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In the Footsteps of Faustina
The following is by Maciek Talar, a staff member of the Marian Helpers Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, who helped prepare the English translation of the new Marian Press title Faustina: The Mystic and Her Message.
Although I never met St. Faustina (she died in 1938, long before I was born), our footpaths crossed many times. It was not until I started working on a translation of the new St. Faustina biography by Ewa Czaczkowska that I learned more facts about my family connections to that saint known throughout the world as the secretary of Divine Mercy.
As a child growing up in Poland in the 1960s, I became quite familiar with certain elements of the Divine Mercy message and devotion as given to Faustina by Jesus in a series of revelations in the 1930s. For instance, I appreciated the version of the Divine Mercy image painted by Adolf Hyla that the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy distributed. My grandmother and my parents placed small copies of the image in their homes.
In his messages to St. Faustina, the Lord promises great graces to those who venerate the Divine Mercy image and pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and I do believe that it was through my grandmother's nascent devotion to Divine Mercy that my grandfather's life was saved during the Soviet occupation of Poland following World War II. My grandfather got involved in anticommunist activity and was soon imprisoned by the secret police. I knew about his imprisonment, which lasted (with breaks) almost 10 years, but I was still amazed that he "got away" with such a relatively "light" punishment. Most opposition activists ended up with death sentences or at Siberian labor camps or at least with harsher prison sentences.
In my grandfather's case, when he was imprisoned, the entire family prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
So how did those prayercards and images ended up in the hands of my family so early on, just a few years after Sr. Faustina's death in 1938? I had two relatives who entered the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. One entered sometime at the turn of the 20th century, and another entered several years after Sr. Faustina did. That nun, Sr. Beata Piekut, began distributing the Divine Mercy materials among friends and family members not too long after St. Faustina's death.
In fact, Sr. Beata met the saint on a couple of occasions and was told by her, quite prophetically, that she would be very useful for the Congregation and would stay in it for a long time. Indeed, Sr. Beata would go on to transcribe and prepare for publication St. Faustina's diary, known today as the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul. Then she served as vice-postulator for Faustina's beatification cause. That task entailed working with then-Cardinal Karol Wojtyla (St. John Paul II) and St. Faustina's confessor and spiritual adviser Fr. Michael Sopocko (Blessed Michael Sopocko).
I remember when I was a boy and Sr. Beata would visit my grandparent's farm, located about 60 miles away from St. Faustina's birthplace. Whenever she was at the Congregation's General House in Warsaw, she would stop to see my parents or we went to visit her since we lived on the same street as the convent. When I was older, I would visit Sr. Beata at the sisters' Lagiewniki convent outside of Krakow, where I became more and more acquainted with the revelations of Sr. Faustina.
When I was in college, I wanted to improve my English. However, it was extremely difficult for people from Soviet-occupied countries such as Poland to travel abroad. So I turned for help to Sr. Faustina — to be more precise, her "earthly" sister, that is, Sr. Beata. She had worked with the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception on St. Faustina's beatification cause and on publishing her Diary. Through her encouragement, the Marians in Stockbridge invited me to the United States for a couple of months.
I came 27 years ago, and I have been here ever since, working with the Marians and Marian Helpers to spread the Divine Mercy message and devotion as revealed to St. Faustina.
While working on the newly translated biography of St. Faustina last year, I discovered even more interesting details of how Faustina and I have crossed paths, so to speak.
For instance, when St. Faustina first came to Warsaw to enter a convent at Jesus' command (see Diary, 10), she took the number 7 tram — the same that, a half a century later, I used to take. Moreover, when she got off the tram that fateful evening, she went to a village where, years later, I lived with my parents for a couple of decades. When in Warsaw in search of a religious house, St. Faustina went straight to the church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary — the same church I attended during my college years.
I also learned that the two men who served as St. Faustina's confessors when she lived in Plock — Fr. Dąbrowski and Fr. Jezusek — were also my father's confessors during his high school years. In later years, Fr. Dąbrowski and my father became close friends.
These examples, of course, pale in comparison to Faustina's most important footsteps: She leads us to closer union with God. Those are the footsteps that the new biography will help all of us to follow.
Maciek Talar is managing editor of the Marians' Polish language magazine Roze Maryi.
To order Faustina: The Mystic and Her Message visit shopmercy.org or call 1-800-462-7426.