Although the trait of the love of the Church appears in many schools of spirituality, in each of them it has its own specific colouring. Sister Faustina sees the Church as a great gift of God’s mercy, an extremely generous gift, because it constitutes space for the union of life between the Creator and Saviour and man. In her writings she frequently uses the image of the Church as a mother who by the very nature of things is merciful to her children, and the image of a Mystical Body of Christ in which every part lives in unity with the Head and other parts.
Sister Faustina had the opportunity to convince herself not only through the spirit of faith, but also through her numerous visions and mystical experience that it is precisely the Church that constitutes the union of man’s life with God and that it is a space containing His living presence. “When I immersed in prayer, I was transported in spirit to the chapel, and I saw Jesus in the monstrance, but instead of the monstrance, I saw the glorious face of the Lord, Who said to me, «What you are seeing in reality, these souls see through faith»” (Diary 1420).
A sign of God’s mercy for Sister Faustina was not only the very fact of founding the Holy Church and the living presence of God in it, but also His activity directed towards man, expressed particularly through the word which enlightens and through the sacraments in which He grants various graces which are necessary for man in order to attain future life. In her litany appeals as well as in other passages of her Diary, Sister Faustina writes about this directly and openly, mentioning different manifestations of God’s great mercy, such as holy baptism, justification through Jesus Christ, endowing man with immortal life, offering man the possibility of conversion, of receiving sacraments in which Jesus grants various types of graces for each and every moment of human life…(Diary 949, 1286 et al.).
Another manifestation of God’s mercy in the Church is for Sister Faustina the spreading of God’s holiness among creatures. Only God is holy and His holiness is so great that all heavenly powers tremble before it, losing themselves in never ceasing adoration; they express their adoration for Him calling: Holy, Holy, Holy…(Diary 180). This holiness of God, as Sister Faustina puts it in her Diary, “is poured out on His Church and on every soul living in it, but not to the same degree. Some souls are completely divinized, permeated by God’s divinity, while others are barely alive” (Diary 180). Although God pours His holiness on all souls, yet man’s sanctification depends also on his freedom, on his acceptance of the wealth of gifts which God had left for him in the Church. Yet, the very chance of transforming one’s life, of improving it with the help of supernatural means, the invitation to share the community of life with God, the possibility of an ever fuller participation in the life of Jesus and in His mission, were perceived by Sister Faustina as great gifts of God’s mercy, which were totally undeserved by man and were received by him only out of the merciful love of his Creator and Saviour. Perceiving this immense love of God in the Church, Sister Faustina could in all sincerity of heart confess her great joy which she expressed in the sentence, “What a joy it is to be a faithful child of the Church” (Diary 481). Such perception of the Church awakens in her the spirit of gratitude towards God and mobilises to care about great sanctity.
The Church – As Mother
In the Holy Scripture one encounters many interrelated images and figures which are mutually linked to each other and which describe the extremely rich reality of the Church. Each of these figures: for example, that of the sheepfold, a cultivated field, the building of God, a spouse, upper Jerusalem (c.f. CCC 754-757) has its own significance and shows the Church, as it was conceived by the Triune God, and founded by Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In the writings of Sister Faustina, the Church is presented most frequently as the mother, “O my Mother, O Holy Church, you are a true Mother, who understands her children” (Diary 1469). The Church is the mother, as it grants one immortal life in the sacraments; it guides, purifies, enlightens, comforts and strengthens one (c.f. Diary 1286, 1469, 1474); it leads souls to an ever closer union with God on this earth as well as to the glory of heaven (Diary 749, 777).
„O Church of God, you are the best of Mothers – Sister Faustina wrote in the Diary – only you can bring up and raise the soul” (Diary 197). Sister Faustina knew that God announced a revelation for the Church, in which He revealed His love for man as well as the plan of his salvation; that is why, He gave to the children of the Church the opportunity to get to know God not only through all the created things, but also through faith. “Virtually every feast day and celebration in the Holy Church – confessed Sister Faustina – gives me a deeper knowledge of God and gives me a special grace, that is why I make special preparations for every feast, every celebration, closely united with the spirit of the Church” (Diary 481). This forever deeper understanding of God, which Sister Faustina acquired first through faith for which she prayed fervently until the very last day of her life, brought her immense joy. So she took advantage of every opportunity to draw extensively on this wealth of the Church: she meditated on the Holy Scripture; she listened carefully to the word of God; she participated actively in the liturgy and took advantage of the monthly retreats and days of meditation; she also took advantage of religious literature and participated in conferences (the so called “catechism”), which were conducted by various guest priests, mistresses and mother superiors. “O, how sweet it is to keep those things the Church tells us to believe deep in my soul” (Diary 1123), she confes- sed with unconcealed joy.
When she experienced the painful passive nights of the spirit and when terrible temptations tormented her soul, she aroused acts of faith: “I believe, believe, and yet again believe in You, One God in the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and in all the truths which Your Holy Church has given me to believe in” (Diary 1558). This confession of Sister Faustina’s in which she states that she believes in all the truths which the Church gives us to believe, particularly when she is plunged in a state of great spiritual darkness and discomfort, testifies to her great trust in the Church as the best Mother who uses different me- thods to raise her children and lead them to God. “I am ever thankful to God – she wrote – for that great grace, that in His goodness He has deigned to set up, on the path of my spiritual life, these pillars of light who have lit up my way, so that I should not stray or tarry in my endeavour to attain to intimate union with the Lord. I have a profound love for the Church for educating souls and leading them to God” (Diary 749).
As a good child who prays for the mother it loves, Sister Faustina wrote in her Diary, every Christian should pray for the Church which is its best mother (Diary 551). Sister Faustina prayed continuously for the Church in various intentions: with her prayer and self-sacrifice, she was helping the priests who proclaimed the word of God and ministered in the confessional; she entreated the Lord for the grace of conversion to sinners, for a happy and quiet death for the dying, as well as for the grace of everlasting life for the souls suffering in purgatory. In her prayers, she remembered about the Holy Father, the missionaries as well as about the suffering Church in various parts of the world, e.g. in Spain, Russia…(Diary 240, 1052, 1366, 1582 et al.). She also remembered about the sinners and the suffering and even about those who have lost hope in God’s mercy. It was for them that she made a voluntary offering of herself, and entreated God for their return to the bosom of the Church and for the grace of their becoming united with God (Diary 309). “Now when I can’t get much sleep at night, because the pain stops me from going to sleep – she recorded in her Diary – I visit all the churches and chapels and, albeit briefly, I adore the Blessed Sacrament. When I return to my own chapel, I pray for certain priests who are preaching Divine mercy and spreading its praise. I pray for the Holy Father’s intention as well, and I beg for Divine mercy on sinners – that’s what my nights are like” (Diary 1501).
A child who loves its mother is always obedient to her. In the same way, obedience to the Church is – according to Sister Faustina – an expression of love for it. This obedience to the Church finds its expression not only in accepting everything that the Church gives one to believe, but also in submis- sion towards those who reveal the will of God, that is, towards priests and superiors. Such an attitude often required considerable heroism from Sister Faustina, particularly in those situations when she received orders directly from Jesus and when her fulfillment of those orders depended on the decision of the priests and the superiors. Yet, following the example of the obedience of Jesus Christ, she tried to be obedient to the Church always and everywhere, although as she confessed, she became the martyr of God’s inspirations. “O Truth Eternal – she prayed – O Word Made Flesh, Who carried out Your Father’s will most faithfully, today I am becoming a martyr of Your inspirations, for I cannot carry them out, as I have no will of my own; even though internally I recognise Your holy will clearly,  yet I submit in all things to the will of my superiors and my confessor; I shall carry out as much of Your will as You allow me through Your representative. O my Jesus, I can’t help but put the voice of the Church before the voice with which You speak to me” (Diary 497). She knew that obedience to the Church, although often very painful, would not permit her to go astray and that thanks to it she will be able to fulfil God’s will perfectly. Jesus Himself assured her of it on many an occasion when He said, “Keep on repeating My demands to those who are My representatives on Earth, but do only what they tell you” (Diary 489). Obedience to the Church had led Sister Faustina to the very summits of mysticism and had resulted in abundant fruition of her prophetic mission.
In spite of the painful experiences and the many tribulations she suffered from priests, the Church had always acted as the best mother to her for it was God who had created it so as to enable man to develop his spiritual life.
The Church – As Mystical Body of Christ
Another image of the Church which is often summoned and is also present in Sister Faustina’s writings, is St. Paul’s concept of the Mystical Body of Christ which is an alternative and more precise way of defining the Church as a people of God. „The concept of the “body”- explains bishop Edward Ozorowski – should not be conceived of here in its physical-chemical sense – as a composition of muscles and bones or else a collection of cells. In the New Testament, the concept of the “body” (soma) has a theological meaning. It points out, above all, to the idea of unity. When referred to the Church, the “Body of Christ” defines the type of relations which occur between people and Christ (vertical dimension) as well as among the people themselves who remain in unity with Christ (horizontal dimension). That is precisely how Sister Faustina conceived of the Mystical Body of Christ, many years before the II Vatican Council which emphasised so strongly such an image of the Church. For thanks to her profound faith and mystical experience, she was able to perceive a close bond between Christ and every baptised man as well as the co-dependence and co-responsibility existing among all members of the Church.
“O, how I love the Holy Church and all who live in her – confessed Sister Faustina – I look on them as living members of Christ, Who is their head. I am aflame with love with those who are loving; I suffer with those who are suffering; I am anguished and pained when I look at those who are cold and ungrateful; at such times, I try to make my love of God make amends to Him for those who do not love Him, for those who feed their Saviour with black ingratitude” (Diary 481). The mystery of Christ’s close unity with the baptised delighted and amazed her; she marvelled at how God humbles himself before His creatures and communes with them in a familiar way within the Church, even to the point of offering Himself up to them as food. Analogously to the role the head plays in the human organism, Christ as the Head of the Church plays a similar role within His Mystical Body; and thus, He is united with each and every member whom He addresses directly and personally; He grants suitable graces to every individual and allocates certain concrete tasks to all of us. He guides and directs His Mystical Body for the good of its members; he loves them as a bride loves his spouse and he attends to all their needs. “All of us together make up one body in Jesus” (Diary 1364), concluded Sister Faustina.
Sister Faustina perceived not only the vertical dimension in the Mystical Body of Christ (the union between each of its members and Christ), but also the horizontal dimension (union between the members in Christ), from which there follows the principle of interdependence, solidarity and co-responsibility of all the members. She understood this perfectly, as she wrote, “The sanctity or fall of every single soul has an impact on the whole Church. From my observation of myself and those close to me, I’ve learned that I have a great influence on other souls – not by some kind of heroic deeds, which are striking in their own right, but by the small things, such as a gesture with a hand, a look, and many other things I won’t name, but they all leave an effect and impact on other souls, as I’ve noticed myself” (Diary 1475). In her own life, she experienced the joys and sorrows of other members of the Church. She was overjoyed when through confession the dead members of the Church had returned to life and when love and goodness grew within the community of the faithful; whereas she was distressed when she looked at the ungrateful and frigid who persisted in sin, as then the whole Mystical Body of Christ suffered.
Out of her sense of responsibility for the living organism of the Church, she strove for personal sanctity. “I am trying to be holy – she confessed – because then I’ll be useful for the Church. I make constant efforts to exercise myself in virtue; I’m trying to follow Jesus faithfully, and I’m putting the array of those quiet, hidden, everyday virtues – hardly noticeable, yet exercised with great love – into the treasury of God’s Church, for the general benefit of souls. I have an inner feeling of being responsible for all souls; I know very well I’m living not only for my own sake, but for the whole Church…” (Diary 1505). Her striving for sanctity is not only an ever fuller and more complete union with God, but also a concern for the sanctification of fellow brothers and sisters. The Lord Jesus instructed her about this when He said, “You should realise, O My daughter, that if you strive for perfection you will be leading many souls to sanctity; but if you should not strive for sanctity, many souls would thereby remain imperfect. Know that their perfection will depend on your perfection” (Diary 1165). Sister Faustina remembered about Christ’s words very well and she fulfilled them very carefully. That is why, when a reluctance and a monotony as regards her daily duties took possession of her, she would remind herself that in the house of the Lord, there was nothing small, and that the glory of the Church and the progress of many a soul often depend on this small deed of hers (Diary 508). That is why, she tried to faithfully imitate Christ and remain in an ever closer union with Him, so that the soil of her heart would bear good fruit, and she deposited a whole series of daily virtues, silent, hidden, almost imperceptible in the treasury of the Church, for the common benefit of all souls (Diary 740, 1505 et al.). She knew that her sanctity will throb with life in the whole Church, for we all make up one organism in Jesus (c.f. Diary 1364).
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