh, how good it is to call on Jesus for help during a conversation. Oh, how good it is, during a moment of peace, to beg for actual graces. I fear most of all this sort of confidential conversation; there is need of much divine light at times like this, in order to speak with profit, both for the other person’s soul, and for one’s own as well. God, however, comes to our aid; but we have to ask him for it. Do I trust in God in good and bad times, in health and sickness? Or do I trust in God when it suits me?

Sixth, due to her profound spiritual experience, Faustina teaches us that in the times of darkness we are to find the Lord’s presence precisely there. In her Diary this Polish saint confesses: O humdrum days, filled with darkness, I look upon you with a solemn and festive eye. How great and solemn is the time that gives us the chance to gather merits for eternal heaven! I understand how the saints made use of it (Diary, 1373). In my dark moments of desolation do I yearn for God’s presence?

Seventh. Faustina encourages us by her holy testimony to love our Heavenly Mother Mary. Faustina lovingly lived the advice given to her by the Virgin Mary when she told her: I desire, My dearly beloved daughter, that you practice the three virtues that are dearest to Me – and most pleasing to God. The first is humility, humility, and once again humility; the second virtue, purity; the third virtue, love of God. As My daughter, you must especially radiate with these virtuesWhen the conversation ended, She pressed me to Her Heart and disappeared. When I regained the use of my senses, my heart became so wonderfully attracted to these virtues; and I practice them faithfully. They are as though engraved in my heart (Diary, 1415). Do I love my Heavenly Mother Mary? What places do humility, purity and love of God have in my life?

Eighth, St Faustina’s diary exhorts you and me to resort to God’s mercy thanks to the sacrament of confession. Jesus told her: Tell souls where they are to look for solace; that is, in the Tribunal of Mercy (the Sacrament of Confession). There the greatest miracles take place [and] 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 [hope of] restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full. Oh, how miserable are those who do not take advantage of the miracle of God’s mercy! You will call out in vain, but it will be too late (Diary, 1448). Do I go for confession regularly? Or do I let my soul decompose in sin by not confessing them in this great tribunal of Christ’s mercy, which is the sacrament of reconciliation?

Ninth, St Faustina teaches us to offer our sufferings for our neighbour’s good. In entry 343 of her Diary she writes: True love is measured by the thermometer of suffering. Jesus, I thank You for the little daily crosses, for opposition to my endeavors, for the hardships of communal life, for the misinterpretation of my intentions, for humiliations at the hands of others, for the harsh way in which we are treated, for false suspicions, for poor health and loss of strength, for self-denial, for dying to myself, for lack of recognition in everything, for the upsetting of all my plans. Thank You, Jesus, for interior sufferings, for dryness of spirit, for terrors, fears and incertitudes, for the darkness and the deep interior night, for temptations and various ordeals, for torments too difficult to describe, especially for those which no one will understand, for the hour of death with its fierce struggle and all its bitterness. Do I thank Jesus for the suffering I go through? Do I offer it for my neighbour’s good?

St Pope John Paul II said: Do not be afraid to be saints. Follow Jesus Christ who is the source of freedom and light. Be open to the Lord so that He may lighten all your ways. Lord, help me to be open to your Spirit of holiness, especially through the life of our sister, friend and companion, St Faustina Kowalska, a life model in our path of sanctification. Amen.

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Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap was born in San Gwann on August 26 1972. After being educated in governmental primary and secondary schools as well as at the Naxxar Trade School he felt the call to enter the Franciscan Capuchin Order. After obtaining the university requirements he entered the Capuchin friary at Kalkara on October 12 1993. A year after he was ordained a priest, precisely on 4 September 2004, his superiors sent him to work with patients as a chaplain first at St. Luke's Hospital and later at Mater Dei. In 2007 Fr Mario obtained a Master's Degree in Hospital Chaplaincy from Sydney College of Divinity, University of Sydney, Australia. From November 2007 till March 2020 Fr Mario was one of the six chaplains who worked at Mater Dei Hospital., Malta's national hospital. Presently he is a chaplain at Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre. Furthermore, he is a regular contributor in the MUMN magazine IL-MUSBIEĦ, as well as doing radio programmes on Radio Mario about the spiritual care of the sick.