3 Polish Saints Who Help Us Understand Divine Mercy
In two days we will celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday which was established by Pope Saint John Paul II in 2000. But Christ’s unfathomable mercy has been available to us long before the Church officially instituted a day to celebrate it. Saint Paul, one of the first Christians, was eager to remind us of that:
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ, raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus…”
Although the Church has always taught about God’s divine mercy, it wasn’t until the late 1930s that popular devotion The Divine Mercy came about. Here are three Polish saints who lived out the message of The Divine Mercy and fully entrusted themselves to it:
Saint Faustina Kowalska
We can thank Saint Faustina Kowalska for the widespread devotion to The Divine Mercy. Born in the 1930s, Faustina entered the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy after only 3 years of education, and was given menial tasks at the convent. However, this humble sister soon began to receive revelations from Jesus, who appeared to her and spoke to her about his great mercy. He instructed her to record the revelations and share them with the world. She did, and the nearly 600 pages of notes she wrote are now known as the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. Here's an excerpt:
"My Heart overflows with great mercy for souls, and especially for poor sinners. If only they could understand that I am the best of Fathers to them and that it is for them that the Blood and Water flowed from My Heart as from a fount overflowing with mercy."
In addition to her diary, Jesus asked Saint Faustina to paint an image of himself as he appeared to her. He also gave her the Divine Mercy Chaplet and asked her to institute a feast of Divine Mercy to be celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter.
Pope Saint John Paul II
Pope Saint John Paul II, sometimes referred to as “the Great Mercy Pope,” had a strong devotion to the Divine Mercy and frequently said that it was the answer to all the evils in the world. In his encyclical Dives In Misericordia, he calls mercy “the most stupendous attribute of the Creator and of the Redeemer.” Pope Saint John Paul II truly lived out Christian mercy, and even visited his would-be assassin in prison to forgive him. JPII canonized Saint Faustina and shortly thereafter he instituted Divine Mercy Sunday as Jesus had requested of Faustina. Pope John Paul II died on the evening of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005, and was canonized a saint on Divine Mercy Sunday 9 years later.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe
Saint Maximilian Kolbe was a Franciscan priest living during WWII. In 1941 he was arrested by the Germans and taken to Auschwitz. It was there that he embodied divine mercy in a radical way. Kolbe volunteered to take the place of a fellow prisoner who was sentenced to starvation, and spent two weeks in a cell without food or water. He led the other prisoners in prayer, and urged them to forgive their captors. By the end of two weeks, Kolbe was the only man left alive, and the Nazis killed him by lethal injection. Although he did not speak explicitly of the Divine Mercy like Saint Faustina or Pope Saint John Paul II did, his witness is powerful.
We pray that you would trust in the incomprehensible mercy of God and abandon yourselves into his hands with confidence like these three saints did.
We invite you to pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet with us here. If you live in New England and would like to see the relics of all three of these saints in once place, you can visit Saint Francis Chapel at the Prudential Center in Boston. The National Shrine of The Divine Mercy is also located in Massachusetts, as is the St. John Paul II Shrine of Divine Mercy.