The Diary of Saint Faustina Kowalska is one of the gems of mystical literature. She wrote it in Vilnius and Kraków in 1934 – 1938, as Jesus Himself had told her to do. Also her confessors, Father Michał Sopoćko in Vilnius and Father Józef Andrasz S.J. in Kraków, instructed her to write it, and the superiors of the Congregation gave her their consent. Her earliest extant notes were written in July 1934. We know that Sister Faustina burnt the original version of the Diary, because when Father Sopoćko was away, she yielded to the persuasion of an alleged angel (in reality Satan). Later, her Vilnian spiritual director told her to reconstruct what she had destroyed. So, the Diary we have today, especially its first notebook, does not follow a chronological order.
Sister Faustina intersperses current events and experiences with the description of things that happened earlier. She wrote all the entries in secret in her free time when she was not carrying out her monastic duties. She also wrote in hospital, where she had more time and, at Father Sopoćko’s request, she underlined all of Jesus’ words. “Even though I am not well and my nature wants to rest, still I feel the inspiration of grace to prevail over tiredness and write, to keep writing to comfort the souls I love so much, with whom I shall share all eternity. I so dearly want them to have eternal life that I spend all my free time, even the briefest moments, on writing, in the way Jesus wants me to write.” (Diary 1471). The last entries to which she put a date were written in June 1938, so she stopped writing her Diary three months before her death. She wrote six notebooks altogether, which were published along with a small notebook on the way she prepared for Holy Communion.
In the Diary Sister Faustina described her spiritual life, which was exceptionally profound, culminating in union with God in mystical marriage with Jesus. She wrote how deeply she came to know the mystery of the Divine Mercy and how she contemplated it in her daily life. She also wrote about her struggle against the weakness of human nature and the difficulties she came up against in carrying out her prophetic mission. Above all, the Diary contains the message of God’s merciful love for humankind, which Sister Faustina was required to pass on to the Church and the world. This makes her Diary a special work, as the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, said, “the gospel of mercy written from the 20th-century perspective.”
The manuscript of the Diary consists of six notebooks of various lengths. Altogether, there are 477 leaves, with dense writing on practically all the pages. Sister Faustina put her full name in religion at the beginning of every notebook except for the fourth one, and a sentence about the Divine Mercy, for example “Divine Mercy in my soul” or “I shall sing of the Lord’s Mercy for ever and ever.” She did not make any amendments or cross anything out in her manuscript. Even when she left out a letter, repeated a word or made a spelling mistake, she did not correct anything. At Father Sopoćko’s insistence, she marked Jesus’ words by underlining them in pencil. In the original notebooks there are a few blank pages. Most probably, she left them blank and intended to write something on them later, but never returned to them. She did not number the pages, either. After her death, Father Andrasz and Sister Ksawera Olszamowska O.L.M. put in page numbers with a pencil. The manuscript is in very good condition, there is no damage. Actually, only one leaf is missing. We do not know who tore it out, but we note the fact in this publication.
The Diary presents the richness and fascinating beauty of the mystery of Divine mercy from the vantage-point of Sister Faustina’s life and mystical experiences. It depicts her spiritual road, culminating in intimate union with God. It also presents the message of mercy which God passed on to the Church and the world through her. In her Diary, Sister Faustina depicts her meetings with God and her extraordinary relations with the supernatural world: meetings with Jesus, Our Lady, angels, saints, souls suffering in Purgatory, and Satan’s attacks against her. She writes how she struggled every day, how she strove for self-improvement, how she made efforts to trust God and love her neighbours actively – to the extent of offering up the whole of her life. Her great prophetic mission became an integral part of her life – she was to remind the world about the truth of God’s merciful love for each human person, and to preach it with a new strength. In Sister Faustina’s Diary there is a full description of the message of mercy as well as of the efforts she herself, her confessors and superiors made to carry out the prophetic mission.
When Sister Faustina wrote the Diary, she realised that it would probably be published “for the consolation of souls,” however, she wanted it to be done after her death. So, she attached the following note to her work: “Jesus, nobody may read the notebooks and notes – first Father Andrasz or Father Sopoćko must check them, because the notes contain the secrets of my conscience. It is God’s will to make them accessible to souls for their consolation. Except for my superiors, none of the sisters should be allowed to read the notes until they have been published. Kraków, during my retreat, 3 April 1938, Sister Faustina.
History of the manuscript
After Sister Faustina’s death, her notes remained in the Congregation. In accordance with Sister Faustina’s will, they were kept safe and only the superiors (the superior general and the superior of the Kraków house) and her confessors had access to them. By order of Mother General Michaela Moraczewska, a copy was made of the notebooks, however, it was done imprecisely and without the required principles of scholarship. There were many mistakes in these typescripts; a lot of words were left out, misread or miscorrected. Another aspect that made copying the manuscript difficult was Sister Faustina’s style. In many passages she put her own words in the same sentence next to the words of Jesus, which she then underlined in pencil, but the procedure was not repeated in the transcript, which made some passages not only incomprehensible but even smack of heresy. For example, on page 161 she wrote, “God has promised a great grace especially to you and all those who proclaim My great mercy” (Diary 378). If we fail to indicate Jesus’ words (underlined in Sister Faustina’s notebook, and marked in bold type in the present edition), the meaning of the sentence is unclear (to say the least), but it could even be read to mean that God promised a great grace to those who proclaim Sister Faustina’s great mercy, which would be a heresy, of course. The mistranscribed typescript of the Diary was translated into Italian, and the translation was one of the reasons why the Holy See issued its 1959 notification banning the spread of the devotions to the Divine Mercy in the forms conveyed by Sister Faustina.
The manuscript of the Diary was transcribed a second time for the Informative Process for Sister Faustina’s beatification. The new transcription was made from the original, and carefully collated by Father Izydor Borkiewicz OFM Conv and Sister Beata Piekut O.L.M. during the Informative Process, and served as the source text for a translation into French. This translation, the typescript certified by the Metropolitan Curia of Kraków on 19 October 1967, and photocopies of the manuscript, were attached to the records of the Informative Process and sent to Rome.
The second transcript of the Diary, and its footnotes and indexes compiled under the supervision of Father Jerzy Mrówczyński, Assistant Promoter of the Faith, and Sister Beata Piekut O.L.M., were sent to Rome to Father Antoni Mruk S.J., the Postulator General of the beatification process, for publication under his direction. The Diary was first published in Polish in 1981 in Rome, and subsequently in Poland. This edition will be the approved source text for all further (mediated) translations into other languages. A translation of the Diary which is to be used as the source text for further translations has to be scrupulously checked and compared with the original edition in the source language (Polish) before it can be approved.
The Diary of St. Faustina is currently one of the most widely-read religious works. A large number of copies have been sold. It has been very popular because, as Jesus said, it was written for the consolation and encouragement of souls. Reading St. Faustina’s Diary has given many people a deeper knowledge of God’s merciful love, and helped them come back to Him and make their love more profound.
s. M. Elżbieta Siepak ZMBM
Translated by Teresa Bałuk-Ulewiczowa