Every school of spirituality refers in some way to the most life-giving sources of sanctification, the Holy Sacraments. Sister Faustina regarded all the sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, as great gifts of Divine Mercy. Jesus Himself uncovered before her the magnitude of these gifts. “Tell souls – Jesus spoke about the Sacrament of Reconciliation – where they are to seek comfort, in the tribunal of My mercy; that’s where the greatest miracles happen all the time. To obtain such a miracle, you don’t have to go on a pilgrimage to a faraway place, neither do you have to perform any outward ceremonies, all you have to do is come to one of My representatives in a spirit of faith and tell him of your misery, and the miracle of Divine mercy will come about in all its fullness. Even should a soul be like a rotting carcass and even if to human eyes there should be no restoration and everything seemed to be utterly lost – for God it’s not like that, the miracle of Divine mercy raises up that soul completely. O, poor ones who do not make use of that miracle of Divine mercy” (Diary 1448).
Sister Faustina marvelled at merciful love of God present in every sacrament. The most she wrote about Jesus’ goodness who when departing from this world, wanted to remain with us and left Himself in the Sacrament of the Altar, opening ajar the door to His mercy. ”There is no wretchedness that could exhaust You – she exclaimed in delight – You have called all people to this fount of love, to this source of Divine mercy. Here is the abode of Your mercy, the remedy for our shortcomings. To You, O living spring of mercy, come all the souls – some, like deer thirsting for Your love; others to wash the wound of their sins; and still others, exhausted by life, to draw strength” (Diary 1747). The magnitude of this gift, wrote Sister Faustina, cannot be comprehended by any brain, human or angelic; that is why, we shall only get to know it fully in eternity. If the angels were capable of envy, she confessed in another Diary entry, they would envy people Holy Communion, in which God unites with His creatures most closely. He does not enter into such close union even with the angels (c.f. Diary 1804).
The awareness of the magnitude of this gift was the reason why there arose within her a spirit of profound gratitude and great respect towards such a humble Divine majesty; there also arose a feeling of great love for the One who had loved man to the end, and was ready to give up His own life for sinful man, becoming for him the Bread, which gives eternal life. She got to know the divinising power of the Eucharist and she knew how to make good use of it; that is why, her life became totally transformed both in her thinking and actions; to use the language of St. Paul, the old man within her had died, and the new man, modeled upon Christ, in whom all faculties were harmoniously united and focused on the supreme good, that is God, was. The manifestations of God’s mercy in the Eucharist, are particularly visible in those aspects which were experienced by Sister Faustina. The Eucharist was for her an area of her personal encounter with living God; it was a space of her co-sacrifice, in which she offered herself up together with Christ for the salvation of the world as well as of her close union with Him in the Holy Communion.
Dimensions in Experiencing the Eucharist
In his encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharystia, the Holy Father describes the mystery of the Eucharist, among others, in terms of sacrifice, presence and feast (EE 61), drawing attention to the integral character of the above dimensions of the Eucharist. Saint Faustina too had experienced the Eucharist through the same dimensions, considering each of them in the context of the mystery of Divine Mercy.
Presence – encounter
In the Eucharist, a Christian encounters Jesus who is present in it both in the real sense as well as substantially. During transubstantiation, bread and wine become His Flesh and Blood. In the Eucharist, it is above all the paschal mystery of Christ which He had announced earlier on in His teaching and anticipated through His deeds that is being made present. “Jesus allowed me to enter the Cenacle – Sister Faustina wrote about the institution of the Eucharist – and I saw what was going on there. But what made the deepest impression on me was the moment just before the Consecration when Jesus lifted up His eyes to Heaven and entered into a mysterious conversation with His Father. Not until we are in eternity will we come to understand that moment in the right way. His eyes were like two flames, His face was bright and as white as snow, His figure was majestic, and there was a longing in His soul; at the moment of Consecration, love was satiated and found its repose – the sacrifice had been fully accomplished. Now only the outward ceremony of death, the outward immolation had to be done. The essence is in the Cenacle” (Diary 684).
Every Eucharist is the embodiment of this exceptional event in the history of the humankind, in which when dying on the cross the Son of God, had saved the world and having loved the people till the end, He left Himself in the Sacrament of the Altar. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us, this event is also exceptional because, “all other historical events happen once, and they pass away, swallowed up in the past. The Paschal Mystery of Christ, by contrast, cannot remain only in the past because…it transcends all times while being made present in them all. The event of the Cross and Resurrection “abides” and draws everything toward Life” (CCC 1085). The Eucharist enables people living in different parts of the world and in different histo- rical periods to participate in this unique paschal mystery of Christ; it allows one to transcend the boundaries of time and space so as to reach Christ in the event of the Cross and Resurrection.
For Sister Faustina, each and every Eucharist constituted a personal encounter with Jesus; it was a form of participation in His passion, death and resurrection. She experienced in a mystical way this real presence of Jesus on many an occasion, though earlier on she only believed in it. “Today’s Mass, I saw Jesus on the cross – she recorded in her Diary – He was nailed to the cross and in great agony. My soul was transfixed by Jesus’ suffering, and I suffered both in body and soul, albeit unnoticeably but just as painfully. O, what awesome mysteries are played out during Holy Mass (…) How great the piety with which we should follow Mass, participating in that death of Jesus” (Diary 913-914).
The Eucharist is the space in which heaven joins the earth. In this liturgy it is not only the pilgrimising Church on earth, but also the Church of the saved. Hence during the Holy Mass Sister Faustina also saw Our Lady, the saints (e.g. St. Ignatius of Loyola) as well as the heavenly spirits which continually worship God. ”During Mass, before the Consecration – she wrote in her Diary – this spirit started singing these words, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” His voice sounded like thousands of voices, it’s hard to describe. Suddenly, my spirit was united with God, and in a flash I saw God’s infinite greatness and holiness, and at the same time I realised the nothingness that I am of myself. I came to know, more clearly than ever before, the Three Divine Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (Diary 472).
Through her mystical experience, Sister Faustina helps us to see the living presence of Jesus in the Eucharist; she invites us to sit down at the same table with Him at the Cenacle and to follow Him to Golgotha so as to let Him save us at the foot of His cross, free us from evil, strengthen us in good and go towards the resurrection. And this possibility of meeting the living God in the Eucharist constitutes for her an inexpressible gift of His merciful love. Man could not have done anything to deserve such a gift; therefore, all he can do now is to accept it by coming to the Holy Mass, so as to meet His Creator and Saviour.
Co – Sacrifice
The Mass makes present the sacrifice of the Cross, making it possible for people in all historical periods to attain reconciliation with God, as well as to attain salvation which Christ obtained once and for all for the humankind on Golgotha and which He passed on to us in the Eucharist. What is repeated is only the “celebration of the Eucharist, through which Christ’s redemptive sacrifice is always present in time” (EE 12), but the sacrifice of Christ is the very same one He had made 2000 years ago, and we, the people who live in the 21st century, have access to it through the Eucharist.
St. Faustina was able to gain a profound insight into this reality. Undoubtedly, apart from great faith, she was helped in this by her visions of the suffering Christ who offered Himself for the world. “During Mass – she wrote in one of the entries of her Diary – I saw the Lord Jesus nailed to the cross and in terrible agony. His Heart gave a quiet groan, and after a while He said, ‘I thirst, I thirst to save souls; O My daughter, help Me save souls. Unite your suffering with My Passion and offer it up to the Heavenly Father for sinners’.” (Diary 1032). In the Eucharistic visions, the Lord Jesus showed Sister Faustina what great price He had paid for the work of saving man and the world; He taught her love and the value of sacrifice and suffering: “Today during Mass, I saw Jesus suffering, as if dying on the cross, and He said to me, ‘My daughter, often meditate on the suffering I endured for you, and nothing that you’re suffering for My sake will seem big. I find you most pleasing when you are meditating on My sorrowful Passion; unite your little sufferings with My sorrowful Passion, so that they may have an infinite value before My majesty’” (Diary 1512, c.f. Diary 1628).
Sister Faustina understood perfectly that Jesus’ merciful love which she got to know and experienced in the Eucharist, calls for reciprocity. “During Mass, I was overwhelmed by a great, inner fire of love of God and for the salvation of souls, so great that I just can’t express it. I felt I was all afire and would fight against all evil with the weapon of mercy. I was on fire with desire for the salvation of souls; I was crossing the entire world this way and that, going into its wildest places for the salvation of souls. All this I did through prayer and sacrifice” (Diary 745). Many times during the Eucharist, she suffered stigmatic pains in her hands, legs as well as in her side; she also experienced the pain of the crown of thorns (Diary 759, 942 et al.) thanks to which she was able to participate more fully in Jesus’ work of saving souls.
She knew perfectly well that the Eucharist not only makes present the salvific work of Christ, but that it also offers one a chance to participate in this work through co-sacrificing one’s own life and laying down on Jesus’ altar all that makes up human life. Each day, while participating in the Holy Mass, she offered herself up together with Jesus to the heavenly Father, abandoning herself totally and completely to His holy will (c.f. Diary 668, 1246). She wanted so much to become like Jesus sacrificing Himself for the salvation of the world that she asked God to transform her into another host. “’I want to be a living host for You – she prayed – You are the great Lord, all-powerful, You can give me that grace.’ And the Lord replied, ‘You are a living host, pleasing to the Heavenly Father, but just think what ‘a host’ is – a sacrifice, and so…?’ ‘O my Jesus,’ I said, ‘I know what ‘host’ means, I know what ‘sacrifice’ means. I want to be a living host, a living sacrifice before Your majesty, burning every day in Your honour’” (Diary 1826). Sister Faustina offered this sacrifice every day silently and in a concealed way, just as the presence of Jesus is concealed in the white Host.
Her daily co-sacrifice with Jesus during the Holy Mass testifies to a mature faith, hope and love for God and the people; it also testifies to her daily and ever fuller participation in the life of Jesus and His salvific mission in which God’s mercy was revealed to the world most fully.
The Eucharist “is intrinsically directed to the inward union of the faithful with Christ through communion” (EE 16). It is a wonderful feast during which Jesus feeds us with His Body and Blood and by becoming united with us most closely, gives us an anticipation of eternal life and increases within us the gift of His spirit (c.f. EE 17). The Communion gives us a foretaste of heaven and is a guarantee of our resurrection, for as Jesus said, “Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day” (Jn 6:54).
Sister Faustina was fully aware of the gift of the closest possible union with Jesus in the Holy Communion. This conviction is clearly visible in her prayer in which she beseeched the Lord that the healthy Blood of Jesus might circulate in her veins and His Body might transform her ailing organism (c.f. Diary 1089). In the Holy Communion, she observed the unfathomable love of Jesus who stoops so low as to become the food for creatures and through this He becomes closely united with them. “O merciful Jesus – she confessed in a prayer – with what longing You hastened to the Cenacle to consecrate the host which I am to receive in my life. You wanted to live in my heart, O Jesus; Your living blood unites with my blood. Who can understand this intimate union? My heart contains the Omnipotent One, the Boundless One. O Jesus, give Your Divine life to me; let Your pure and noble blood pulsate with all its might in my heart. I give my entire being to You, transform me into Yourself and enable me to carry out Your holy will in all things, to requite Your love” (Diary 832).
Being aware of the magnitude of the gift offered in the holy feast, she took great care to receive the Divine Guest into her soul with dignity, faith and love. As is borne out by her booklet entitled My Preparation to the Holy Communion, she showed considerable ingenuity here. At one time, she would receive Jesus as her Beloved; on another occasion, she would receive Him as a King, Lord, Giver and Love itself. Yet, in all situations, she tried to show her deep faith and fervent love, so as to fill Jesus with joy and derive from the encounter with Him strength, light and power to fight with the hardships of everyday life. “I fear the day when I do not have Holy Communion – she confessed – The Bread of the stalwart gives me the strength to conduct this work and I have the courage to do everything the Lord commands. The courage and strength that is in me is not mine, but belongs to Him Who abides in me – such is the Eucharist” (Diary 91). The Holy Communion increased her spiritual strength and gave her courage to bear everyday sacrifices (Diary 1386); it helped her to overcome the fear of suffering (Dairy 876); it strengthened her in fulfilling faithfully the will of God and completely transformed her life. “All that is good in me is due to Holy Communion. It is to Holy Communion that I owe everything. I feel that this sacred flame has transformed me completely” (Diary 1392). “We shall only find out in eternity what a great mystery Holy Communion works in us. O most precious moments of life” (Diary 840).
She described Holy Communion, above all, as an inconceivable gift of God’s mercy. It was only God’s merciful love for man that could afford to endow man with such a gift. Jesus also shared with Sister Faustina His pain associated with the fact that this gift of His love often remains unrecognised and is frequently rejected by man. “Oh, how I am hurt – He told her – that souls so very rarely unite with Me in Holy Communion. I am waiting for souls to come to Me, but they don’t care about Me. I love them sincerely and so very much, but they don’t trust Me enough. I want to lavish My graces on them, but they don’t want to take them. They treat Me like an inanimate object, though My Heart is full of love and mercy. Just to let you know even a little of my pain, imagine a loving mother who loves her children so very much, but they scorn their mother’s love; think what pain she must be going through, and there’s no one to comfort her. That’s just a poor picture and reflection of My love” (Diary 1447, c.f. Diary 1385). This object lesson concerning God’s merciful love in the Holy Communion, urged Sister Faustina to an even greater love and it made her wish to make up to Him for the indifference, ungratefulness and coldness of souls (c.f. Diary 1385).
To Live By the Eucharist
Sister Faustina tried to prolong the encounter with Eucharistic Jesus so as to make it last the whole day: J“O Jesus, when You come to me in Holy Communion – You, Who together with the Father and the Holy Spirit have deigned to come and dwell in the little heaven of my heart – I try to accompany You all day long, I don’t leave You on Your own even for a moment” (Diary 486). She tried to keep Jesus’ company even at times when she was busy working and dealing with others.
The fruits of experiencing the Eucharist in the spiritual life of Sister Faustina were proportional to the efforts and preparations which she made each day. Not only did she try to live in the state of sanctifying grace, but she also experienced all the events and everyday problems in God’s presence, uniting with Jesus who lived in her soul. Even when she was ill, she got up early, so as to engage in meditation even before Holy Mass and in this way prepare herself to it in carefully (Diary 802). The encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist was at the very centre of each day, for these were the most important moments in her life, as she herself confessed. She longed for this moment of the day and thanked the Most Holy Trinity for each Eucharist she took part in (Diary 1804). She admitted quite sincerely that if it was not for the Eucharist, she would have no courage to go any further along the way He has marked out for her (Diary 91, 1037).
She spent a lot of time each day adoring the Blessed Sacrament. “I spend all my leisure time at the feet of my Master, Who is concealed in the Blessed Sacrament. He has been teaching me ever since my youngest days” (Diary 82), she wrote in her Diary. She went up to the tabernacle with all of her life’s problems, in moments of joy and sorrow, so as to share her entire life with Jesus. “I received the greatest amount of light during Adoration, which I used to make lying prostrate before the Blessed Sacrament for half an hour every day for the whole of Lent. During this time I learned more about myself and about God” (Diary 147). Jesus encouraged her to meditate upon His love in the Blessed Sacrament, “in which I am fully for you – Body, Soul, and Divinity” (Diary 1770), He assured her. When she could not attend Mass in the chapel, she adored Jesus within her soul. “What bliss it is to have the awareness of God in my heart and to live in close intimacy with Him” (Diary 1135), she admitted.
Sister Faustina expressed her love for the Eucharist, as the inconceivable gift of God’s merciful love for man, among others, by adopting a predicate which she added to her monastic name. She signed her notes and writings with the appellation: Sister Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament, which testifies to her great love of the Eucharist.
sr. M. Elisabeth Siepak ISMM
“The Spiritualty of Saint Sister Faustina”
Translated by sr. M. Nazareta Maleta ISMM
sr. M. Caterina Esselen ISMM
Prepared by sr. M. Diana Kuczek ISMM