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Shrine Celebrates a Saint for Our Times
Question: Add one vivacious, redheaded saint who promised she would never forget us, plus more than 200 devoted pilgrims who could never forget her, and what have you got?
Answer: St. Faustina Day at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
The Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, official promoters of St. Faustina's Divine Mercy revelations, hosted the special day to honor the "Apostle of Divine Mercy" on Saturday, Oct. 4. (Her actual feast day is Oct. 5, but this year her feast day is displaced by a Sunday.)
In a talk given before Mass — and before a steady rain began to fall on the outdoor celebration — Fr. Bob Vennetti, MIC, echoed St. John Paul II words at Faustina's canonization in 2000 when he referred to her as "a gift of God to our time."
"Saint Faustina helps us realize the reality of Christ's mercy, His presence in our time," said Fr. Bob, the Shrine's vice rector.
Write It Down
Seventy-six years ago, on Oct. 5, 1938, the Polish nun selected by Jesus to be His secretary in recording His revelations about Divine Mercy died from complications from tuberculosis and other ailments. Through her Diary, which contains those revelations, St. Faustina has sparked what many call the greatest grassroots movement in the history of the Church — a movement defined by works of mercy, prayer, and trust in Jesus.
The Lord told St. Faustina, "Secretary of My most profound mystery, know that your task is to write down everything that I make known to you about My mercy, for the benefit of those who by reading these things will be comforted in their souls and will have the courage to approach Me" (Diary, 1693).
Saint Faustina's Diary has brought countless people back to the Church, comforted by a rich understanding of the Lord's desire to extend His mercy to all sinners.
Amy Laganza, who traveled for the celebration from her home in Amsterdam, N.Y., said her faith was "rebuilt" after reading the Diary. Coming from confession inside the Shrine, Amy said, "Jesus makes it easy for us to return to Him. He tells us (through St. Faustina) that there is nothing we have ever done that He will not forgive, as long as we are repentant, and that makes stepping into that confessional a very easy thing to do. Years ago, it was the hardest thing for me to do, and so I stopped confessing my sins all together."
"I was actually scared of God before I learned about Divine Mercy," said Mary Coughlin of East Hartford, Connecticut, who drove to the celebration to especially give thanks to St. Faustina for a grace received. "He is our Merciful Savior, and He invites us into a relationship, like a friend."
What Divine Mercy apostles like Amy and Mary have found in St. Faustina's Diary is a modern-day reminder of the truth of our faith, a truth first revealed in the Holy Scripture about the merciful love of God toward every human being. Through her Diary, this simple nun sought to fulfill her mission to entreat God's mercy for the whole world and particularly for sinners. Her Diary includes new forms of devotion our Lord gave her, such as: the veneration of the image of The Divine Mercy; the feast of Divine Mercy Sunday; and the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy, among others.
A Model for Us Today
In his talk, Fr. Bob mentioned how Faustina can serve as a model for all of us in growing in unity with the Lord. He mentioned the famous page in St. Faustina's Diary (entry 374) in which Faustina crosses out her words with a large "X" followed by the words "From today on, I do the Will of God everywhere, always, and in everything."
"Basically," said Fr. Bob, "what she was saying was she really wanted to live the Our Father: 'Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.'" Father Bob quoted from her Diary: "Let every beat of my heart be a new hymn of thanksgiving to You, O God. Let every drop of my blood circulate for You, Lord. My soul is one hymn in adoration of Your mercy" (1794).
In addition, Fr. Bob noted that Faustina died at age of 33. "She was so conformed to Christ that she lived on earth the same number of years as Christ," he said. Moreover, her funeral was on Oct. 7, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. "Our Lady was leading her into heaven, into eternal glory where she intercedes for us," Fr. Bob said.
What's in a Name?
Father Bob also noted St. Faustina's full religious name: Maria Faustina of the Most Blessed Sacrament. "Sometimes the name of a saint can tell us something about them," he said.
Maria — for Mary. "Mary was going to be her guide, her teacher in the spirit, the unfathomable Mother of Mercy," Fr. Bob said.
Faustina — after the martyr "Faustus." "She would be a martyr of the spirit, so to speak, like Our Lady ... she would offer herself together with Jesus in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world," he said.
Most Blessed Sacrament — "She realized how weak she was and how much she needed the grace of the Holy Eucharist," said Fr. Bob. He said she teaches us how graces flow from Jesus to souls through the sacraments. He then read her Diary entry 1392, in which Faustina writes, "All the good that is in me is due to Holy Communion. I owe everything to it." Faustina, said Fr. Bob, helps us to "be more aware of our encounters with Jesus in the sacraments." He said, "She instills in us the reality of the Holy Eucharist as the Source and Summit of the Christian life."
In Heaven and on Earth
But before St. Faustina's name became synonymous with a worldwide apostolic movement of Divine Mercy devotees who proclaim and entreat God's mercy for the world, who teach the faithful to have a child-like trust in God, and who extend mercy toward one's neighbors, St. Faustina was a peasant child named Helen Kowalska, the third of 10 children of devout parents in rural Poland.
Father Anthony Gramlich, MIC, the Shrine's rector and the main celebrant of the 2 p.m. Mass in the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine, said in his homily that during a recent trip he made to Poland, he visited Glogowiec, the small village where Faustina was raised. Little has changed in the village since Faustina's time, he said. He visited her home and her church, and he walked among the farm fields.
"She was a real person, she lived in a real house, and she came from a real family," said Fr. Anthony. "She was connected with the animals, connected with the earth, but also very connected with heaven. She is still connected with the earth."
Indeed, St. Faustina promised she would be a powerful intercessor, once writing that her mission would continue after her death. "Poor earth, I will not forget you," she wrote. "Although I feel that I will be immediately drowned in God as in an ocean of happiness, that will not be an obstacle to my returning to earth to encourage souls and incite them to trust in God's mercy. Indeed, this immersion in God will give me the possibility of boundless action" (Diary, 1582).
Saint Faustina, pray for us!
Learn more about St. Faustina from Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC, who leads the Marians' Parish Mission Team: