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February 22nd. 1931 Jesus appeared to a young Polish nun. He was dressed
in a white garment and had one hand raised in blessing and the other at
His breast. From His chest flowed rays, one in red and the others in light
shades. He asked Sr. Faustina to reproduce the image of Him just as she
saw it with the words "Jesus I Trust in You" to be written below His feet.
He asked her to display the image in her own convent chapel and then throughout
the whole world. Sr. Faustina's Spiritual Director told her to ask Jesus
the significance of the two rays and Jesus explained:
"The rays represent the Blood and Water that gushed forth from the depths of my Mercy when my Agonising Heart was pierced on the cross. The pale rays symbolise the water, which cleanses and purifies the soul. These rays will shield the soul before the justice of My Father. Fortunate are those who live in this shelter, for the justice of God will not reach them there,"
Who Was Sr. Faustina?
Helen Kowalska was born the third child of ten on August 25th. 1905 in the village of Glogowiec, Poland. The family were poor but very rich in the Love of God and respect for other people, virtues that characterised her whole life. She entered the apostolic congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in 1927 and lived within the community as a humble and hard-working sister until her death just thirteen years later in the convent at Lagiewniki in Cracow. Her short life was always devoted to the Divine Mercy of Jesus and her beatification process began when her remains were transfered from the cemetary to the convent chapel.
On the first Sunday after Easter, April 18, 1993, in St. Peter's Square in Rome, Pope John Paul II declared her one of the community of the blessed. On the following day during his general audience he said:
"God has spoken to us through the spiritual wealth of Blessed Sister Faustina Kowalska. She left to the world the great message of Divine Mercy and an incentive to complete self-surrender to the Creator. God endowed her with a singular grace that enabled her to experience His mercy through mystical encounter and by a special gift of contemplative prayer. Blessed Sister Faustina, thank you for reminding the world of that great mystery of Divine Mercy; that 'startling mystery', that inexpressive mystery of the Father, which today every individual and the whole world need so very much."
Sister Faustina was canonized in Rome on the first Sunday after Easter, April 30, 2000 by the Holy Father John Paul II.
From the day of her first encounter with Jesus Sr. Faustina kept a diary and in all there were over 600 pages of personal experiences, reflections, prayers, revelations and mystical insights. The main message is that God is merciful, that He is Love itself poured out for us, and that He wants all of us to turn to Him with trust and repentance while there is still time. God's mercy has been shown to us from early Old Testament times - Noah, Abraham, Moses, Elijah, and many others.
God continues to speak His words of Mercy even to our generation, through the Church and its shepherds, through holy men and women - mystics - whom God has chosen as His vessels. He called Sr. Faustina to be His secretary and apostle of His mercy, revealing to her the desires of His merciful Heart - the way He wants us to respond to His mercy - promising us specific graces if we would but honour and proclaim His Mercy.
The message of Divine Mercy is at the heart of the gospel and presents the truth and the call of the gospel "....to introduce into life the mystery of mercy, supremely revealed in Jesus Christ." from Rich in Mercy, an encyclical by Pope John Paul II. What God wants most is for us to turn to Him with trust. To trust God and to rely on Him who is mercy itself, knowing that He is God, and that He loves us and cares for us. By placing our trust in Him we receive His infinite and merciful love. Jesus wants to have mercy on all of us but He waits for us to turn to Him in trust, never taking over our gift of free will.
He particularly wants sinners to turn to Him in complete trust, repenting of any wrongdoing. Repeatedly He emphasised to Sr. Faustins that He is more generous towards sinners than towards the just, reminding us of His words in the gospel: "Those who are well do not need the physician, but sick people do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice', I did not come to call the righteous but sinners." (Mt. 9:12-13). His mercy to us is infinite no matter what we have done or how black our sin may be and leaving us filled with much anxiety and fear. He constantly stresses that He will never reject a repentant heart, never refuse an appeal to His mercy.
We are not only to receive the mercy of God, but to use it by being merciful to others through our actions, our words, and our prayers by practicing the Corporal Works of Mercy - feeding the hungry, giving drink to those who thirst, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, comforting the prisoner, visiting the sick, burying the dead. The Spiritual Works of Mercy are teaching the ignorant, praying for the living and dead, correcting sinners, counselling those in doubt, consoling the sorrowful, bearing wrongs patiently, and forgiving wrongs willingly. The Lord wants us to do these works of mercy because even the strongest faith is useless without works.
In 1935 Sr. Faustina wrote for her Spiritual Director: "The time will come when this work which God so commends, (will be) as though in complete ruin, and suddenly the action of God will come upon the scene with real power which will bear witness to the truth. It will be as a new splendour for the church, though it had for some time been dormant in it". This indeed come to pass. On the 6th March 1959, the Holy See, acting on information that was innacurately presented, prohibited "the spreading of images and writings advocating devotion to the Divine Mercy in the form proposed by Sr. Faustina." As a result, there followed almost twenty years of total silence.
On the 15th of April, 1978, the Holy See, after a thorough examination of original documents previously unavailable to it, completely reversed its decision and again permitted the devotion. The one man principally responsible for the reversal was Karol Wojtyla, the Archbishop of Sr. Faustina's home diocese. On October 16th, 1978, he was elevated to the See of St. Peter as Pope John Paul II. This brief history does not pretend to explain all, nor to advance the judgement of the Church.
There are two sets of prayers that we can say for these intentions and can be found at the links above as The Chaplet of the Divine Mercy and the Novena to the Divine Mercy.
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