‘Faustina’s Mission Is Christ’s Mission’
Biography Offers New Insights Into ‘Apostle of Divine Mercy’
In time for Divine Mercy Sunday, the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception at the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., have released Faustina: The Mystic and Her Message.
It is the English translation of the 2012 Polish bestseller about St. Faustina, by Ewa Czaczkowska, an award-winning journalist, biographer, professor and historian.
This biography of the first saint to be canonized in the new millennium by St. John Paul II brings her to life and shines a light on the interior life of this mystic-saint — complete with photographs, some quite rare.
There is also a section detailing the history of the Divine Mercy devotion and its remarkable spread throughout the world.
Marian Father Kazimierz Chwalek, superior of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy Province of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, based in Stockbridge, shared his insights about the book with the Register.
He reviewed the original Polish translation and wrote the foreword to the English version.
How is Faustina: The Mystic and Her Message more than another biography?
This book is more than another biography of the saint because the author has done her homework — uncovering a lot of new information on Faustina and rare photos of her — to produce a major new biography on the great “Apostle of Divine Mercy.” In fact, to date, I think we could call it the definitive biography on the saint.
In what ways has the author broken new ground to help us understand Faustina as a real person?
Well, the author, Ewa Czaczkowska, leaves no stone unturned in her research into Faustina’s life, by visiting each of the places she called home.
And at each location, she uncovers fresh information about the future saint from those who knew her best. For instance, we learn that before she entered the convent, when Faustina (then Helen) served as a domestic servant for various families in order to help her family financially — and then with a family for one last year in order to pay for her postulant’s wardrobe — she was known for her cheerfulness, love of children, storytelling about the saints and works of mercy for the poor.
Is this information new?
Actually, the fact that Faustina herself had doubts about her visions is not new.
What is new is how, among other things, this future saint had a temper and even greatly disappointed her father when she came home late one evening from a dance. Of the incident involving her father, Faustina told one of her blood sisters several years later that she would do her best “never to bring shame on her father again.” The author, Ewa, poses the question, “Was it then, indeed, that she decided to become a saint? Like one of the saints in the stories read aloud by her father at home?”
Why is Czaczkowska’s treatment of Faustina’s interior life as a mystic so much easier to understand in this particular biography vs. other biographies?
While Ewa draws upon experts and scholars to explain Faustina’s life as a mystic, she writes about it in simple language that’s accessible to the popular reader. As an experienced journalist and biographer, Ewa knows how to reach her audience.
What is one of the revelations or insights that she gives us about Faustina that is unique?
The insight that, in the last years of her life, one of Faustina’s greatest desires was to die as a sacrificial host, conformed to Christ in his death on the cross for sinners. For instance, we learn that, in her final weeks, when the sisters asked if she was suffering greatly, she would answer, “Yes, very much, but I’m fine with it.”
Why do you say that Czaczkowska reveals Faustina as one of the greatest mystics?
St. Faustina’s Diary is a mystical literature of exceptional worth, and St. Faustina herself has attained one of the highest levels of mystical union with God — the mystical marriage and an exchange of hearts. But my comment is more about Faustina herself and her mission, which is the focus of Ewa’s book on her.
Faustina’s mission is Christ’s mission. Her life was a profound participation in Christ’s life, and her message is Jesus, the merciful and loving Savior of the world, and the revelations he gave her about his mercy. That’s why the title and subtitle — Faustina: The Mystic and Her Message — are so apt.
What else do you find exceptionally compelling in this biography?
The biography’s overall impact on the reader: Ewa paints a compelling, fresh and intimate portrait of Faustina. The future saint emerges as a real person who struggled with her inadequacies and limitations, even as she was blessed with extraordinary spiritual gifts and given a unique mission by Jesus himself.
Joseph Pronechen is the
Register’s staff writer.