• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

    Previously at:
    blogs.salon.com/0003494
    barthsnotes.wordpress.com

    Email me
    (Non-commercial only)

  • Archives

  • Twitter

  • Supporting

  • Recent comments

Faustina’s Spark?

divine-mercy

The one-time actor Pope John Paul II bowed out with impressive timing. Ron Dreher of the Dallas Morning News on Saturday:

A few years ago [in 2000], Pope John Paul II canonized Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun who died in 1938. St. Faustina was a mystic who claimed to have received apparitions and messages from Jesus in her lifetime. She kept a long diary in which she inscribed messages she allegedly received from Jesus. I hasten to say that though Faustina is a recognized saint of the Roman Catholic Church, no Catholic is bound to believe that her apparitions were real. Personally, I don’t know what to think about them, and I don’t really think about them.

Still, as we approach Divine Mercy Sunday, the feast that Faustina said Jesus asked to be established on the first Sunday after Easter, and which John Paul did in fact institute, I can’t help but recall this particular entry of Faustina’s diary. It comes from 1937, the year before she died. Faustina wrote:

As I was praying, I heard Jesus’ words: ‘I bear a special love for Poland, and if she will be obedient to My Will, I will exalt her in might and holiness. From her will come forth the spark that will prepare the world for My final coming.’

It does not seem likely at this point that the Pope will survive this day. But if he held on until Sunday, that would be, um, interesting.

Dreher is also reported on Get Religion as having noted that “Divine Mercy Sunday” had been popular in Krakow for some time – where, of course, the future Pope was Archbishop in the 1960s.

Faustina not only heard Jesus, but saw him as well; apparently the famous picture above was produced under her direction. It should be noted that Dreher’s quote comes from an English translation made in 1987; the Polish text itself was published properly only in 1981. A 2002 report by John L Allen has some further details (hyperlink added):

In 1959, the Holy Office (the Vatican’s doctrinal agency, today known as the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith) issued a cease and desist order against Faustina’s diary and the devotion to Divine Mercy, a ban that was to last almost 20 years, until 1978. Wojtyla had long been working to reverse the verdict, having launched the beatification process for Faustina in 1965 while he was archbishop of Krakow.

Officially, the 20-year ban [ended by Pope Paul VI] is now attributed to misunderstandings created by a faulty Italian translation of the Diary, but in fact there were serious theological reservations–Faustina’s claim that Jesus had promised a complete remission of sin for certain devotional acts that only the sacraments can offer, for example, or what Vatican evaluators felt to be an excessive focus on Faustina herself.

John Paul has pushed no devotion further or faster. His second encyclical, 1980’s Dives in Misericordia, was inspired by Faustina. He beatified her in 1993, and canonized her in April 2000 as the first saint of the third Christian millennium. He approved a special Divine Mercy Mass for the Sunday after Easter in 1994, and celebrated it himself in St. Peter’s Square before a crowd of 200,000 in April 2001. He assigned the Church of the Holy Spirit in Sassia in Rome as a headquarters for the Divine Mercy movement in 1994, and just this month approved a special indulgence for taking part in Divine Mercy Sunday.

A few extracts from Faustina’s 700-page diary are available on-line at this website (as well as a short history of the text itself). Here’s the “spark” passage in context:

Today I was awakened by a great storm. The wind was raging, and it was raining in torrents, thunderbolts striking again and again. I began to pray that the storm would do no harm, when I heard the words: Say the chaplet I have taught you, and the storm will cease. I began immediately to say the chaplet and hadn’t even finished it when the storm suddenly ceased, and I heard the words: Through the chaplet you will obtain everything, if what you ask will be compatible with My will.As I was praying for Poland, I heard the words: I bear a special love for Poland, and if she will be obedient to My will, I will exalt her in might and holiness. From her will come forth the spark that will prepare the world for My final coming.Welcome, hidden Love, life of my soul! I welcome You, Jesus, under these insignificant forms of bread. Welcome, sweetest Mercy, who pour yourself out for souls. Welcome, Infinite Goodness, who pour out everywhere torrents of Your graces. Welcome, O veiled Brightness, the Light of souls. Welcome, O Fount of inexhaustible mercy, O purest Spring from which life and holiness gush forth for us. Welcome, Delight of pure souls. Welcome, only hope of sinful souls.

Poland appears a few other times:

September. First Friday. In the evening, I saw the Mother of God, with Her breast bared and pierced with a sword. She was shedding bitter tears and shielding us against God’s terrible punishment. God want to inflict terrible punishment on us, but He cannot because the Mother of God is shielding us. Horrible fear seized my soul. I kept praying incessantly for Poland, for my dear Poland, which is so lacking in gratitude for the Mother of God. If it were not for the Mother of God, all our efforts would be of little use. I intensified my prayers and sacrifices for our dear native land, but I see that I am a drop before the wave of evil.

…My beloved native land, Poland, if only you knew how many sacrifices and prayers I offer to God for you! But be watchful and give glory to God, who lifts you up and singles you out in a special way. But know how to be grateful.

…I saw the anger of God hanging heavy over Poland. And now I see that if God were to visit our country with the greatest chastisements, that would still be great mercy because, for such grave transgressions, He could punish is with eternal annihilation. I was paralyzed with fear when the Lord lifted the veil a little for me. Now I see clearly that chosen souls keep the world in existence to fulfill [sic] the measure (of justice).

Faustina’s confessor, who instructed her to keep her diary, was Father Michael Sopocko, a former army chaplain. At the time of her messages, Poland had been independent for less than twenty years, and was a shaky dictatorship squeezed between Hitler and the USSR. I’m sure that an expert on the religion and culture of 1930s Poland would be able to make far more of Faustina’s writings than I (and my look at the subject has been very cursory), but it seems to me that Faustina is cautiously optimistic about Poland’s future; if Poland remains faithful, it will outshine the two totalitarian regimes. That seems to be what the “spark” passage is suggesting.