By Ramon Gonzalez
Western Catholic Reporter
The Divine Mercy is a Catholic devotion to the merciful love of God and the desire to let that love and mercy flow through one’s own heart toward those who need it.
St. Mary Faustina Kowalska, a Polish peasant, brought that devotion to the forefront when in her diary she reported a number of visions of Jesus and conversations with him.
Dr. Robert Stackpole, a theologian at St. Therese Institute of Faith and Mission in Bruno, Sask., and director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, led a mission of Mercy Oct. 5-7 at St. Theresa Parish focusing on St. Faustina.
On Oct. 5, the feast of St. Faustina, he spoke about the saint, her life and spirituality and the Divine Mercy devotion.
Born in 1905, Faustina heard a call to religious life during her teenage years and journeyed to Warsaw. She asked her parents to let her become a religious, but they were reluctant to let her leave the farm.
“But she felt the call so strongly that finally she just hopped on the train without a penny to her name, went to Warsaw, went to the first parish church she could find and talked to the priest and said, ‘What should I do, where should I go?’”
Eventually she was directed to the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Warsaw. Fifteen at the time, she entered religious life and chose the name Sister Maria Faustina of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
As she started religious life, Faustina began to have extraordinary private revelations from God, visions, locutions and inner words from the Lord, and even an apparition from Jesus himself, Stackpole said in an interview.
“The major apparition was of Jesus as we see him in the image of the Divine Mercy and he asked her to paint an image of him according to the pattern that she saw,” Stackpole explained.
“Of course the problem was she couldn’t paint and so her confessors and spiritual directors thought maybe she’s got the message wrong or maybe she is imagining.”
Eventually she was put under the care of a priest named Father Michael Sopocko. “She began to tell Father Sopocko all these things that were going on in her soul and he put her through rigorous tests to see if this was really authentic.”
Sopocko was a well-trained theologian and so he tested her out theologically and he even sent her to a psychiatrist for a complete mental health exam, “which she passed with flying colours.”
The priest became convinced the apparitions were the Lord’s work and he urged her to write her diary. He arranged for the image of Divine Mercy to be painted and he visited the artist with St. Faustina every time she went to instruct the artist.
“In a nutshell what God was saying to Faustina was that the Church needed to reawaken and to trust in his merciful love,” Stackpole said.
Faustina eventually lived in a convent in Krakow, Pope John Paul’s home diocese.
“So John Paul became aware of Faustina’s diaries as a young man and they had a profound impact on him,” he said.
“He realized that only the message of God’s merciful love can rescue the world from what he saw in his lifetime: communism and fascism and world war. He saw all these horrors of the 20th century so (he thought) only the message of God’s merciful love can give people hope.”
Jesus gave Faustina the Divine Mercy Chaplet, “a prayer of intercession in which you ask the Lord to pour out his mercy upon the world,” Stackpole said.