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Mystic and Message

New biography delves deeply into St. Faustina’s life

In his homily after officially declaring an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy starting later this year, Pope Francis explained, “This is a time for the Church to rediscover the meaning of the mission entrusted to her by the Lord on the day of Easter, to be a sign and an instrument of the Father’s mercy.”

One of the most popular messengers of Divine Mercy, St. Faustina Kowalska, is the subject of new a biography by award-winning Polish historian and journalist Ewa Czaczkowska. Originally published to popular acclaim in Poland under a different title, Faustina: The Mystic and Her Message (Marian Press) reveals the person of St. Faustina while establishing a clear, chronological history of the Divine Mercy devotion found within the pages of her private diary. The book contains personal testimonies shared by family members, other families that Faustina worked for, sisters from her religious order who lived with her, as well as spiritual directors. With the addition of photographs never seen before, this volume is an important reference on the first saint of the third millennium.

Czaczkowska writes about religious and social topics for a Warsaw newspaper. Recently she corresponded via email with FFG associate editor Jason Godin about her latest book.

Fathers for Good: In what ways does your book deepen understanding and appreciation of the Diary of St. Faustina?

Ewa Czaczkowska: Every book, especially when it contains the elements of an autobiography, is easier to comprehend when we know the background to the author’s life — the entire social, cultural and religious context of the times in which the writer lived and was formed by. The same takes place in the case of the Diary and my book. In my book, I am not only placing the life of St. Faustina in the reality of the times in which she lived, but I am presenting the places she called home and the environments that formed her. And I am also revealing the spiritual life of St. Faustina; I am helping the reader to comprehend her mystical experiences, which were described in the Diary. The language used to describe them was certainly influenced by the entire cultural background of St. Faustina, including her lack of theological training.

FFG: During your interviews and archival research, what did you discover that most surprised you about St. Faustina?

Czaczkowska: Her simplicity, the strength of her character, her temperament and intelligence. I am fascinated with the fact that despite her lack of theoretical knowledge on the subject of mysticism, she could describe in such beautiful language moments of her soul’s union with God. I admire that she had within herself the strength and dignity to admonish elder sisters and also priests when she saw them commit wrongdoing, while at the same time regarding obedience to superiors as one of the more important virtues for a religious. And I admire her for knowing how to fulfill God’s will in her life.

FFG: What is the most important lesson fathers can learn today from the relationship between St. Faustina and her father, Stanislaus?

Czaczkowska: I think that for all fathers there are actually two important lessons. Number one is that children need a strong father figure whose personality and character have a tremendous influence on their development. For instance, it’s important for the religious development of children that they see their father at prayer. This was the case with Stanislaus Kowalska. As a man of prayer, he sang the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary early every morning in the presence of his family.

The second lesson we can learn concerns a vocation: no father should prohibit his child from realizing his or her vocation. On the contrary, it is a father’s task to help his child recognize it, and then to support his child in its fulfillment. Stanislaus Kowalska refused several times to give Helen [Faustina’s baptismal name] his permission to enter the convent. After she left secretly to pursue the religious life in a convent, he did not come to her clothing ceremony as a new religious. So, to fulfill her vocation, Helen found herself torn between obedience to her earthly father and God the Father. It was a very difficult time for her.

For more information about the book, visit Marian Press.