Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska of the Blessed Sacrament was born as Helena Kowalska, in Glogowiec Village in Poland on August 25, 1905. Faustina stated that she first felt a calling to the religious life while attending the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at 7 years of age. She wanted to enter the convent after completing her time at school, but her parents would not give her permission. When she was 16 years old, she went to work as a housekeeper, first in Aleksandrów Łódzki where she received the Sacrament of Confirmation, then in Łódź, to support herself and to help her parents.
In 1924, at the age of 19 years, Faustina went with her sister Natalia to a dance in a park in Łódź. Faustina said that, while at the dance, she had a vision of a suffering Jesus and then went to the Cathedral. From there, she said Jesus instructed her to depart for Warsaw immediately and to join a convent. She took a train for Warsaw (about 85 miles away) without gaining the permission of her parents, knowing anyone in Warsaw, or bringing any belongings other than the dress she was wearing. After she arrived, she entered the first church she saw (Saint James Church in Warsaw) and attended Mass. She asked the priest, Father Dąbrowski, for suggestions, and he recommended staying with a Mrs. Lipszycowa, a local woman whom he considered trustworthy, until she found a convent.
Life as a Nun
After being called during a vision of the Suffering Christ, she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy on August 1, 1925.
On April 30, 1926, at 20-years-old, she finally received her habit and took the religious name of Sister Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament and in 1928, she took her first religious vows as a nun.
Over the next year, Faustina traveled convents as a cook. In May 1930 she arrived in Plock, Poland. Soon after, she began to show the first signs of her illness (which was later thought to be tuberculosis) and was sent away to rest. Several months later, Faustina returned to the convent.
On February 22, 1931, Faustina was visited by Jesus, who presented himself as the "King of Divine Mercy" wearing a white garment with red and pale rays coming from his heart. She was asked to become the apostle and secretary of God's mercy, a model of how to be merciful to others, and an instrument for reemphasizing God's plan of mercy for the world.
The Lord Jesus chose Sr. Maria Faustina as the Apostle and "Secretary" of His Mercy, so that she could tell the world about His great message, which Sr. Faustina recorded in a diary she titled Divine Mercy in My Soul. In the Old Covenant He said to her:
"I sent prophets wielding thunderbolts to My people. Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart." (Diary, 1588)
In 1932, Faustina returned to Warsaw. On May 1, 1933 she took her final vows in Lagiewniki and became a perpetual sister of Our Lady of Mercy.
Throughout 1937, progress was made in promoting the Divine Mercy, and in November 1937, a pamphlet was published with the title Christ, King of Mercy. The pamphlet included the chaplet, the novena, and the litany of the Divine Mercy. The Divine Mercy image appeared on the cover, with the signature, "Jesus I Trust in You". On 10 November 1937, Mother Irene, Faustina's superior, showed her the booklets while Faustina rested in her bed.
Sister Maria Faustina, consumed by tuberculosis and by innumerable sufferings which she accepted as a voluntary sacrifice for sinners, died in Krakow at the age of just 33 on October 5, 1938, with a reputation for spiritual maturity and a mystical union with God. The reputation of the holiness of her life grew as did the cult to the Divine Mercy and the graces she obtained from God through her intercession. In the years 1965-67, the Investigative Process into her life and heroic virtues was undertaken in Krakow and in the year 1968, the Beatification Process was initiated in Rome. The latter came to an end in December 1992.
On April 18, 1993 our Holy Father, John Paul II raised St. Faustina to the glory of the altars. She was canonized on April 30, 2000. St. Maria Faustina's remains rest at the Sanctuary of the Divine Mercy in Krakow-Lagiewniki. Her feast day is celebrated on October 5th and she is the patron saint of Mercy.