Overview of St. Faustina's Life
Fr. Miles Walsh, Pastor of Our Lady of Mercy
First of all, I want to take this opportunity again to welcome all of you to the first night of our fifth annual, nine-week Divine Mercy novena! I don’t know about you...but I’d rather be here in our nice, warm church than standing on Canal Street on the parade route in New Orleans.
Of course, tonight we do thank God for the great victory of the New Orleans Saints. You know, a lot of prayer and a lot of faith and hard work went into the Saints’ Super Bowl victory, and I can’t help but think that the Who Dat nation received a little divine help. The papers reported that Archbishop Hannan, who is 96 years old and who was present when the Saints were created, was a guest of Saints owner, Tom Benson, in his box in Miami, along with the new Archbishop, Greg Aymond and two Dominican nuns...and it did seem that Drew Brees was inspired when he said that destiny was on our side this year. Someone on TV noted that Saints fans waited 43 years for a Super Bowl victory, longer than the time the Israelites spent in the desert, but that now, just like the Israelites of old, they have entered the Promised Land.
And yet the truth is-- what we are asking of God tonight...and what God Himself has promises us through His Son, Jesus Christ, tonight, is much greater than a Super Bowl victory, and it’s being offered to each and every one of us who is here tonight...What God is offering us is a new beginning in our relationship with Him...and a much deeper and more perfect communion with Him. It doesn’t matter where you were in your relationship with God when you entered the doors of this church tonight–I assure you...if you spend the next nine weeks praying this novena with us, and if you open your heart, beginning right now, to Jesus Christ, God will make you new...He will change your life! By the way, that’s not a promise Miles Walsh is making to you, it’s a promise Jesus Himself is making, and He asks you to trust in Him! Jesus wants to offer you a grace that some have called a kind of “second baptism,” a cleansing of mind and heart that is a unique gift indeed. And we’ll be saying more about that as the weeks go on.
I’d like to ask: how many of you are here for the first time tonight? Like many of you, I am here for the fifth year in a row, and each year, the message of Divine Mercy goes deeper and deeper into my heart and my soul. So if you’ve made this novena before, and you find that you’re still spiritually stubborn and have a long way to go, don’t worry–this may be the year for you, just like the New Orleans Saints. In fact, I’m going to step out on a limb, like Drew Brees, and make a prediction that God has something new and unique in mind for us all.
This year, Fr. Paul and I are going to alternate preaching and presiding. Next Tuesday, Fr. Paul will be preaching about the message of Divine Mercy in the OT, promised at the very dawn of salvation history, and the week after that, I’ll be speaking about the message of Divine Mercy as it is revealed through J.C., in the NT, but tonight, as a beginning orientation, I’d like to say something about the person who was chosen by Jesus to spread the message of Divine Mercy in our own time, St. Faustina.
You see, when God was looking for someone to spread the good news of His mercy in our age, which is so desperately in need of God’s presence, He chose one of the most humble and obscure souls, but also one of the holiest souls on the face of the earth. St. Faustina was born in Poland in 1905, and the name given to her at birth was Helena Kowalska. She was one of ten children born into a very poor but faith-filled family, and from a very early age she manifested the signs of a very profound friendship with Christ. At the age of seven, she experienced the call to religious life, and Jesus revealed to her that He wanted her as His bride. Yet because she was one of the oldest of the ten children in her family, her parents needed her to help care for and support her younger siblings. They could not afford to send her to school, so when she was 14 they hired her out as a housekeeper, to work in other people’s homes. Four years later, when she was 18, an extraordinary event occurred. She went to a dance one night, and as she was dancing with a boy, Our Lord appeared, in the flesh, at her side. He appeared to her bruised and beaten, as He was during His passion, and He said to her, “How long will you put me off?” A good question. I’m sure that many of us, in our own hearts, have heard the Lord addressing that very same question to us. Helena was frightened, and leaving the dance, she ran to the nearest church, knelt before the tabernacle in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, and promised the Lord she would do whatever He asked of her.
To do that, she had to run away from home. She borrowed money for a train ticket to Krakow from an uncle, and once in Krakow, a city she had never visited before, she began to knock on convent doors. No one would take a penniless, uneducated peasant girl into their community, until she knocked on the door of the convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy (a convent which shared the same name as our own church) and there Helena was welcomed. Hearing her story, a wise mother superior told her to go into the convent chapel and to ask the Master of the House, if he wanted her to live there. When Helena returned some time later, she told the superior that Jesus had said, “Yes.”
I won’t go into the all the details of Sister Faustina’s life tonight, but we will return to Faustina in weeks to come. Suffice it to say that the risen Lord would appear to her many times before her death in 1938, at the age of 33, just in the way we see Him in His Divine Mercy tonight. And he would appoint her to bring the message of Mercy to us. I’d like to leave you with this thought. In a few moments, Jesus will become present to us in the Sacrament of the Altar, in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood. We will kneel before Him, and He will speak to the heart of each and every person who is here. Our Lord is going to put to each of us the same question he put to Faustina: How long will you put me off? Let us pray for the grace to respond, as St. Faustina did, Jesus, I am ready to do whatever you tell Me to do. Jesus, I trust in You!