Growing up, I never knew much about St. Faustina. I recognized pictures of her, and connected her with the Divine Mercy image, where Jesus is pictured with rays shooting out from His chest. Sometimes, I prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet with my family on Fridays. In Catholic bookstores, I would see the volume titled Divine Mercy in My Soul: Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, but I never picked it up. This book looked massive, and I figured that I would never really read it. Who has time to read a 600+ page spiritual book? Slowly, over time, I developed a greater devotion to Divine Mercy in my life. Shortly after our wedding two years ago, my husband and I began reading the Diary. This book has profoundly affected my life and relationship with God in so many incredible ways. Today, I would like to share with you some benefits of reading St. Faustina’s Diary.
We can relate to St. Faustina. Okay, so I’ll admit that we aren’t all mystics like St. Faustina. However, she is a normal human being. One of my favorite stories about St. Faustina takes place in the kitchen. While in the novitiate, St. Faustina was sent to work in the wards’ kitchen:
“I was very upset because I could not manage the pots, which were very large” (Diary #65).
St. Faustina bemoans the fact that the most difficult part of her job was draining the potatoes, and that sometimes, she spilled half of the potatoes into the sink with the water. How many times has a similar situation happened to those of us who cook regularly? St. Faustina may have had frequent chats with Jesus, Mary, or the angels, but she was a human with ordinary struggles, just like me. If she could strive for sanctity, then so can I.
She shows us how to handle being on the “struggle bus.” Particularly while in college, there were many times that my friends and I claimed we were on the “struggle bus.” While asking God and the saints for help in times of struggle, we can sometimes forget that our heavenly helpers know what our difficulties are like. St. Faustina writes, “My Jesus, despite Your graces, I see and feel all my misery. I begin my day with battle and end it with battle. As soon as I conquer one obstacle, ten more appear to take its place. But I am not worried, because I know that this is the time of struggle, not peace” (#606).
St. Faustina’s Diary delves into the love and mercy that God has for all people. Countless times throughout the book, Jesus himself speaks to St. Faustina of His incredible love and mercy for mankind. While reading these words, I felt so surrounded by God’s love, gentleness, and peace: “From all My wounds, like from streams, mercy flows for souls, but the wound in My Heart is the fountain of unfathomable mercy. From this fountain spring all graces for souls. The flames of compassion burn Me. I desire greatly to pour them out upon souls. Speak to the whole world about My mercy.” (#1190)
This book helps deepen Eucharistic devotion. Many scenes in the Diary take place during Mass, specifically during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Both St. Faustina and Christ often discuss the beauty of the Eucharist, and the importance of giving oneself to God while receiving Him: “Know, my daughter, that when I come to a human heart in Holy Communion, My hands are full of all kinds of graces which I want to give to the soul. But souls do not even pay any attention to Me; they leave Me to Myself and busy themselves with other things. Oh, how sad I am that souls do not recognize Love! They treat Me as a dead object” (#1385).
This message of mercy is extremely accessible and easy to engage with. I could not believe it when I finished reading the Diary. Reading from it once a week, I completed the book after about a year and a half. The Diary is comprised of different numbered paragraphs, so it is easy to read as much or as little at a time as you desire. The writing is also very easy to read, and the simple words and prayers are a beautiful way to meditate and pray. For those people who may be hesitant to pick up the book, there is also a free Divine Mercy app. This app includes hundreds of quotations from St. Faustina’s Diary. Another way to engage with God’s message of mercy is by praying St. Faustina’s Way of the Cross. With the variety of ways that we can read the words of Christ and St. Faustina, we can easily bring the message of mercy into our lives.
Pope Francis has declared that starting December 8, 2015, the Catholic Church will celebrate a Year of Mercy. Even though this starting date is two months away, we can prepare ourselves now. I encourage you to concretely bring the Divine Mercy message into your own life. Embrace the love and mercy that God has for you. Today, on the feast of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, we can begin to open ourselves up to God’s mercy in a greater way.