Andrew Bobola (1591 – 1657)

532248_190468401101702_1379716986_nBobola was born in 1591 into a noble family in the Sandomir Palatinate in the Province of Lesser Poland of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, then a constituent part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. In 1611 he entered the Society of Jesus in Vilnius, then in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the other part of the Commonwealth. He subsequently professed solemn vows and was ordained in 1622, after which he served for several years as an advisor, preacher, Superior of a Jesuit residence, etc., in various places.

From 1652 Bobola also worked as a country “missionary”, in various locations of Lithuania: these included Polotsk, where he was probably stationed in 1655, and also Pinsk, (both now in Belarus). On 16 May 1657, during the Khmelnytsky Uprising, he was captured in the village of Janów (now Ivanava, Belarus) by the Cossacks of Bohdan Chmielnicki and, after being subjected to a variety of tortures, killed.

One description of Bobola’s death written in 1865 states:

In the same year, the Cossacks surprised a holy Polish Jesuit, in the town of Pinsk, and conferred on him the palm of martyrdom, on the 16th of May, 1657. Father Andrew Bobola, whose untiring zeal had rendered him obnoxious to the schismatics, had just offered up the holy sacrifice, when a horde of Cossacks attacked the town. On beholding the barbarians, Father Bobola fell upon his knees, raised his eyes and his hands toward heaven, and, having a presentiment that his hour had arrived, exclaimed, “Lord, thy will be done!” At that moment, the Cossacks rushed upon him, stripped him of his holy habit, tied him to a tree, placed a crown upon his head, as did the Jews upon the head of our adorable Saviour, after which they scourged him, tore out one of his eyes, burned his body with torches, and one of the ruffians traced, with his poignard, the form of a tonsure on the head of the venerable Father, and on his back the figure of a chasuble! To do this, the executioner had to strip off the skin of the holy martyr! But this was not yet all. The fingers of the apostle had received the priestly unction. The executioner tore from them the skin, and forced needles under his nails! And during this indescribable torture, the hero prayed for his tormentors; he preached, both by word and example, until the schismatics tore out his tongue and crushed his head! Father Andrew Bobola, whom the Church declared Blessed, the 30th of October, 1853, was sixty-five years of age.

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Josaphat Kuntsevych OSBM

1112-jozafat_1Josaphat Kuntsevych, O.S.B.M., (c. 1580 – 12 November 1623) (Belarusian: Язафат Кунцэвіч, Jazafat Kuncevič, Polish: Jozafat Kuncewicz, Ukrainian: Йосафат Кунцевич, Josafat Kuntsevych) was a monk and archeparch (archbishop) of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, who died at Vitebsk in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (now in Belarus), on 12 November 1623, killed by a mob of Orthodox Christians. He has been declared a martyr and saint of the Catholic Church.

Early life

He was born Ioann (John) Kuntsevych in 1580 or 1584 in the city of Volodymyr in the province of Volhynia, then part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, now in Ukraine . His birth occurred while the Ruthenian Church was nominally unified. It had belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church, but in 1596 come under the authority of the pope through the Union of Brest.

Although of noble Belarusian descent (szlachta), his father had embarked in business, and held the office of town-councilor. Both of Kuntsevych’s parents encouraged religious participation and Christian piety in the young John. In the school at Volodymyr he gave evidence of unusual talent; he applied himself to the study of the Church Slavonic language, and learned almost the entire horologion by heart, which from this period he began to read daily. From this source he drew his early religious education, because the clergy seldom preached or gave catechetical instruction in that period.

Owing to the straitened financial circumstances of his parents, Kuntsevych was apprenticed to a merchant named Papovič in Vilnius. In this Polish-Lithuanian city, divided through the contentions of the various religious sects, he became acquainted with men, such as Josyf Veliamyn Rutsky, who supported the recent union with Rome, and under whose direction he furthered his interest in the Catholic Church.

Monk and archbishop

In 1604, in his early 20s, Kuntsevych entered the Monastery of the Trinity of the Basilian monks in Vilnius, at which time he was given the religious name of Josaphat. Stories of sanctity rapidly spread, and distinguished people began to visit the young monk. After a notable life as a layman, Rutsky also joined the Order. When Josaphat reached the diaconate, his regular services and labor for the Church had already been begun. As a result of his efforts, the number of novices to the Order steadily increased, and under Rutsky — who had meanwhile been ordained a priest — there began the revival of Eastern Catholic monastic life among the Ruthenians (Belarusians and Ukrainians). In 1609, after private study under the Jesuit priest, the Blessed Peter Faber, Josaphat was ordained a priest by a Catholic bishop. He subsequently became the hegumen (prior) of several monasteries. On November 12, 1617, he was consecrated as the bishop of the Eparchy of Vitebsk (possibly a titular see created for him), and coadjutor for the Archeparchy of Polotsk. He succeeded as archeparch in March 1618.

Kuntsevych faced a daunting task of bringing the local populace to accept the union with Rome. He faced stiff opposition from the monks, who feared the Latinization of the liturgy of the Church. As archeparch, he restored the churches; issued a catechism to the clergy, with instructions that it should be learned by heart; composed rules for the priestly life, entrusting to the deacons the task of superintending their observance; assembled synods in various towns in the dioceses, and firmly opposed the Polish Imperial Chancellor Sapieha, when he wished to make many concessions in favour of the Eastern Orthodox. Throughout all his strivings and all his occupations, he continued his religious devotion as a monk, and never abated his desire for self-mortification. Through all this he was successful in winning over a large portion of the people.

Kuntsevych’s activity provoked a strong reaction. A rival hierarchy was set up by the Orthodox Church, with the monk Meletius Smotrytsky being appointed the Orthodox Archeparch of Polotsk. Smotrytsky publicly claimed that Josaphat was preparing a total Latinization of the Church and its rituals. The inhabitants of Mogilev revolted against him in October 1618 and chased him out of the city. Kuntsevych then sent a complaint to King Sigismund and the Orthodox revolt was brutally suppressed. All leaders of the revolt were executed, including Bohdan Sobol, the father of Spiridon Sobol, while all Orthodox churches were taken away and given to the Greek-Catholics.

Death

Kuntsevych then became even more fiercely resisted by the Orthodox. During November 1623, despite warnings of unrest, he went to Vitebsk. There, on November 12th, the Orthodox sent a priest to his residence, who stood in the courtyard of his house, shouting insults at him. Archbishop Josaphat had the priest taken away and confined to his house. In response, the town bell was rung, which summoned a mob. They then attacked the archbishop’s residence, in the course of which an axe-stroke and a bullet ended his life and his body was tossed into the river.

Kuntsevych’s body was later recovered and honored. It was eventually transported to Rome, where he was given the honor of burial within St. Peter’s Basilica.

Hagiography

As a boy Kuntsevych was said to have shunned the usual games of childhood, prayed much, and lost no opportunity to assist at the Church services. Children especially regarded him with affection. As an apprentice, he devoted every leisure hour to prayer and study. At first Papovič viewed this behavior with displeasure, but Josaphat gradually won such a position in his esteem, that Papovič offered him his entire fortune and his daughter’s hand. But Josaphat’s love for the religious life never wavered.

Kuntsevych’s favourite devotional exercise was the traditional Eastern monastic practice of making prostrations, in which the head touches the ground, while saying the Jesus Prayer: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ Never eating meat, he fasted much, wore a hair shirt and a chain around his waist. He slept on the bare floor, and chastised his body until the blood flowed. The Jesuits frequently urged him to set some bounds to his austerities.

From Kuntsevych’s zealous study of the Slavonic-Byzantine liturgical books he drew many proofs of Catholic doctrine, using his knowledge in the composition of several original works — On the Baptism of St. Volodymyr; On the Falsification of the Slavic Books by the Enemies of the Metropolitan; On Monks and their Vows. Throughout his adult life, he was distinguished by his extraordinary zeal in performing the Church services and by extraordinary devotion during the Divine Liturgy. Not only in the church did he preach and hear confessions, but likewise in the fields, hospitals, prisons, and even on his personal journeys. This zeal, united with his kindness for the poor, won great numbers of Orthodox Ruthenians for the Catholic faith and Catholic unity. Among his converts were included many important personages such as Patriarch Ignatius, former Patriarch of Moscow, and Manuel Kantakouzenos, who belonged to the imperial family of the Byzantine Emperor Palaeologus.

Canonization

After numerous miracles attributed to Kuntsevych were claimed and reported to Church officials, a commission was appointed by Pope Urban VIII in 1628 to start inquire for his possible canonization, for which they examined under oath 116 witnesses. Although five years had elapsed since Josaphat’s death, his body was claimed to still be incorrupt. In 1637, a second commission investigated his life and, in 1643, twenty years after his death, Josaphat was beatified. He was canonized on June 29, 1867 by Pope Pius IX.

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church keeps his feast day on the first Sunday after November 12. (This Church uses the Julian Calendar, whose November 12 now corresponds to the Gregorian Calendar November 25.) When, in 1867, Pope Pius IX inserted his feast into the Roman Catholic calendar of saints, it was assigned to November 14, which was the first free day after November 12, which was then occupied by the feast of “Saint Martin I, Pope and Martyr.” In Pope Paul VI’s 1969 revision of the calendar, this latter feast was moved to Pope Saint Martin’s dies natalis (birthday to heaven), and Saint Josaphat’s feast was moved to that date, his own dies natalis. Traditional Roman Catholics continue to celebrate the feast day of “St Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr” on November 14.

519px-JKuncewicz

Католический святой Иосафат Кунцевич

St Josaphat Kuntsevich is the patron saint of a number of Polish parishes in the United States, including the Basilica of St. Josaphat, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and St Josaphat’s parish in Chicago, Illinois. A relic is on display in the “catacombs” of Holy Trinity Polish Mission in Chicago and St. Josaphats Parish of Bayside, Queens, New York. There is a St. Josaphat’s Roman Catholic Church in Detroit.

There is a St. Josaphat Parish located in Cheektowaga, NY which is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo

A St. Josaphat’s Cathedral and Ukrainian elementary school exists in Toronto, Ontario.

Priestly Society of St. Josaphat

Recently, a dissident group of Ukrainian Catholics, who oppose the changes made in the Ruthenian Rite to reduce Roman influence, have formed the Priestly Society of Saint Josaphat. They are linked to the wing of the Society of St. Pius X which has not recognized the authority of the Second Vatican Council.

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Saint Rafał Kalinowski of St. Joseph (1835 – 1907)

kalinauskasRafał Kalinowski, O.C.D. (Polish: Józef Kalinowski, Lithuanian: Rapolas Kalinauskas) (1 September 1835 – 15 November 1907) was a Polish Discalced Carmelite friar born as Józef Kalinowski inside the Russian partition of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, in the city of Vilnius (Pl: Wilno; Ru: Вильнюс). He was a teacher, engineer, prisoner of war, royal tutor, and priest, who founded many monasteries around Poland after the suppression by the Russians. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1991, the first man to be so recognized in the order of the Discalced Carmelites since Saint John of the Cross.

Childhood

He was born as Józef to a noble “szlachta” family in the city of Vilnius (Wilno). At the time he was born, the area was known as a Russian partition, though it had formerly been part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. He was the second son of Andrew Kalinowski (1805–1878), an assistant superintendent professor of mathematics at the local Institute for Nobles (Instytut Szlachecki). His mother, Josephine Połońska, died a few months after he was born, leaving him and his older brother Victor without a mother. His father then married Josephine’s sister (a practice that was not uncommon in that time), Sophie Połońska, and had three more children: Charles, Emily, and Gabriel. After Sophie died in 1845, Andrew married again, this time to the 17-year-old Sophie Puttkamer, daughter of Maryła Wereszczak (famous at the time for being written about by Adam Mickiewicz), who became mother to all of Andrew’s existing children and had four more of her own: Mary, Alexander, Monica, and George.

From the age of 8, Kalinowski attended the Institute for Nobles at Vilna, and graduated with honors in 1850. He next attended the School of Agriculture (Instytut Agronomiczny) at Hory-Horki, near Orsha.

Military career

The Russians strictly limited opportunities for further education, so in 1853 he enlisted in the Imperial Russian Army and entered the Nicholayev Engineering Academy (Mikołajewska Szkoła Inżynierii). The Army promoted him to Second Lieutenant in 1856. In 1857 he worked as an associate professor of mathematics, and from 1858-1860, he worked as an engineer who helped design the Odessa-Kiev-Kursk railway.

In 1862 the Imperial Russian Army promoted him to Captain and stationed him in Brest, Belarus, but he still sympathized with the Poles. He consequently resigned from the Imperial Russian Army in 1863 to serve as minister of war for the January Uprising, a Polish insurrection, in the Vilnius region. He determined never to sentence anyone to death nor to execute any prisoner. When the Poles rose against the Russians in 1863, Raphael joined them and was soon taken prisoner. Very few survived the forced march to slave labour in Siberia, but Raphael was sustained by his faith and became a spiritual leader to the prisoners. He was released ten years later.

Siberia

On 24 March 1864, Russian authorities arrested him and in June ordered capital punishment by firing squad. His family intervened, and the Russians feared that their Polish subjects would revere him as a political martyr; therefore, they commuted the sentence to 10 years in katorga, the Siberian labor camp system. They forced him to trek overland to the salt mines of Usolye-Sibirskoye near Irkutsk, Siberia, a journey that took nine months.

Three years after arriving in Usolye, he moved to Irkutsk. In 1871/1872 he did meteorology research for the Siberian subdivision of the Russian Geographical Society. He also participated in research expedition of Benedykt Dybowski to Kultuk, on the shore of Lake Baikal. Authorities released him from Siberia in 1873 but exiled him from Lithuania; he relocated to Paris, France.

Royal tutor

He returned to Warsaw in 1874, and became a tutor to 16-year-old Prince August Czartoryski. August was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1876, and Kalinowski accompanied him to various health destinations in France, Switzerland, Italy, and Poland. Kalinowski was a major influence on the young man (known as “Gucio”), who later became a priest and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2004. Later Raphael decides to travel to the city of Brest where he begins a Sunday school at the fortress in Brest-Litovsk where he was a captain, he became increasingly aware of the state persecution of the church, and of his native Poles.

Carmelite priest

In 1877 Kalinowski joined the Carmel of Linz, and took the name “Brother Raphael of St. Joseph.” The name “of St. Joseph” had nothing to do with his birthname—it was common for many Carmelites to list their name as “of St. Joseph”, after the “Convent of St. Joseph” founded by Teresa of Avila, co-founder of the Discalced Carmelite Order.

Kalinowski was ordained as priest at Czerna in 1882 by Bishop Albin Dunajewski, and in 1883 he became Prior of the convent at Czerna.

He founded multiple Catholic organizations around Poland and the Ukraine, most prominent of which was a monastery in Wadowice, Poland, where he was also Prior. He founded a Carmelite Sisters convent in Przemyśl in 1884, and Lvov in 1888.

From 1892-1907 he worked to document the life and work of Mother Theresa Marchocka, a 17th century Discalced Carmelite, to assist with her beatification.

He died in Wadowice of tuberculosis in 1907. Fourteen years later, Karol Wojtyła, later known as Pope John Paul II, was born in the same town.

He was a noted spiritual director of both Catholic and Russian Orthodox faithful.

Veneration

Kalinowski’s remains were originally kept in the convent cemetery, but this proved unmanageable because of the large number of pilgrims who came visiting. So many of them took handfuls of dirt from the grave that the nuns had to keep replacing the earth and plants at the cemetery. His body was later moved to a tomb, but the pilgrims went there instead, often scratching with their hands at the plaster, just to have some relic to keep with them. His remains were then moved to a chapel in Czerna, where they remain.

Father Rafał was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1983 in Kraków, in front of a crowd of over two million people. On 17 November 1991, he was canonized when, in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope John Paul II declared his boyhood hero a Saint. Rafał was the first friar to have been canonized in the Order of the Discalced Carmelites since co-founder Saint John of the Cross (1542–1591).

His feast day is 19 November.

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Mary Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938)

200px-FaustinaMaria Faustyna Kowalska, commonly known as Saint Faustina, born Helena Kowalska (August 25, 1905, Głogowiec, Poland then in the Russian Empire – Died October 5, 1938, Kraków, Poland) was a Polish nun, mystic and visionary. She is venerated in the Roman Catholic Church as a saint, and is known as the Apostle of Divine Mercy.

Throughout her life, she reported a number of visions of Jesus and conversations with him, which she wrote about in her diary, later published as the book Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul. Her Vatican biography quotes some of these conversations regarding the Divine Mercy devotion.

At age 20 she joined a convent in Warsaw and was later transferred to Plock, and then to Vilnius, where she met her confessor Michael Sopocko who supported her devotion to Divine Mercy. Faustina and Sopocko directed an artist to paint the first Divine Mercy image, based on Faustina’s reported vision of Jesus. Sopocko used the image to celebrate the first Mass on the first Sunday after Easter – which later became known as Divine Mercy Sunday.

In her diary Faustina predicted that her work would be suppressed for some time, then accepted again. Two decades after her death the Divine Mercy devotion was banned by the Vatican, but was approved again in 1978 and she was declared the first saint of the 21st century in April 2000. The Divine Mercy devotion is now followed by over 100 million Catholics.

Childhood and early years

She was born as Helenka Kowalska, in Głogowiec, Łęczyca County, just west of Lodz in Poland. She was the third of ten children of Stanislaus and Marianna Kowalska. Stanislaus was a carpenter and a peasant, and the family was poor and religious.

She stated that she first felt a calling to religious life while attending the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at age seven. She wanted to enter the convent after finishing school, but her parents would not give her permission. When she was sixteen years old, she went to work as a housekeeper in Lodz to support herself and help her parents. After a year of working, she twice asked her parents to let her enter a convent, but her requests were met with a firm refusal.

Joining the convent in Warsaw

In the summer of 1924, at age 19, Faustina and her sister Natalia went to a dance in a park in Lodz. Faustina stated that while at the dance she had a vision of a suffering Jesus, and rushed away to the church, where she was told by Jesus to leave for Warsaw immediately and join a convent. She packed a small bag that night and took a train for Warsaw (85 miles away) the next morning, without the permission of her parents, and without knowing anyone in Warsaw.

Plaque on the window of Faustina’s convent room in Kraków-Łagiewniki

After she arrived in Warsaw, she entered the first church she saw, (St. James’ church on Grójecka street) and attended Mass. She asked the priest, Father Dabrowski, for suggestions, and he recommended staying with Mrs Lipszycowa, a local lady whom he considered trustworthy, until she found a convent.

Faustina approached several convents in Warsaw, but was turned down time after time, in one case she was told “we do not accept maids here”, referring to her being penniless and without much education. After several weeks of searching, eventually the Mother Superior at the convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy decided to give her a chance and conditionally accepted her, provided she could pay for her habit.

Faustina knew nothing about the convent she was joining, except that she was led there. But she knew that she had joined the convent as a “lay sister” and that due to her lack of education it was not likely she would attain higher levels within the order and that her duties would forever consist of cooking, cleaning and gardening.

During 1925, Faustina worked as a house maid for one year to save up money, making deposits at the convent through the year and was then accepted at the convent. On April 30, 1926, at age 20, she received her habit and took the name “Maria Faustina” of the Blessed Sacrament. The name Faustina means the “fortunate or blessed one” and may have been a feminine form of the name of the Christian martyr Faustinus. In April 1928 she took her first vows as a nun, and her parents attended the ceremony. She was to be a nun for just over a decade, dying in October 1938.

From February to April 1929 she was sent to the convent in Wilno (now Vilnius, Lithuania), as a cook. Although this was a short stay in Vilnius, she would return there later and meet Father Sopocko who supported her mission. A year after her first return from Vilnius, in May 1930 she was transferred to the convent in Plock, Poland for close to two years.

Plock and the Divine Mercy image

Faustina arrived in Plock in May 1930. In the autumn of that year the first signs of her illness (which was later thought to be tuberculosis) appeared and she was sent to rest for several months in a nearby farm owned by her religious order. After recovery she returned to the convent and by February 1931, had been in the Plock area for about nine months.

Faustina wrote that on the night of Sunday February 22, 1931, while she was in her cell in Plock, Jesus appeared to her as the “King of Divine Mercy” wearing a white garment, with rays of white and red light emanating from near his heart. In her diary (Notebook I, items 47 and 48) she wrote that Jesus told her:

“Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: “Jesus, I trust in You”. I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and then throughout the world. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish.”

Not knowing how to paint, Faustina approached some other nuns at the convent in Plock for help, but received no assistance. Three years later, after her assignment to Villnius, the first artistic rendering of the image was performed under her direction.

In the same February 22, 1931 message about the Divine Mercy image, Faustina also wrote in her diary (Notebook I, item 49) that Jesus told her that he wanted the Divine Mercy image to be “solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter; that Sunday is to be the Feast of Mercy.”

In November 1932 Faustina returned to Warsaw to prepare to take her final vows as a nun. On the first day of May 1933 she took her final vows in Lagiewniki and became a perpetual sister of Our Lady of Mercy.
In late May 1933 Faustina was transferred to Vilnius as the gardener – her job also included growing vegetables. She remained in Vilnius for about 3 years, until March 1936. The convent in Vilnius had only 18 sisters at the time and consisted of a few scattered small houses, rather than a large building.

Shortly after arriving in Vilnius, Faustina met Father Michael Sopocko, the newly appointed confessor to the nuns. Sopocko was also a professor of pastoral theology at Stefan Batory University (now called Vilnius University).

When Faustina went to Sopocko for her first confession, she told him that she had been conversing with Jesus, who had a plan for her. After some time, in fall 1933 Father Sopocko insisted on a complete psychiatric evaluation of Faustina by Dr. Helena Maciejewska, a psychiatrist and a physician associated with the convent. Faustina passed the required tests and was declared of sound mind.

Thereafter, Sopocko began to have confidence in Faustina and supported her efforts. Sopocko also advised Faustina to begin writing a diary and to record the conversations and messages from Jesus which she was reporting. Faustina told Sopocko about the Divine Mercy image and in January 1934 Sopocko introduced her to the artist Eugene Kazimierowski, who was also a professor at the university.

By June 1934, Kazimierowski had finished painting the image based on the direction of Faustina and Father Sopocko. That was the only Divine Mercy painting Faustina saw. After Faustina’s death, a number of other artists painted the image, with the depiction by Adolf Hyla being among the most reproduced.

While she was in Vilnius, Faustina predicted that her message of Divine Mercy would be suppressed for some time, and appear to be “utterly undone” but that it would be accepted again. On February 8, 1935, she wrote in her diary (Notebook I, item 378):

There will come a time when this work, which God is demanding so very much, will be as though utterly undone. And then God will act with great power, which will give evidence of its authenticity. It will be a new splendor for the Church, although it has been dormant in it from long ago.

Over twenty years later, in 1959, her messages were suppressed by the Vatican, but were accepted again in 1978.

Faustina wrote in her diary (Notebook I item 414) that on Good Friday April 19, 1935 Jesus told her that he wanted the Divine Mercy image publicly honored. On Friday April 26, 1935 Father Sopocko delivered the first sermon ever on the Divine Mercy – and Faustina attended the sermon.

The first Mass during which the Divine Mercy image was displayed was on April 28, 1935, the second Sunday after Easter and was attended by Faustina. April 28, 1935 was also the celebration of the end of the Jubilee of the Redemption by Pope Pius XI. However, Father Michael Sopocko (Faustina’s confessor) managed to obtained Archbishop Jałbrzykowski’s permission to place the Divine Mercy image within the Gate of Dawn church in Vilnius during the Mass that Sunday and celebrated the Mass himself.

On September 13, 1935, while still in Vilnius, Faustina wrote of a vision about the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in her diary (Notebook I item 476). The chaplet is about a third of the length of the Rosary. Faustina wrote that the purpose for chaplet’s prayers for mercy are threefold: to obtain mercy, to trust in Christ’s mercy, and to show mercy to others.

In November 1935 Faustina wrote the rules for a new contemplative religious congregation devoted to Divine Mercy, and in December she visited a house in Vilnius which she said she had seen in a vision as the first convent for the congregation.

In January 1936 Faustina went to see Archbishop Jałbrzykowski to discuss a new congregation for Divine Mercy. But he reminded her that she was perpetually vowed to her current order. In March 1936 Faustina told her superiors that she was thinking of leaving the order to start a new order specifically devoted to Divine Mercy, but she was transferred to Walendow, southwest of Warsaw
In the summer of 1936 Father Sopocko wrote the first brochure on the Divine Mercy devotion and Archbishop Jalbrzykowski provided his imprimatur for it. The brochure carried the Divine Mercy image on the cover. Sopocko sent copies of the brochure to Faustina in Warsaw.

Later in 1936, Faustina became ill, since speculated to be tuberculosis. She was moved to the sanatorium in Pradnik, Kraków. She continued to spend much time in prayer, reciting the chaplet and praying for the conversion of sinners. The last two years of her life were spent praying and keeping her diary.

On March 23, 1937, Faustina wrote in her diary (Notebook III, item 1044) that she had a vision that the feast of Divine Mercy would be celebrated in her local chapel, and would be attended by large crowds, and that the same celebration would be held in Rome attended by the Pope.

In July 1937 the first holy cards with the Divine Mercy image were printed and in August Father Sopocko asked Faustina to write the instructions for the Novena of Divine Mercy which she had reported as a message from Jesus on Good Friday 1937.

Throughout 1937 progress was made in promoting the messages of Divine Mercy and in November 1937 a pamphlet was published with the title Christ, King of Mercy. The pamphlet included the chaplet, novena and the litany of Divine Mercy and the Divine Mercy image appeared on the cover, with the signature, “Jesus I Trust in You”. On November 10, 1937 Mothere Irene, Faustina’s superior, showed her the booklets while Faustina rested in her bed.

As her health deteriorated at the end of 1937, her reported visions intensified, and she was said to be looking forward to an end to her life. In April 1938 Faustina’s illness had progressed and she was sent to rest in the sanatorium in Pradnick, for what was to be her final stay there. By June 1938, Faustina was so ill that she could no longer write.

In September 1938 Father Sopocko visited her at sanatorium and found her very ill, but in ecstasy as she was praying. Later in September 1938 she was taken back home to Krakow, to await her death there. Father Sopocko visited her at the convent for a last time on September 26, 1938.

On October 5, 1938 Faustina made her final confession and died in Krakow, 13 years after entering the convent. She was buried on October 7 and now rests at the Basilica of Divine Mercy in Krakow, Poland.

Growth and suppression

The Basilica of Divine Mercy, Krakow, Łagiewniki

Before her death Faustina predicted that “there will be a war, a terrible, terrible war” and asked the nuns to pray for Poland. In 1939, a year after Faustina’s death when Archbishop Jałbrzykowski noticed that her predictions about the war had taken place, he allowed public access to the Divine Mercy image which resulted in large crowds that led to the spread of the Divine Mercy devotion. The Divine Mercy devotion became a source of strength and inspiration for many people in Poland. By 1941 the devotion had reached the United States and millions of copies of Divine Mercy prayer cards were printed and distributed worldwide.

In 1942 Jałbrzykowski was arrested by the Nazis, but Father Sopocko and other professors went into hiding near Vilnius for about two years. During that period Sopocko used his time to establish a new religious congregation based on the Divine Mercy messages reported by Faustina.[32] After the War, Sopocko wrote the constitution for the congregation and helped the formation of what is now the Congregation of the Sisters of the Divine Mercy. By 1951, thirteen years after Faustina’s death there were 150 Divine Mercy centers in Poland.

After the death of St. Faustina, the nuns at her convent sent her writings to the Vatican. Prior to 1966, any reported visions of Jesus and Mary required approval from the Holy See before they could be released to the public. After a failed attempt to persuade Pope Pius XII to sign a condemnation, Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani at the Holy Office included her works on a list he submitted to the newly elected Pope John XXIII in 1959. The Pope signed the decree that placed her work on the Index of Forbidden Books and they remained on the Index until it was abolished on 14 June 1966 by Pope Paul VI. In 1959, as the Vatican forbade the Divine Mercy devotion, it also severely reprimanded Sopocko, and all his work was suppressed. However, Eugeniusz Baziak, the archbishop of Kraków, permitted the nuns to leave the original picture hanging in their chapel so that those who wished to continue to pray before it could do so.

An article in the National Catholic Reporter suggested that the ban stemmed from theological issues, for example that “Jesus had promised a complete remission of sin for certain devotional acts that only the sacraments can offer, and what Vatican evaluators felt to be an excessive focus on Faustina herself ran contrary to the views at the Holy Office”.

In 1965 Karol Wojtyla, then Archbishop of Krakow and later Pope John Paul II opened a new investigation, interviewed witnesses and in 1967 submitted a number of documents about Faustina to the Vatican, requesting the start of the process of her beatification. The case was accepted for review in 1968.

In 1977, over a year before he was elected as John Paul II, Archbishop Wojtyla asked the Vatican to review and lift the ban on the Divine Mercy devotion, and the ban ended in 1978. In April 1978, the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared that the Notification ban was no longer binding, and stated that misunderstandings were created by a faulty Italian translation of Kowalska’s Diary. Afterward, the questionable material could not be correlated with the original because of difficulties in communication throughout World War II and the subsequent Communist era.

The formal beatification of Faustina involved the case of Maureen Digan of Massachusetts.[38] In March 1981 Digan reported a healing, while praying at the tomb of Faustina. Digan had suffered from Lymphedema (a disease which causes significant swelling due to fluid retention) for decades, and had undergone 10 operations, including a leg amputation. Digan reported that while praying at Faustina’s tomb, she heard a voice saying “ask for my help and I will help you” and her constant pain stopped. After 2 days Digan reported that her shoe became too large for her because her body stopped undue liquid retention. Upon her return to the United States, five Boston area physicians stated that she was healed (with no explanation), and the case was declared miraculous by the Vatican in 1992 based on the additional testimony of over twenty witnesses about her prior condition.

Faustina was beatified on April 18, 1993 and canonized on April 30, 2000 – the first saint in the 21st century. Divine Mercy Sunday is celebrated the Second Sunday of Easter (which is the first Sunday after Easter). The fact that her Vatican biography directly quotes some of her conversations with Jesus distinguishes her among the many reported visions of Jesus and Mary. Author Benedict Groeschel considers a modest estimate of the following of the Divine Mercy devotion in 2010 to be over one hundred million Catholics.

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