The mystic nun who saw Jesus

Maria Faustyna Kowalska also known as Saint Maria Faustyna Kowalska of the Blessed Sacrament was a Polish Catholic nun and mystic. Her apparitions of Jesus Christ inspired the devotion to the Divine Mercy and earned her the title of Secretary of Divine Mercy.

Born Helena Kowalska on August 25, 1905 in Głogowiec in Poland, Faustina was the third of 10 children. The family was poor and religious, and interestingly, her father was a carpenter.

Sr Faustina reported having visions of Jesus and conversations with him throughout her life. These visions and conversations were noted in her diary, later published as The Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul.

She had a calling to a religious life at the age of seven while attending the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. She wanted to enter the convent after finishing school, but her parents refused. So, when she was 16 she went to work as a housekeeper, first in Aleksandrów Łódzki, where she was confirmed, then in Łódź, to support herself and her parents.

After being rejected by a number of convents, her wish was finally granted at the age of 20. She was accepted by the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Warsaw and took the name Sister Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament. Eight years later, she took her first religious vows as a nun.

Sr Faustina was later transferred to Płock and then to Vilnius, where she met Father Michał Sopoćko, who was to be her confessor and spiritual director. With the priest’s help, Sr Faustina commissioned an artist to paint the first Divine Mercy image, based on her vision of Jesus. Fr Sopoćko celebrated Mass in the presence of this painting on Low Sunday, also known as the Second Sunday of Easter or, as established by Pope John Paul IIDivine Mercy Sunday.

After arriving in Płock in May 1930, Sr Faustina became ill with what was thought to be tuberculosis, and she was sent to recover at a nearby farm owned by her religious order. After several months, she returned to the convent.

Sr Faustina wrote that on the night of February 22, 1931, Jesus appeared to her wearing a white garment with red and pale rays emanating from his heart. In her diary she wrote that Jesus told her:

“Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: ‘Jesus, I trust in You’ I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and then throughout the world. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish.”

In 1936, Sr Faustina fell ill again and was moved to a sanatorium in Kraków where she prayed for the conversion of sinners. Much of the last two years of her life were spent praying and writing her diary.

On March 23, 1937, Sr Faustina wrote that she had a vision that the feast of the Divine Mercy would be celebrated in her local chapel and would be attended by large crowds. She also said that a similar celebration would be held in Rome and the pope would attend.

At the end of 1937 her health deteriorated, and her visions reportedly intensified. She was said to be looking forward to the end of her life. By the following April she had become sicker, and was sent to rest at a sanatorium in Prądnik.

In September 1938, Sr Faustina was taken back home to Kraków to await her death. Just days before she died, Fr Sopoćko visited her at the convent for the last time.

On October 5, 1938 at the age of 33, Sr Faustina died in Kraków. She was canonised on April 30, 2000. The mystic is venerated within the church as the Apostle of Divine Mercy.