Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska

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Part Six: St. Faustina and the Mission of the Church — Past, Present, and Future

The Case for a New Doctor of the Church: Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska

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The following is the conclusion of a series of articles prepared by renowned experts in the writings and spirituality of St. Faustina, namely: Robert Stackpole, STD, director, John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy; Very Rev. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, provincial superior of the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception; and Rev. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, vice-postulator of the Cause for the Canonization of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska.

The providential impact of St. Faustina's life and witness can be divided into three "moments" in the life of the Church: its impact on the past (i.e., its relevance to the struggles of her own time), on the present (i.e., its relevance to the contemporary era and the New Evangelization), and its relevance to the future (especially in preparing God's People for the promised Second Coming of the Lord). As we shall see, it was St. John Paul II above all who drew attention to all three of these ways in which St. Faustina's witness has a profound impact on the mission of the Body of Christ.

a) The past
There is no question that the life and witness of St. Faustina was given to the Church and the world at precisely the time it was most needed, in the midst of one of the darkest periods of human history. Overwhelmed by the sufferings of two World Wars, the brutality of Fascist and Communist totalitarianism, the ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation, and the global spread of abortion, contraception, and divorce, the message of Divine Mercy given to St. Faustina, and the special elements of the devotion given to the Church through her (such as the Image, the Feast, the Chaplet, and the Diary) served as beacons of hope to a broken and bleeding world, and a persecuted and martyred Church.

On several occasions, St. John Paul II referred to Sr. Faustina's life and witness as a special remedy for the ills of the 20th century. For example, in his homily for her beatification in Rome on April 18, 1993, he said:

Her mission continues, and is yielding astonishing fruit. It is truly marvelous how her devotion to the Merciful Jesus is spreading in the contemporary world, and gaining so many human hearts! This is doubtless a sign of the times, a sign of our 20th century. The balance of this century that is now ending ... presents a deep restlessness and fear of the future. Where, if not in the Divine Mercy, can the world find refuge and the light of hope? Believers understand that perfectly.

With even greater emphasis, the Holy Father returned to this theme later in his pontificate in his book Memory and Identity (2005), where he pointed to St. Faustina's message as the direct and only answer to the great evils of the time:

I mention Sr. Faustina because her revelations, focused on the mystery of Divine Mercy, occurred during the period preceding the Second World War. This was precisely the time when those ideologies of evil, Nazism and Communism were taking shape. Sister Faustina became the herald of the one message capable of offsetting the evil of those ideologies, the fact that God is Mercy — the truth of the merciful Christ. And for this reason, when I was called to the See of Peter, I felt impelled to pass on those experiences of a fellow Pole that deserve a place in the treasury of the universal Church. (Memory and Identity, p. 5-6)

The patrimony of her spirituality was of great importance as we know from experience, for the resistance against the evil and inhuman systems of the time. The lesson to be drawn from all this is important not only for the Poles, but also in every part of the world where the Church is present. This became clear during the beatification and canonization of Sr. Faustina. It was as if Christ had wanted to say through her: "Evil does not have the last word!" The Paschal Mystery confirms that good is ultimately victorious, that life conquers death, and that love triumphs over hate. (p. 55-56)

However, St. Faustina was not only a Doctor of the Church for her own time, providing divine medicine for the sufferings of a century besieged by evil. She is also a physician given to us by divine providence for the ills of the Church and the world today.

b) The present
The New Evangelization called for by a succession of popes since the Second Vatican Council must be centered on the Gospel message of God's merciful love. Pope Francis called the whole Church to take this to heart in his bull Misericordiae Vultus when he wrote:

The Church is commissioned to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the gospel. The spouse of Christ must pattern her behavior after the Son of God who went out to everyone without exception. In the present day, as the Church is charged with the task of the new evangelization, the theme of mercy needs to be proposed again and again with new enthusiasm and renewed pastoral action. It is absolutely essential for the Church and the credibility of her message that she live and testify to mercy. Her language and her gestures must transmit mercy, so as to touch the hearts of all people and inspire them once more to find the road that leads to the Father (section 12).

If St. Faustina really is (as St. John Paul II once said) "the great apostle of Divine Mercy in our time," then it only stands to reason that her life and writings are meant to play a major role in this New Evangelization in the third millennium. Having abandoned the rational optimism of the Enlightenment, we live in a world now caught in a downward spiral of skepticism, cynicism, narcissism and despair. Without any anchor in God, nothing seems to correspond anymore to the deepest desires of the human heart for truth, beauty, and sanctity. Rational apologetics and doctrinal catechesis, though always necessary, will not be enough to cure this deep sickness of the heart. We need to be healed and transformed, not just instructed and illuminated. Through St. Faustina, our Lord offers us a remedy, and a sure source of renewal for a world full of cold hearts and broken hearts. Pope St. John Paul II alluded to this in his Regina Caeli addresses on two successive Divine Mercy Sundays:

As people of this restless time of ours, wavering between the emptiness of self-exaltation and the humiliation of despair, we have a greater need than ever for a regenerating experience of God's mercy. ... Dear brothers and sisters, we must personally experience, this [tender-hearted mercy of the Father] if, in turn, we want to be capable of mercy (Regina Caeli addresses, April 10, 1994 and April 23, 1995).

For this same reason, at the close of the second World Apostolic Congress on Mercy in Krakow-Lagiewniki in 2012, the assembled cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons, and lay faithful petitioned the Holy See, and the upcoming 2012 synod of bishops, to utilize the Divine Mercy message and devotion as "a key element of the new evangelization efforts." They summed up the case as follows:

Often, this process of accepting the truth that God is loving and infinitely merciful is not easy, especially because of the wound of original sin, which leaves man with a distorted image of God and a lack of trust in his benevolence. Reading theological books and listening to lectures about God is not enough to heal this distorted image. In fact, man needs the language of the heart, which speaks of God's mercy through art (e.g. the Image of Divine Mercy), devotional prayer (e.g. the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, Hour of Great Mercy, Novena to Divine Mercy), liturgical prayer (e.g. the Feast of Divine Mercy), and personal testimony (e.g. Diary of St. Faustina). This multi-faceted language of the heart transcends cultural divisions, overcomes man's brokenness, and inspires in him a loving attitude of trust in the God who is rich in mercy (Eph 2:4).

Because the Divine Mercy message and devotion touches the human heart on so many levels, it is a most effective tool for the work of the new evangelization. (From the letter of WACOM II to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops regarding the Instrumentum Laboris for the 2012 Synod on the New Evangelization.)

The relevance and power of St. Faustina's message for the New Evangelization was emphasized also by St. John Paul II, especially in his homily for the canonization of Sr. Faustina in the year 2000:

Sister Faustina's canonization has a particular eloquence. By this act I intend today to pass this message on to all people, so that they will learn to know even better the true face of God and the true face of their brethren ....
And you, Faustina, a gift of God to our time, a gift from the land of Poland to the whole Church, obtain for us an awareness of the depth of Divine Mercy. Help us to have a living experience of it and to bear witness to it among our brothers and sisters. May your message of light and hope spread throughout the world, spurring sinners to conversion, calming rivalries and hatred and opening individuals and nations to the practice of brotherhood. Today, fixing our gaze with you on the face of the Risen Christ, let us make our own your prayer of trusting abandonment, and say with firm hope: Christ Jesus, I trust in You! Jezu ufam tobie!

c) The future
Pope St. John Paul II struck a note of urgency in his consecration of the whole world to The Divine Mercy in 2002. On that occasion, at the dedication of the new Basilica of Divine Mercy in Krakow-Lagiewniki in Poland, he said that the witness of St. Faustina is to play a vital role in God's ultimate plan for humanity:

Today, therefore, in this Shrine, I wish solemnly to entrust the world to Divine Mercy. I do so with the burning desire that the message of God's merciful love, proclaimed here through St. Faustina, may be made known to all the peoples of the earth and fill their hearts with hope. May this message radiate from this place to our beloved homeland and throughout the world. May the binding promise of the Lord Jesus be fulfilled: "From here there must go forth "the spark which will prepare the world for His final coming" (Diary, 1732). This spark needs to be lighted by the grace of God. This fire of mercy needs to be passed on to the world.

Pope St. John Paul II's remarks here point to the last (but not least) important aspect of St. Faustina's witness: the fact that Jesus repeatedly told her that the spread of devotion to The Divine Mercy would prepare the world for his return. Jesus said to her:

Speak to the world about My mercy; let all mankind recognize My unfathomable mercy. It is a sign for the end times; after it will come the day of justice .... You will prepare the world for My final coming. (Diary, 848 and 429)

It is important to note that Jesus did not tell her that she alone would prepare the world for his return, nor did he tell her when his Second Coming would take place. Moreover, he spoke of these matters not in order to frighten her, or those who would read her Diary, but to convince them of the great urgency of the evangelistic works of mercy that need to be accomplished. Jesus had promised in the gospels that the good news of Gods merciful love would first be preached throughout the whole world before the end would come (e.g. Mk 13:9). The spread of The Divine Mercy message seems to play an important part in the fulfilment of that prophecy:

Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind but to heal it, pressing it to My merciful Heart. I use punishment when they themselves force me to do so; My hand is reluctant to take hold of the sword of justice. Before the Day of Justice, I am sending the Day of Mercy. (Diary, 1588)

In Conclusion
Clearly, the life and witness of St. Faustina, and the message of Divine Mercy that God gave to the Church and the world through her, was vital to God's outreach to his People amid the terrible sufferings of the 20th century. It is vitally important as well in our own era, especially to the New Evangelization, and will remain so in the future as part of the preparation of the Church and the world for the final coming of the Lord. If so, then we strongly believe that all this completes the case for declaring St. Faustina a true Doctor of the Church, according to the criteria established by the magisterium (see the first article in this web series). Moreover, we believe that elevating her in the eyes of the Body of Christ with this title would light a beacon of hope for the world. It would powerfully proclaim the message of Divine Mercy to the struggling People of God, and to lost and broken humanity, drawing the attention of all to the only true remedy: trust in God's infinite and merciful love.

Please see our petition to have St. Faustina declared a Doctor of the Church.

See this entire series.

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