The contemplation of Mercy in daily life is the characteristic aspect in the school of St. Faustina’s spirituality. Acquired contemplation, as Tanquerey maintains, is a simplified affective prayer, the act of fixing a simple gaze on God joined with an affection of admiration and love. Souls that reach the state of contemplation need neither long meditations nor intellectual probing, since they come to know God rather spontaneously and without interference; they walk to some extent before the face of God, and they love God almost instinctively, just as a child loves its kind mother. For those souls it is difficult to conceive how anyone cannot love God, how anyone can live without Him.
Saint Sister Faustina teaches us to contemplate God in daily life – to encounter Him in one’s own soul and to live one’s whole life with Him. I look for no happiness beyond my own interior where God dwells, she avowed in the Diary, I rejoice that God dwells within me; here I abide with Him unendingly; it is here that my greatest intimacy with Him exists; here I dwell with Him in safety; here is a place not probed by the human eye. The Blessed Virgin encourages me to commune with God in this way (Diary 454; cf. Diary 1793).
A simple practise for the contemplation of God in daily life was exercised by sister Faustina at the convent life, and when she wanted to change it, the Lord Jesus did not give her permission to do so, knowing how great an advantage it brings for the spiritual life. This practise consists in uniting herself with Jesus dwelling in her soul e.g. through an ardent act of prayer (short prayerful invocation). A consequent use of this practise brings abundant fruits in the spiritual life: it develops a personal bond of love with God and leads to a fuller participation in the life and mission of Jesus. It allows for common life with Him in one’s own life in all dimensions. With Him I go to work, Sister Faustina wrote, with Him I go for recreation, with Him I suffer, with Him I rejoice; I live in Him and He in me. I am never alone, because He is my constant companion. He is present to me at every moment (Diary 318). Such practised contemplation of Mercy in daily life does not demand seclusion from the world, staying in the convent. It may be adapted to every vocation. In the times of great fear, lack of the feeling of safety and love, God through the life of St. Faustina reminded us about the truth of His indwelling in the human soul, about which St. John wrote in his Gospel, and called to stay with God in the depths of one’s own existence.
The contemplative life is commonly associated with seclusion, solitude, and prayer. Certainly, these conditions are conducive to contemplation, but contemplation does not depend on them. Sister Faustina’s life, while running its course behind convent walls, demonstrates that contemplation is possible anywhere, not only in the chapel or during prayer, but also at work and in all the circumstances of daily life. For its essence does not consist in being secluded from the world, but in consciously staying with God. Before she herself understood this truth, she tried to fulfil her desire of leading a contemplative life in cloistered monastery. For this reason, Sister Faustina wanted to transfer to a religious community of a stricter observance (Diary 18) after having spent three weeks in the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. The Lord Jesus, however, did not allow her to leave this Congregation neither during the postulancy nor during the time of perpetual profession when, guided by the desire to fulfil God’s will, she wanted to found a contemplative monastery that would proclaim and implore God’s mercy for the world. The Lord made her stay until death in the Congregation to which He had called her to show, among other things, that it is possible to attain even the peaks of contemplative life in every vocation, in every circumstance, in the drab, everyday human life by carrying out the most mundane duties. Nevertheless, definite requirements must first be met; namely, one must lead an ascetic life and cultivate a spirit of prayer. Sister Faustina also followed this path, trodden by thousands of saints, leaving us the example of contemplation in everyday life.
In Sister Faustina’s Diary, there are many descriptions of prayer which would change into a state of contemplation. Jesus, my Love, she wrote, today gave me to understand how much He loves me, although there is such an enormous gap between us, the Creator and the creature; and yet, in a way, there is something like equality: love fills up the gap. He himself descends to me and makes me capable of communing with Him. I immerse myself in Him, losing myself as it were; and yet, under His loving gaze, my soul gains strength and power and an awareness that it loves and is especially loved. It knows that the Mighty One protects it (Diary 815).
Whenever she began meditating on the mystery of Divine Mercy, contemplating the benefits that God bestows upon people, she could not finish this meditation, as she avowed, because her spirit became entirely drowned in God (Diary 1523). I become lost in admiration when I recognise and experience this incomprehensible love of God with which God loves me. Who is God – and what am I? I cannot meditate on this any further. Only love can understand this meeting of two spirits, namely, God– who–is–Spirit and the soul–who–is–creature. The more I know Him, the more completely with all the strength of my being I drown in Him (Diary 729).
Coming to know the mystery of Divine Mercy through reason and meditation would turn into acts of contemplation – into a simple gaze, a look, and at times a brief glance at God joined with a feeling of adoration and love. Every act of contemplation endowed her soul with a deeper knowledge of God, an awareness of His mercy, as well as a deeper self–knowledge. During these moments I experience the greatness of God and my own misery (Diary 289). Yet, such knowledge, declared Sister Faustina, does not depress me nor keep me away from the Lord, but rather it arouses in my soul greater love and boundless trust. The repentance of my heart is linked to love (Diary 852). These acts of contemplation, though frequently quite brief, nevertheless endowed Sister Faustina’s soul with a more perfect knowledge of God and of His attributes, particularly His mercy, and with a sensitivity to His presence. Furthermore, they enkindled her love for God and souls, making her ready to fulfil God’s every wish.
In Sister Faustina’s life, contemplation was not restricted to the time of prayer, but extended over all her life. The knowledge of the mystery of Divine Mercy enabled her to discover God in her soul, and so she did not seek Him somewhere in the distance, nor did she have to go before the tabernacle to meet Him. Instead, she communicated with Him in the depths of her being wherever she was. The interior of my soul, she wrote, is like a large and magnificent world in which God and I live. Except for God, no one is allowed there (Diary 582; cf. Diary 193, 1385, 1021). The theme of the presence of Jesus living in the soul appears many times on the pages of the Diary. I am aware that You are dwelling in me, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, or rather I am aware that it is I who am living in You, O incomprehensible God. …O my God, I have come to know You within my heart, and I have loved You above all things that exist on earth or in heaven (Diary 478). She compared her soul to a tabernacle, wherein the living Host is reserved (cf. Diary 1302), and she communed with the Lord in the depths of her being.
The Lord Jesus himself even taught Sister Faustina how to commune with God in her soul when He explained that He is always present there, even if she does not perceive Him, and that only mortal sin drives Him out of a soul (Diary 1181); when He said that He would tell her most in the depths of her heart where no one could disturb His actions (Diary 581); when He clarified what great value a single act of pure love for Him has (Diary 576); and when He encouraged her to join her prayers, fasts, mortifications, labours and all sufferings to His prayer, fasting, mortification, labours and sufferings (Diary 531). Sister Faustina faithfully put into practise all the counsels that she had received from the Lord Jesus and the Mother of God. Consequently, to abide with God in the interior of her soul became her very life. I know God is in my heart. And the fact that I feel Him in my heart does not interfere with my duties. Even when I am dealing with very important matters which require attention, I do not lose the presence of God in my soul, and I am closely united with Him. (Diary 318).
The practise of uniting herself with the Merciful Christ was the basis for Sister Faustina’s contemplation of God dwelling in her soul (Diary 743, 790, 861, 905, 1105, 1778 and others). This was her daily resolution for the particular examination of conscience for years at a stretch. This practise, she noted, gives me unusual strength; my heart is always united with the One it desires, and its actions are regulated by mercy, which flows from love (Diary 703). With Him, in Him, and through Him, I give glory to God (Diary 1177). When she wanted to change this practise, the Lord Jesus did not give her permission to do so, recommending that she continue to unite herself with Him, present in her soul (Diary 1544). Her duties did not prevent her from uniting herself with Jesus because she did not allow herself to become absorbed in the whirl of work or other exterior things (Diary 226, 582). She spent all her free time with the Divine Guest within her soul (Diary 504), and from Him she drew light and strength to fight difficulties and oppositions (Diary 193). As we know, she had quite a few of them.
Being aware of Jesus’ presence in the soul and contemplating Him deepened Sister Faustina’s sensitivity to every other manifestation of His presence and His wishes. She perceived Him everywhere. Everything that surrounds me, she wrote, is filled with God, and most of all my own soul, which is adorned with the grace of God (Diary 887). She could detect God in other people, in various circumstances of everyday life, and even, as she writes, in the most hidden things (Diary 148); she saw His goodness everywhere, also in those circumstances that are difficult for us to accept. Staying with the Beloved in the depth of her soul made her sensitive to every manifestation of His will, even to the slightest spiritual inspirations, which she would receive in love, even if she had to pay a high price of toil and suffering for it. This presence of God in her soul gave her the opportunity to unite herself directly with Jesus. It allowed her to live with Him, in Him, and for Him every day and at every moment, as well as to welcome the manifestation of His will as an incomprehensible gift of Divine Mercy. Many times she wrote that she could not help being amazed when she contemplated this truth of our faith (Diary 1523), for everything begins with Your mercy and ends with Your mercy (Diary 1506).
After going through the passive nights of the senses and the spirit, Sister Faustina experienced states of infused contemplation frequently. God would take complete possession of her soul, and in these moments she communed with Him effortlessly in a simple and loving way. I more often commune with the Lord in a more profound manner, she wrote in the Diary, My senses sleep and, although not in a visible way, all things become more real and clearer to me than if I saw them with my eyes. My intellect learns more in one moment than during long years of thinking and meditation, both as regards the essence of God and as regards revealed truths, and also as regards the knowledge of my own misery (Diary 882).
Sister Faustina did not have any theological training; nevertheless, she left us remarkably beautiful descriptions of infused contemplation, expressing in simple and accurate language the essence of contemplation, its results and ways, and how her soul experienced these states. My communion with the Lord, she recorded in the Diary, is now purely spiritual. My soul is touched by God and wholly absorbs itself in Him, even to the complete forgetfulness of self. Permeated by God to its very depths, it drowns in His beauty; it completely dissolves in Him — I am at a loss to describe this, because in writing I am making use of the senses; but there, in that union, the senses are not active; there is a merging of God and the soul; and the life of God to which the soul is admitted is so great that the human tongue cannot express it. When the soul returns to its habitual form of life, it then sees that this life is all darkness and mist and dreamlike confusion, an infant’s swaddling clothes. In such moments the soul only receives from God, for of itself it does nothing; it does not make even the slightest effort; all in her is wrought by God (Diary 767).
Initially, the acts of infused contemplation in Sister Faustina’s life appeared sporadically, even before she had entered the convent (cf. Diary 1404, 770). Later on, they appeared ever more frequently, especially during the passive night of the spirit which enabled her soul to abide with God. At times, the acts of infused contemplation were prolonged and would last throughout the whole day. I continued, she recorded, throughout the whole day without interruption, thus immersed in God. In the evening, I fell as if into a faint and a strange sort of agony. My love wants to equal the love of the Mighty One. It is drawn to Him so vehemently that it is impossible, without some special grace from God, to bear the vastness of such a grace in this life. But I see clearly that Jesus himself is sustaining me and strengthening me and making me capable of communing with Him (Diary 708, cf. Diary 1246).
Our Lady, as Sister Faustina’s notes indicate, obtained this grace of infused contemplation for her; likewise, the Mother of God taught her on several occasions how to lead the interior life. Strive after silence and humility, She told her, so that Jesus, who dwells in your heart continuously, may be able to rest. Adore Him in your heart; do not go out from your inmost being. …I shall obtain for you the grace of an interior life which will be such that, without ever leaving that interior life, you will be able to carry out all your external duties with even greater care (Diary 785). This record in Sister Faustina’s Diary confirms the opinion of those theologians who assert that infused contemplation is a gift from God and that man cannot attain it by his own effort of spirit, that is, by the simple cooperation with divine grace. God grants this grace – the gift of infused contemplation – to those souls who are capable of receiving it: to those who have passed through the extremely painful purifications of the passive nights.
Every Christian, however, can attain – as the majority of theologians affirm – the state of acquired contemplation. It is a process of discovering God in one’s own soul and of experiencing His power.This lies within the bounds of the human spirit’s power when it cooperates with the grace of God. Sister Faustina indeed teaches us to seek this incomprehensible gift which God has placed in the human soul: He himself. She teaches us how to become a contemplative person in action. She tells us that we must resolve to live the interior life intensively and very earnestly, because in order to enter into the fascinating world of faith, the soul must be purified, not only from sin but also from the stimuli given by the senses or the world of the creative intellect. The more purified the soul is, the more capable one is of discovering the living God in one’s soul, of developing a personal bond with Him, of contemplating Him, regardless of whether one lives in the convent or in the world. Such a soul will then be able to endorse Sister Faustina’s words, My spirit is with God, and my interior being is filled with God, so I do not look for Him outside myself. He, the Lord, penetrates my soul just as a ray from the sun penetrates clear glass. When I was enclosed in my mother’s womb, I was not so closely united with her as I am with my God. There, it was an unawareness; but here, it is the fullness of reality and the consciousness of union (Diary 883).
sr. M. Elisabeth Siepak C.O.L.M.
„The Spiritualty of Saint Sister Faustina”
Translated by sr. M. Nazareta Maleta, C.O.L.M.
sr. M. Caterina Esselen, C.O.L.M.
Prepared by sr. M. Diana Kuczek, C.O.L.M.