Born: Sept. 12th, 1797
Died: Aug. 24th, 1856
FEast: June 17th
Mercy, forgiveness, art. devotion to the Divine Mercy of Jesus
Faustina was born in Poland in the early 1900s to a poor family that struggled much even before World War I made life even harder. She was the third oldest of 10 children, and her name was Helena (until she later took the name Faustina after the martyr Faustinus when entering the convent).
When she was only 7 years old, Faustina decided she wanted to enter religious life. Her parents did not approve of this at all, despite their own deep faith, and so Faustina went to work as a house keeper when she was 16 to support herself and her family.
When she was 19, however, Faustina went with her sister to a dance in a park. While there, she had a vision of Jesus suffering, and asking her to go to Warsaw to pursue her dream of entering religious life.
She left immediately, packing and traveling nearly 85 miles to get there. She knew no one in the city, had not told anyone she was leaving, and had no job lined up to support herself! So when she arrived, she went to Mass at the first Church she found and asked around for recommendations on where to stay.
When she had found a place, she set out each morning traveling to convents to see which one would accept her - and yet she was rejected each time. They judged Faustina on her appearance, her poverty, and the fact she was basically illiterate since she'd only attended 3 years of school.
She kept trying for weeks, though, until finally she was accepted to one - so long as she could pay for her own habit uniform.
Faustina then spent months working to save up, making deposits along the way. A year later, she had paid in full and took her vows into religious life at 20 years old.
For the next several years, Faustina was transferred from convent to convent, serving her sisters in the lowest of roles due to her lack of education - but she accepted these positions gladly. She served as a cook, gardener, and porter for about 13 years, interrupted once when she was sent away for several months to recover from an illness. It was after she had returned that she had, one night, a vision of Jesus while in her cell.
She saw an image of him wearing white with rays of light coming from his chest. She was both scared and joyful to see this, and then he asked her to paint this image of him with the words "Jesus, I Trust in You".
Faustina, however, did not know how to paint! She asked around her convent, but they all refused. She took her final vows into the religious life at this time, and was transferred again.
In this new place, Vilnius, she met a priest named Michael Sopocko to whom she described her vision. Worried firstly about her mental health, he asked her to have an examination performed. After she passed, Sopocko granted Faustina's wishes, asking her to keep pursuing her journaling, and introducing her to an artist. Finally, after 3 years, artist Eugene Kazimierowski created the first Divine Mercy image, and it was the only one Faustina was ever able to see before her death. Fr. Sopocko also soon delivered the first sermon on Divine Mercy to his congregation.
Faustina believed her next mission was to begin her own congregation dedicated to the Divine Mercy of Jesus, but was called back to Warsaw because she had been bound to her current Order with her vows. She was incredibly disheartened, but believed Jesus told her then to do only what she could, and he would take care of the rest. She spent the rest of her time in her convent serving her sisters and the community, receiving more messages from Jesus describing how he did not want to punish humanity, but instead to hold us to his Divine heart full of forgiveness and love. She fell severely ill again, and this time, it was found to be tuberculosis. She was moved to a hospital, but this did not stop her from completing the work she started in writing a Divine Mercy chaplet prayer, a brochure on the devotion, and a Rule for a future congregation. She suffered through her illness another two years as her devotion became more popular. During this time, it was normal for Jesus to be described in the way of a commanding God punishing sinners, so the message of forgiveness meant much to the general public.
She passed away on October 5th, 1938, having predicted a horrible war would soon follow. After that prediction came true, and thanks to the work of Pope John Paul II before he had been elected Pope, she was canonized a saint. After her journal had been published with a bad translation (due to her lack of writing skills) and condemned as heresy, a better one was published and became well-loved as, instead, a message of hope, mercy and peace.
You were rejected time after time for faults that were not your own. Because of your external appearance and poverty, your internal soul was rejected. However, God saw the goodness and beauty within you, and trusted you to be the one to bring the image of his Divine Mercy to the world. You worked and suffered, trusting in Jesus all along. Let us trust, too.
It breaks my heart to read about how Faustina was turned away from convents not because of who she was, but because of her outward appearance and worldly possessions. You would think that convents of all places would not have done that to her! But I know it's why she was specifically chosen by Jesus. I wanted her expression to be one of wariness for the future mixed with her determination to fulfill her calling. I wanted her to look gentle and quiet from her years of domestic work and service, while also having the light of a hidden inspiration. She has the phrase "Jesus, I Trust in You" tattooed on her shoulder, and her clothing is plain and neutral.