on July 12, 2011
I first read Saint Faustina's book Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul when she was plain old Sister Faustina, and a rather daunting twentieth-century mystic. The book freaked me out in several places, especially the locutions from Jesus and the visions of the afterlife. I was drawn to the book, but it frightened me, when I had just come back to the Church after a period of atheism. This was the mid-1980's also, when visionaries, mystics and classic Catholic spirituality was on the wane in the United States. Devotional books as intense as Saint Faustina's had given way to more careful, distanced spirituality. So I put the book away.
I came back to it several times over the years, and always found much to intrigue, inspire and challenge me. I found it again in a Eucharistic Adoration chapel a few months ago, and bought it for myself after using it to great effect in prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament exposed. At this point, in my sixth decade of life, with classic Catholicism in full bloom wherever I look, I am finding it a wonderful book to deepen my knowledge of and relationship with Christ. I highly recommend it to Christians, especially Catholics, of all ages. When I first picked the book up in the 80's, Eucharistic Adoration was a dream from the past, as were novenas, the rosary, Benediction, and other devotions and practices of my childhood. Today's younger Catholics are fortunate to once again have ready access to all of the traditional and classic modes of prayer and devotion that have nourished the Catholic faithful over the centuries. This book was made for the ages -- and the Divine Mercy is now coming into Its own.
on November 18, 2011
I've been praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy on and off for years, and I've found this prayer to be extremely powerful. That said, the Diary of St. Faustina helped me to appreciate Jesus Christ, love Him better. and learn the history of this chaplet. Because of her personal relationship with Jesus and with God, it helped me to understand my own journey with Christ more clearly.
Even though St. Faustina, who was chosen to write about Divine Mercy by Jesus, said she wasn't trained as a writer. But to me, her soulful words are some of the most beautiful and powerful I've ever read. Nearly every passage was filled with gems of wisdom. My highlighter is constantly busy while I read her diary. Within her notebooks, there are even passages that read like prayers.
Her book is also helping me with my own personal journey back to Christ. St. Faustina spoke vividly about the trials and tribulations she underwent. I'm not trying to be sadistic, but I liked reading about them, because it taught me a great deal how to manage my own periods of sadness and spiritual struggles. During St. Faustina's darkest periods of suffering, she didn't lose her equilibrium by cultivating silence and her inner peace. She never lost her love or respect for God by blaspheming Him. She used prayer and silence as an effective weapon to disarm all problems.
Some critics have said St. Faustina spoke with a childlike simplicity. But, I guess the purest love is expressed in a similar fashion. She was extremely humble always submitting her will to that of God's. One of my favorite pages in her diary was when she wrote down the words "My Will," on one page, then crossed the words out with a huge "X" and on an opposite page, placed on an opposite page how she'd only submit to God's will. St. Faustina was warm, kind and loving. She was like a star, whose love for God and Christ was incredibly pure, unapologetic and unconditional. She's become an example, to me, of what a true Christian and saint should be.
I highly recommend this book for any Christian -- whether they are Catholic -- or not.
on April 2, 2013
On the front cover is a picture of Saint Faustina with Jesus behind her, both standing on the world. In the picture two rays--one red and one white--are coming forth from the heart of Jesus and covering the whole world. If you're a Catholic, you've probably seen the image of Jesus with the two rays (minus the world and St. Faustina which are on the cover of this book). It's called the Image of Divine Mercy, and it is famous. There's a framed picture of it in my house, my friend's house, the office of my church, the chapel of my church, and there's a huge picture of it hanging on the wall of the room where we celebrate weekend masses. I've seen the picture in other churches too.
But the picture wasn't always so rampant across Catholic communities. Back in the 1920s or perhaps '30s, when St. Faustina was still just an uncanonized, perceived-crazy lady who went around saying that God was ordering her to tell them that an image of Jesus with the two rays coming out of His heart needs to be painted, St. Faustina met with opposition. This, God said in her diary, was so that people would know that this work--the work of the spreading of devotion to His divine mercy--belonged to Him. Because if you think about it, how else would the devotion to His mercy be so accepted in the Catholic Church these days? If it had been St. Faustina acting on her own without God, well, like I said. She faced lots of resistance, and the higher-ups (the cardinals, etc., I guess) never would've allowed it.
At the bottom of this image are the words, "Jesus, I trust in You!" And trusting in God's mercy is basically what this book is all about. The first time I read it a few years ago I didn't read it as slowly. All of the parts where it talks about God's unfathomable, superabundant excess of mercy must've taken a backseat in my mind. I mostly read it for all the cool visions and stuff that happened in St. Faustina's life. After the sudden death of my dad, however, I had reason to read this book again. I wanted comfort, some kind of sign from God that Dad had passed the ultimate test--the only one that really matters. I wanted to trust in God's mercy. And I had reason to read this book more carefully so as not to miss a single detail of how much God loves us and how much He wants to save us from damnation. Because despite the fact that Dad was a Christian man, a church-going man, and (I later learned after his death) a man who read the Bible every night except when he was too tired, I still did not trust in God's mercy. I kept mulling over Bible verses like, "Enter through the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many" (Matthew 7:13). Not that St. Faustina discredits what's written in the Bible, for in diary entry 153 she shares with us a vision she had that is similar to this verse. I think, though, that this book has effectively helped me to trust more in God's mercy, especially when St. Faustina writes things like, "God's mercy sometimes touches the sinner at the last moment in a wondrous and mysterious way.... Although a person is at the point of death, the mercifiul God gives the soul that interior vivid moment, so that if the soul is willing, it has the possibility of returning to God" (Diary 1698). By the way whenever you come across the word "soul" as you're reading this book, what St. Faustina means is "person." That kind of confused me the first time I read this diary.
This book is meant for souls all along the spiritual spectrum. It's a book for sinful souls. For nonbelievers. It's a book for laity, for nuns and priests and other religious. It is a book, perhaps, for other saints. For nonbelievers she writes, "Let the sinner know that he will be tortured throughout all eternity, in those senses which he made use of to sin. I am writing this at the command of God, so that no soul may find an excuse by saying there is no hell, or that nobody has ever been there, and so no one can say what it is like.... I noticed one thing: that most of the souls there are those who disbelieved that there is a hell" (Diary 741). Some of St. Faustina's descriptions of hell are similar to those of other saints. The following quote I took from an account by St. Teresa of Avila which can be found on jesus-passion.com/HELL.htm (although I also saw this same account in a biography about her which I browsed through one day in the library of a Catholic campus student hangout I used to go to). "Those walls which were terrifying to see," says St. Teresa, "closed in on themselves and suffocated everything. There was no light, but all was enveloped in the blackest darkness. I don't understand how this could be, that everything painful to see was visible." Now compare with St. Faustina's description: "The fifth torture is continual darkness and a terrible suffocating smell, and, despite the darkness, the devils and the souls of the damned see each other and all the evil, both of others and their own" (Diary 741). St. Teresa, a sixteenth century Spanish nun, and St. Faustina, a twentienth century Polish active sister, came up with the same description of hell.
I also found other similarities between what St. Faustina wrote and the private revelations from other sources. What I mean, to give another example, is the part where St. Faustina writes, "When I immersed myself in prayer and united myself with all the Masses that were being celebrated all over the world at that time, I implored God, for the sake of all these Holy Masses, to have mercy on the world.... At that same instant, I received an interior answer from God that a thousand souls had received grace...." (Diary 1783). Compare that to the Catholic legend (I don't think it's a well-known legend, though) that every time this prayer is said (Eternal Father, I offer you the most precious blood of Your divine Son Jesus, in unity with all the masses said throughout the world today for all the holy souls in Purgatory), a thousand souls are supposed to be released from Purgatory. That is according to several websites including the wikipedia article about St. Gertrude the Great.
Anyway, as I've mentioned earlier, this is a book meant for everyone. I'd especially recommend it for members of religious orders, because this book has lots of useful advice that seems especially aimed at them. It's very important that they obey the superior (the head of the convent or monastery) as if they were obeying God Himself. Not only should they obey, but they shouldn't even grumble in their hearts about the superior's orders. They need to follow the rule, for this is the way in which God gives them all their graces.
There are just so many tips from God and St. Faustina about becoming a more spiritually perfect person that you'll just have to read the book yourself and try to absorb all the wisdom that your mind can hold. Tips like when God says to St. Faustina, "The person of the priest is, for Me, only a screen. Never analyze what sort of a priest it is that I am making use of; open your soul in confession as you would to Me, and I will fill it with my light" (Diary 1725).
One last thing. I suggest that anyone who reads this review say the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at least once in their lifetime. Saying it shouldn't take more than thirty minutes. Those who say this chaplet at least once is sure to receive the grace of mercy at the hour of their death, even the most hardened sinners.