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Faustina was born Aug. 25, 1905, in Poland, in the small village of Glogowiec. Her parents, Marianna and Stanislao Kowalski, were humble peasants.
Baptized by the name of Helena, at the age of 7 she already felt the call to religious life, but without the consent of the parents, could not pursue it.
The third of 10 children, Helena left school after three years and began working as a domestic in some wealthy households, to help maintain her own family. At age 20, driven by a vision of suffering Christ who said to her, “How long will I have to bear you? As long as you trick me?” she decided to enter religious life.
On Aug. 10, 1925, she entered the Convent of the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy in Warsaw and took the name of Sister Maria Faustina. She spent 13 years of religious life in various convents of the congregation, working as a cook, gardener and porter.
She went about her work with dedication and humility and no complaint. Of the the graces that the Lord gave her, His stigmata were the most visible sign. There also were numerous revelations and visions that she recorded in her diary. It has been translated into many languages.
On Feb. 22, 1931, St. Faustina noted in her diary: “In my cell, I saw the Lord Jesus dressed in white: a hand raised to bless, while the other touched on his chest the slightly opened border of his robe, letting escape two great rays out: one red the other pale. … After a while, Jesus said to me, ‘Paint an image according to the model you see, with these words written: Jesus, I trust in You. I wish this image to be venerated first in your chapel, and then in the whole world. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish … because I myself will defend it as my own glory. (D.47-48)’”
The image was painted, and frequently copied, along with other new forms of devotion to the Divine Mercy that Jesus asks Sister Faustina to spread: the feast of Divine Mercy on the first Sunday after Easter, the Divine Mercy Chaplet and Prayer at the Hour of Mercy (3 p.m.).
Faustina said that in her visions Jesus liked to call her the “secretary of my deepest mystery.” His message was that of love to every man. “In the Old Testament I sent the prophets with lightning to my people,” she records Him as having told her, “Today I send you to the whole world, to all humanity with my mercy. I do not want to punish suffering humanity, but I want to heal and bind them fast to my merciful heart. (D.252)”
She died at 33 on Oct. 5, 1938, in Krakow, consumed by tuberculosis.
Devotion to Merciful Jesus quickly spread in Poland just after the death of Sister Faustina. In the 1960s, the then-Archbishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyla, promoted her life and virtues. As Pope John Paul II, he proclaimed her blessed on April 18, 1993, and saint on April 30, 2000, announcing on the same date the establishment of the Sunday of Divine Mercy.
It was just on the eve of this feast, on April 2, 2005, that the Polish pope passed into the embrace of the Father. St. Faustina was among the patrons of the Jubilee of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis.