Will St. Faustina Become the Next Doctor of the Church?
In 2,000 years of Christianity, only 36 saints have been honored as a “doctor of the Church.” Among them are St. Augustine, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis de Sales and St. Thérèse of Lisieux.
Right now, the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception are leading a drive to petition the Holy See to increase that number by one more, adding St. Faustina Kowalska, the “Apostle of Divine Mercy,” as No. 37.
The Marians are working earnestly on this drive, urging everyone to sign the petition on their website and pray for its success. The results will be sent to the Holy See.
This Year of Mercy would be the perfect time for St. Faustina, who belonged to the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, to be named the newest doctor of the Church.
Two prominent Marians of the Immaculate Conception — Father Chris Alar and Father Seraphim Michalenko — spoke with the Register about the whys and wherefores of this great goal. The Marians and Marian Helpers have been spreading the message of Divine Mercy since 1941.
“We’ve been actively involved in this for the last two months. We got it from the highest levels of the Church. Even Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, [St.] John Paul II’s righthand man, met with us and supported us,” explained Father Alar, who has been mentored by the world’s leading Divine Mercy experts. He also serves as the director of the Association of Marian Helpers. “He said this is very important work and was hoping the Marians of the United States can be part of letting the world know the need for mercy, but also help in declaring St. Faustina the next doctor of the Church. Cardinal Dziwisz is the archbishop of Krakow and was among several cardinals to petition Benedict XVI in 2011 to name her a doctor.”
In explaining the significance of the “doctor” declaration, Father Alar said, “A doctor is someone of extraordinary holiness — which she was — and a saint whose work of writings is declared exemplary and beneficial to many of the faithful. There are only 36 current doctors. We know we can go to any of those 36 and receive the true teachings of the Church. Through her life and writings, Faustina basically renewed and clarified the mystery of God’s mercy. And we need the world to know about her so the world can hear her message. [In his canonization homily], John Paul II called her a gift for all of humanity. That’s what a doctor is.”
Father Alar believes her message of mercy is key for the world and if she is named a doctor, it “will help to re-emphasize the importance of God’s mercy. It will bring a new awareness — which the Holy Father already has done in declaring the Year of Mercy and highlighting the importance of God’s mercy. … Her being declared a doctor would amplify the message of Christ’s merciful love to a world wandering in the darkness of sin, unbelief and suffering.”
For his part, Father Michalenko, vice postulator for North America for the canonization cause of Sister Faustina and one of the world’s leading authorities on Divine Mercy and St. Faustina, referenced the importance of the diary of the Apostle of Divine Mercy in relation to the “doctor” petition: “Experts said that St. Faustina’s diary has the entire process of reaching heights of sanctity. … First, Faustina covers the entire process of a person desiring to become a saint, from the eager desire to responding to the Lord’s invitation, then constantly growing, to ‘mystical marriage.’ Second, she does so in very simple language. Third, she gives concrete examples of what happens at every stage from her own experience — and she’s clearer than St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa [of Avila].”
“Her admonitions have led to the universal establishment of Divine Mercy Sunday, a chaplet, a religious evocation of powerful intensity — Jesus, I trust in you — and also a graphic picture of Jesus Christ. Taken together, they constitute a remarkable body of pious work,” he added. “Certainly the life and work of St. Faustina are similar to that of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, whose major work is her autobiography, The Story of a Soul.”
Joseph Pronechen is a
Register staff writer.