Sister Faustina wanted to be a great saint, raised to the glory of the altar (Cf. Diary 150). Many a time not only did she write about this desire but also unwaveringly strove to be a saint. Her determination was unusual. She wrote: “My Jesus, You know that from my earliest years I have wanted to become a great saint; that is to say, I have wanted to love You with a love so great that there would be no soul who has hitherto loved You so” (Diary 1372).
On the 5th October 1938, when she died at the age of only 33, she was considered to be a saint. The reputation of the sanctity of her life was growing along with the developing devotion to the Divine Mercy in the forms conveyed by her. Pilgrims came to her tomb, to the monastic cemetery in Cracow-Łagiewniki, and obtained many graces through her intercession.
On the 21st October, 1965, Bishop Julian Groblicki, delegated by the Archbishop of Cracow, Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, began with a solemn session the Informative Process relating to the life and virtues of Sister Faustina, during which 45 witnesses to her life were interviewed, the writings were collected and the process regarding the absence of public devotion was conducted. On the 25th November, 1966, the mortal remains of the Servant of God were translated from the tomb, from the monastic cemetery, to the chapel. On the 20th September, 1967, Cardinal Karol Wojtyła chaired a solemn session which closed the Informative Process on the diocesan level. The acts of the process were sent to Rome and on the 31st January, 1968, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints inaugurated the Process of Beatification. On the 7th March, 1992, the Holy Father, John Paul II, promulgated a decree on the heroic virtues and on the 21st December of that year he issued a decree regarding a miracle. He also fixed the date for the beatification in Rome to be the 18th April, 1993.
Many years before the beatification, in the ‘Diary’ Sister Faustina described her way to the glory of the altar in the following manner: “Once I saw a big crowd of people in our chapel, in front of the chapel and in the street, because there was no room for them inside. The chapel was decorated for a feast. There were a lot of clergy near the altar, and then our sisters and those of many other congregations. They were all waiting for the person who was to take a place on the altar. Suddenly I heard a voice saying that I was to take the place on the altar. But as soon as I left the corridor to go across the yard and enter the chapel, following the voice that was calling me, all the people began to throw at me whatever they had to hand: mud, stones, brooms, to such an extent that I at first hesitated to go forward. But the voice kept on calling me even more earnestly, so I walked on bravely. When I entered the chapel, the superiors, the sisters, the students, and even my parents started to hit me with whatever they could, and so whether I wanted to or not, I quickly took my place on the altar. As soon as I was there, the very same people, the students, the sisters, the superiors and my parents all began to hold their arms out to me asking for graces; and as for me, I did not bear any grudge against them for having thrown all sorts of things at me, and I was surprised that I felt a very special love precisely for those persons who had forced me to go more quickly to my appointed place. At the same time my soul was filled with ineffable happiness, and I heard these words: ‘Do whatever you wish, distribute graces as you will, to whom you will and when you will’. Then, instantly, the vision disappeared” (Diary 31).
1. I want to be a saint
From her most tender years Sister Faustina wanted to become a great saint and many times she spoke about it with Jesus. She understood that sanctity did not consist in revelations and extraordinary graces but in the union of her will with the will of God. She wrote: “Neither graces, nor revelations, nor raptures, nor gifts granted to a soul make it perfect, but rather the intimate union of the soul with God. These gifts are merely ornaments of the soul, but constitute neither its essence nor its perfection. My sanctity and perfection consist in the close union of my will with the will of God” (Diary 1107). She pursued this aim unwaveringly using all the circumstances of her life perfectly. She did not disregard small events in her daily life because, as she thought: “a magnificent building will never rise if we reject the insignificant bricks” (Diary 112). She knew that sanctity was the work of God – His work in her. Therefore, trusting in Him completely, she prayed to Him and offered Him all the efforts she made in order to achieve this goal. “I want to come out of this retreat a saint” – she made firm resolutions – “and this, in spite of everything; that is to say, in spite of my wretchedness, I want to become a saint, and I trust that God’s mercy can make a saint even out of such misery as I am, because I am utterly in good will. In spite of all my defeats, I want to go on fighting like a holy soul and to comport myself like a holy soul. I will not be discouraged by anything, just as nothing can discourage a soul who is holy. I want to live and die like a holy soul, with my eyes fixed on You, Jesus, stretched out on the Cross, as the model for my actions” (Diary 1333).
The pursuit of sanctity, that is, of the union with God, was not a sign of her egoistic desires but it was a deep understanding of the ultimate end of man, who, by Divine mercy, is called by God to the union of life with Him throughout earthly and eternal life. The pursuit also showed the shared res- ponsibility for the Church, for the salvation of souls. Sister Faustina knew how the sanctity of each member of Christ’s Mystical Body or its lack influenced the life of the Church. “I strive for the greatest perfection possible in order to be useful to the Church” – she wrote in the ‘Diary’ – “The sanctity or the fall of each individual soul has an effect upon the whole Church. Observing myself and those who are close to me, I have come to understand how great an influence I have on other souls – not by any heroic deeds, as these are striking in themselves, but by small actions like a movement of the hand, a look, and many other things too numerous to mention, which have an effect on and reflect in the souls of others, as I myself have noticed” (Diary 1475).
The sisters from her Congregation saw that she strove for sanctity unwaveringly. They noticed her virtues, fidelity to prayer and to the monastic rule, cheerfulness and balanced disposition in every situation, her childlike trust in God and great love of neighbour. They asked her to intercede for them before the Lord since they were convinced that she was close to God and that her prayer would be heard (Diary 1673). Sister Faustina prayed a lot in order that there would be a saint in the Congregation and many a time she com- mended this matter to the Lord Jesus. “My soul was instantly filled with a great longing” – she wrote in the ‘Diary’ – “that our Congregation, too, might have a saint, and I wept like a child that there was no saint in our midst. – And I said to the Lord, ‘I know your generosity, and yet it seems to me that You are less generous toward us.’ And I began again to weep like a little child. – And the Lord Jesus said to me: ‘Don’t cry. You are that saint’” (Diary 1650).
As early as during her earthly life, the Lord Jesus did not only assure her that she would be a saint but also, during prophetic visions, He let her come to know the way to the glory of the altar. Jesus also let her know what the beatification and canonization ceremonies would be like (Diary 31, 1045, 1047-1048).
2. Considered to be a saint
When Sister Faustina died, at 10.45 pm, on the 5th October, 1938, in Cracow, she was considered to be a saint. Sister Amelia Socha and Sister Eufemia Traczyńska were the witnesses of the moment when she went to the house of the Father in Heaven. Sister Eufemia strongly desired to see how saints die and that is why she wanted to be present at the moment of Sister Faustina’s death. However, since she was a young sister, she did not have permission to keep vigil over a sister who had tuberculosis. Therefore she asked the souls in Purgatory to wake her up when Sister Faustina would be dying. In the memoirs she described the event in the following way: “I went to bed at the usual time and I fell asleep immediately. Suddenly someone woke me up: Sister, if you want to be at the moment of Sister Faustina’s death, get up. Right away I understood that it was a mistake – the sister that came to wake up Sister Amelia came to the wrong cell – to mine. I woke up Sister Amelia immediately, put on the work dress and the coronet and I ran to the infirmary quickly. Sister Amelia came after me. It was about eleven o’clock at night. When we went there Sister Faustina, as if, opened the eyes a bit, smiled slightly and then she bowed her head and already… I looked at Sister Amelia but I didn’t say anything, we continued to pray. The blessed candle was burning all the time. A moment later Mother Superior Irena came whereas the sister that kept vigil over Sister Faustina was probably still waking somebody up. We prayed with Mother Superior a lot.”
In the ‘Book of the Deceased’, depicting Sister Faustina’s life for posterity, the sisters wrote: “As regards her relationship with God, the late Sister Faustina achieved the closest union with Him because she loved His will and she sought it in every event or order given by the superiors. In the sanatorium, thanks to her gentleness and gratitude for everything, she made the best impression, which is remembered. In ‘Józefów’ – the same: despite the severe suffering, she asked the sisters not to tire out by keeping vigil. They did it only during the last few nights. Answering the question if she suffers a lot – she said: ‘Yes, I suffer a lot, but I am fine with it’. Although she was extremely thirsty she did not drink water that was given to her, she only moistened her tongue. In spite of the fact that her body was totally exhausted and burning up with fever, she, with a strong spirit till the end, on the eve of her death, smiling, asked the nursing sister to sing. The sister fulfilled her wish and sang “Welcome the Fountain’, which delighted the ill Faustina. She did not allow the sisters visiting her to be too close because she did not want them to get infected. She said: “Dear Sister, take care of yourself more’. Till the end she inspired us by being faithful to the rules. She also humbly apologized to everybody for what she had done wrong. Because of the cost of the journey she asked the family not to come. Not fearing death at all, she passed away in the Lord surprisingly quietly. It was at 11, before midnight.”
The funeral took place on the 7th October 1938, on the day of the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. After the funeral service, which was led by Rev. Władysław Wojtoń, S.J., in their own arms, the sisters, carried the coffin with Faustina’s body to the monastic cemetery situated at the end of the garden.
During World War II, when Rev. Michael Sopoćko and, later, the Su- perior General -Mother Michaela Moraczewska as well as Fr Joseph Andrasz, S.J., revealed Sister Faustina’s mission, the fame of the sanctity of her life spread beyond the monastic walls. Since that time it has been growing along with the rapidly developing devotion to the Divine Mercy in the forms conveyed by Sister Faustina.
People received many graces through the intercession of Sister Faustina and insisted that the Congregation made efforts to initiate the beatification process. As early as on the 9th January, 1947, Mother Michaela Moraczewska consulted Cardinal A. Hlond about this. He replied: “Wait, this is not the right moment. Collect documents, gather materials so that everything is ready when the time comes.” Following the Rev. Primate’s instructions, the General Superior of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy directed that data about Sister Faustina and information about graces received through her intercession be collected and memoirs be written. In 1948 Sister Bernarda Wilczek went where Sister Faustina had come from and she also visited her employers. She did it in order to write down the memoirs of Helena Kowalska’s family and of those that knew her when she had been a child and a servant. In 1952-1965 the sisters’ memoirs were written down and confirmed by oath.
The next General Superior of the Congregation, Mother Róża Kłobukowska, asked the General of the Pallottines, Rev. Wojciech Turkowski, to appoint a postulator of Sister Faustina’s cause and Rev. Stanisław Suwała was appointed on the 22nd May, 1951. In the beginning Rev. Maćkowski was the vice-postulator but due to the state of his health he could not perform the function. Therefore, Rev. Alojzy Żuchowski replaced him. In the very same year Archbishop Romuald Jałbrzykowski passed a negative opinion on the devotion to the Divine Mercy and during the following years difficulties regarding the devotion to the Divine Mercy and its initiator, Sister Faustina, were increasing. According to the Holy Office the following issues were incorrect: the excessive ‘propaganda’ of the Divine Mercy devotion in the new forms, inaccurate typescripts of Sister Faustina ‘Diary’ and their bad translations into French and Italian. For these reasons on the 6th March, 1959, the Holy See announced that a notification banning the spread of the Divine Mercy worship in the forms conveyed by Sister Faustina had been given.
It seemed that the notification would make it impossible to raise Sister Faustina to the glory of the altar. However, the reputation of her sanctity grew, people received graces through her intercession and still demanded that the beatification process be inaugurated. In this situation, at the third session of the Second Vatican Council, Cardinal Karol Wojtyła spoke to the Prefect of the Congregation of the Holy Office, Cardinal Ottaviani and asked him if the notification of 1959 made it impossible to carry out the beatification process. He told Sister Beata Piekut about the result of the conversation: “I have not only been allowed but also ordered to start Sister Faustina’s process and, moreover, I have been told to do it as soon as possible, till the witnesses live.” He commanded that ‘the Diary’ be not made available to anyone, even to priests and that no part of the work be quoted, even in prayers, leaflets or on holy cards. However, a prayer for Sister Faustina’s beatification was to be written and efforts were to be made so that the imprimatur on the distribution of the prayer was obtained.
In the ‘Chronology of Events in the Life of Karol Wojtyła’ there is the following note, dated the 22nd August,1965: “I am being inundated with requests for the inauguration of the process, so I have handed over the case to the suffragan bishop, Rev. Julian Groblicki.” On the 21st October, 1965, the suffragan bishop chaired the solemn session which inaugurated the Informa- tive Process relating to Sister Faustina’s life and virtues. Rev. Prelate Józef Szczotkowski became the Chair of the Tribunal; Rev. Jerzy Mrówczyński (Ressurectionist) and Rev. Walerian Moroz (Michaelite) – the Promotors of the Faith, Rev. Prelate Stanisław Dąbrowski, Fr Ludwik Piechnik S.J., Fr Anzelm Kubit (Franciscan), Fr Bonawentura Kadeja – became the judges; and Rev. Augustyn Dziędziel (Salesian), Rev. Antoni Dabija, S.J., Rev. Stefan Marszowski – the notaries. During the 75th session of the Tribunal 45 witnesses were examined, the writings were collected and the process regarding the absence of devotion was conducted. On the 20th September, 1967, at the solemn session presided over by the Archbishop of Cracow, Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, the process was finished. After Mass, having signed the acts of the process in the Archbishop’s chapel in Cracow, the members of the Tribunal made a pilgrimage to the tomb of the Servant of God, Sister Faustina, which, since the 25th November, 1966, after the exhumation, had been in the monastic chapel of the Congregation in Kraków-Łagiewniki.
The acts of the process were handed over to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which, on the 31st January, 1968, by an official decree inaugurated the Process of Beatification of the Servant of God. Rev. Antoni Mruk, S.J., a professor of the Gregorianum in Rome (since the 18th February, 1967), performed the function of the postulator, whereas Fr Izydor Borkiewicz, OFM Conv, who had worked in Poland in the years of the diocesan process already, was the vice-postulator. Since the very beginning of the process the Congregation for the Causes of Saints acted very carefully and many a time consulted with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Polish Episcopal Conference.
The first task of the process in Rome consisted in examining the writings of the Servant of God, especially her ‘Diary’, and in publishing the critical edition of the above-mentioned work. Rev. Professor Ignacy Różycki, who had initially a sceptical attitude towards the Servant of God, prepared a theological analysis of Sister Faustina’s writings. However, in his extensive study consisting of 500 printed pages in folio he defended the authenticity and supernatural character of Sister Faustina’s revelations. The Postulator stressed that “thanks to this work he gained a special recognition in the Congregation.” The second censor also gave a positive opinion on her ‘Diary’. Thanks to these opinions on the 19th June, 1981, the Congregation issued a decree which was signed by Prefect Cardinal P. Palazzini and which permitted of the continuation of the beatification process. In 1981 the first edition of ‘the Diary’ in the Polish language was published in Rome, too and it became the source text of translations into other languages, including the one into Italian which was done for the needs of the beatification process.
The next stage consisted in preparing the so-called Summary of the informative process, which was edited by an advocate of the Roman Rota, Luigi Giuliani and which was finished on the 27th November, 1984. Fr Michał Machejek O.C.D., appointed as the relator on the 21st July 1984, worked on the thesis on the heroic virtues.
In November, 1977 Cardinal Karol Wojtyła asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith if it was possible to revise the Notification of 1959. The Congregation acceded to this request and, having examined the case and having received a postulatory letter written by the Primate of Poland, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, on the 15th April, 1978, lifted the bans of the Notification, thus permitting of the spread of the Divine Mercy worship in the forms conveyed by Sister Faustina. This is how the prophecy of the Servant of God, written in her ‘Diary’ (Diary 378), was fulfilled.
During the process of beatification the process of Ms Maureen Digan’s miraculous healing was also examined. First, the diocesan processes were conducted in Cracow, where the person had been healed miraculously, and in Boston – in the diocese where she came from, and later it took place in Rome.
On the 7th March 1992 the Holy Father, John Paul II, promulgated a decree on Sister Faustina’s heroic virtues, and on the 21st December, 1992 – a decree regarding a miracle attributed to her intercession. He also set the beatification date: the 18th April 1993 in Rome.
The postulator, Fr Professor Antoni Mruk, S.J., described the history of Sister Faustina’s beatification process in the work entitled: The Difficult Way of the Servant of God, Sister Faustina Kowalska’s, Beatification Process, in: Sister Faustina’s Mission. Divine Mercy Symposium Cracow-Łagiewniki 18-20 October, 1988, Cracow 1991, pp. 9-22.
Commission of censor theologians – 6th December 1991
Commission of cardinals– 18th February 1992
Translated by Iwona Franceschini