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Face to Face with Faustina
By Chris Sparks (Dec 19, 2014)
Usually, when you're reading a biography, you want to get a glimpse at the inner life of a famous person — what they thought, what they felt, the way they viewed the world as they lived the public life everyone else knew.
Not so with St. Faustina — at least, not for me. Her Diary is renowned across the world, and justly so. A true masterpiece of Catholic Christian spirituality, it allows us a glimpse into her heart and the staggering heights and depths of her mystical life. Her soul was a cathedral, an interior castle of immense grandeur and beauty, and through her Diary, the world is permitted to watch it develop and grow.
No, we know the heart of Faustina, her struggles, her woes, her difficulties with her sisters and superiors, with clergy and confessors, with sickness, misunderstanding, and the devil himself. We know how she saw the world. But how did the world see her?
To my mind, that's the most interesting part of the recently released English-language edition of Ewa Czaczkowska's Faustina: The Mystic & Her Message (Marian Press, 2014), of which I was privileged to be principal editor. The author, a noted Polish historian and journalist, retraced the footsteps of St. Faustina in this life from the beginning to the end. Along the way, she both gives us a view onto the world in which Faustina developed into the saint and secretary of Divine Mercy, and also shares with us the Faustina known to her contemporaries: a woman both witty and kind, full of joy and laughter, ever ready to love and serve God and neighbor, but a woman whom few realized was one of the greatest mystics the world had ever seen. Oh, yes, rumors abounded at different points in her life, and some gradually came to suspect something of the truth of Faustina's greatness of soul, but really, who would have thought that the cook and gardener could possibly be receiving such extraordinary visitations from Jesus?
That's the Faustina I hadn't seen before: the woman who made the garden grow prodigiously, almost miraculously, in Vilnius; the sister who was so popular amongst the wards during one of her stays in Warsaw that they packed up and declared they would follow her; the sister who was so patient and attentive to all the customers in the chaos of the bakery that the sisters and the wards ran in Płock. Czaczkowska's biography reveals the woman known as Helen Kowalska from the small farming village, known by her employers and her family as a good and reliable girl, known by her contemporaries as one more devout Polish Catholic, known by the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy as one more sister, as one more, just one more ...
Today, thanks to the Diary, those who know St. Faustina know her from the inside out. Czaczkowska's biography allows us to know St. Faustina from the outside in.
To order Faustina: The Mystic & Her Message (Product Code BIOSF), visit shopmercy.org or call 800-462-7426.