Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska

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In "Ask a Marian," a recurring feature in our Friends of Mercy newsletter, the Marian Fathers answer questions from club members:

Peter E. asks:
How do I help non-Catholics better understand Mother Mary and Divine Mercy?

My suggestion is to describe Mary as she describes herself: the handmaid of the Lord who fulfills His will (see Lk 1:38). She places herself in line with the servants of God in the Old Testament — for example, Abraham and David — who sought to be faithful to the Word of God and to His covenant. Mary is the most faithful disciple of Jesus, who remained by His side to the brutal Crucifixion on Calvary (see Jn 19:25). She is, for us, an example and a sister in faith who leads us by the hand to fulfill the Father's will and be faithful disciples of her Son (see Mt 12:50).

In the Magnificat (see Lk 1:46-55), Mary glorifies the Father who has looked upon her lowliness. The gaze of the Father filled her with His mercy time and again: She was lifted from being an ordinary Jewish maiden to being the Mother of God. She was saved from public shame by St. Joseph and protected from the slaughter of the innocents. She stood by the pierced side of Jesus to receive the Blood and Water — the outpouring of the Father's mercy — and was privileged to see her Son raised from the dead on the third day.

Having experienced the Father's mercy so many times in various ways, she is the Mother and Queen of Mercy: a woman who traversed the same path we do, full of trials and tribulations, but also full of the Father's mercy who sees us through them all. Invoking Mary as Mother of Mercy, we ask her to teach us to walk with us in faith and trust in the mercy of God, so that one day we may be with Jesus and her forever in Heaven.

Cyndi B. asks:
Are the promises of Jesus, as recorded in the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, conditional upon the belief of the individual?

Jesus' promises are given to incite us to trust in His goodness, trust in His mercy. The Polish theologian Fr. Ignacy Rozycki, who was commissioned by Karol Wojtyla (later Pope John Paul II) to examine the Diary, states that, to receive the fulfillment of Jesus' promises, we must have trust. Jesus Himself is always ready to fulfill His promises: His mercy and love do not depend upon us, for "His mercy endures forever" (Ps 136:1). However, just as we can shut our eyes to the bright sun, so we can shut our hearts to His Divine Mercy, and we do this through our distrust.

Jesus told St. Faustina that the only way to receive His mercy is through the vessel of trust. He said, "The graces of My mercy are drawn by means of one vessel only, and that is — trust. The more a soul trusts, the more it will receive" (Diary, 1578). If we lack that one vessel, then, we cannot receive His mercy, which is what He promises to give us.

Indeed, Jesus complains to St. Faustina multiple times of how He wants to pour out His mercy upon souls, but they do not trust. "The flames of mercy are burning me," He tells Faustina. "I desire to pour them out upon human souls. Oh, what pain they cause Me when they do not want to accept them!" (Diary, 1074).

Mary T. asks:
If someone does something sinful when they are on medication, is it still a personal sin?

A basic element of every sin is the willful choice to distrust and disobey God our Father. Any medication that removes the ability of someone to make such a willful choice also removes any possibility of sin. There is a distinction in moral theology between a human action and the act of a human. An "act of a human" refers to actions that are, by nature, instinctual and not directly under our will: for example, being hungry or growing in height. "Human actions" refer to those things we can control: for example, our words. Sometimes, there are acts of a human under severe medication that are not human actions, and hence they are not sins.

An example might help. A relative of mine worked in the neuro-Intensive Care Unit of a major hospital. She recounted to me how, due to the drugs and surgeries on the brain, people would curse at her and be very rude. The next day, when the drugs wore off or their brain began to function better, they would be the sweetest persons and remember nothing of what happened. Such persons are not morally guilty for their actions, even though they do objectively cause hurt.

It might be good for the person to apologize to mend the relationship, but there is no sin involved where the person's freedom is restricted by medication. Another question entirely is that of the illegal use of drugs. Such people are responsible for taking such drugs, and thereby carry responsibility for all that happens under their influence.

Got questions for the Marian Fathers? Email us at FriendsOfMercy@marian.org or write to Friends of Mercy, Marian Helpers Center, Stockbridge, MA 01263.

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