The Catholic Meaning of Good Friday

clock March 29, 2013 02:02 by author John |

The Crucifixion of Jesus of NazarethGood Friday is the solemn commemoration of the passion and death of Jesus Christ. This day is the most sorrowful of any day in the history of the world for Christians. Jesus, innocent and without sin, freely offered His life for the redemption of the sins of the entire world.

How is this possible? How can the sacrifice of one man be enough to redeem the gruesome sins of mankind? The sacrifice on the cross was the offering of God Himself. God, the almighty and infinite master of the universe made an infinite offering by His sacrifice on the cross. Our sins, though many and serious are finite. They are limited, though they are numerous. We cannot count them. They are too many, but God, knowing and seeing all knows all of our sins.

His sacrifice is an eternal one, by which we receive an eternal reward. By our sins beginning in the Garden of Eden and continuing throughout the history of humanity, we sentenced ourselves to separation from God for eternity. God is perfect, and through our sins, we blemished ourselves such that we could not be united with God in Heaven.

God, however, is compassionate and gave us a redemption from our sins. The death of Jesus on the Cross is the eternal sacrifice. It was "Christ reconciling the world to himself" (2 Cor. 5:19). Christ in His mercy opened the Gates of Heaven for us.

There are many who freely choose to reject this gift. There are also many who accept it. Regardless of our response to this offering of His life, the gift was generously offered for the redemption of all. This gift is the manifestation of perfect love. Jesus was innocent of all sin. He gave the most precious gift that anyone could give: His Life. For, as it says in the Gospel of John, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.” (John 15:13).

This is the day when that famous verse, quoted in all corners of the world, written on signs at sporting events, and written on the hearts of all mankind came to fulfillment. John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

Let us not forget this amazing gift. Let us not reject this gift whether outright or through our sinfulness. Our Lord spared no pain, retained no shred of human dignity. He was scourged, crowned with thorns, spat upon, made to carry a cross through the streets, filled with a hostile crowd, nailed to a cross and killed for our sins. There is no sacrifice we can make that can even compare to His. For though we suffer, we are sinful. Our Lord was perfect and was tortured and killed for us.

We must conform our lives to goodness. We must sacrifice the pleasures of sinfulness so that we may be united with Him in Heaven. For though He died to redeem our sins, we must still accept this gift in our lives. We must live for Christ.



The Catholic Meaning of Ash Wednesday

clock February 13, 2013 05:22 by author John |

Ash WednesdayIt always makes me cringe when I have to explain to my non-Catholic (and many times even the Catholic ones) why I receive ashes on Ash Wednesday. It isn’t that I don’t like talking about my faith. It isn’t that people don’t respect my faith. The problem is that people are too comfortable. The ideas that Ash Wednesday calls to mind are so foreign – austere, morbid and penitential. These are all things that modern people and Americans particularly are not eager to talk about.

Ash Wednesday is a solemn reminder of our mortality, our short life, and our impending death. The question invariably is a simple one. “Why”?  Why do we want to think about our death? Why not just live for today and be happy? The answer is as simple as the question. We must think of our death because we do not know when it will be.

We must not let the affairs of this world overshadow the realities of the next. Whatever we do on earth will be forgotten by future generations. This thought should temper our pride and help us to focus on what is important. The words of Ecclesiastes 1:3-4 bring this reality home: “What profit has man from all the labor which he toils at under the sun? One generation passes and another comes, but the world forever stays.” Matthew 24:44 exhorts us to remember that we do not know when we will die: ‘So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

The imposition of Ashes upon our foreheads reminds us of our fleeting existence on earth: “Remember that thou art dust and to dust thou shall return”. The use of ashes was a symbol of grief, humility, and despair in the Old Testament. In Jeremiah, 6:26, sackcloth and ashes are used as a sign of mourning:  “O daughter of my people, gird on sackcloth, roll in the ashes. Mourn as for an only child with bitter wailing, For sudden upon us comes the destroyer.” 2 Samuel 13:19 brings us the use of ashes as a sign of sadness: “Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long tunic in which she was clothed. Then, putting her hands to her head, she went away crying loudly.”

Ash Wednesday brings us a second reality that we must acknowledge, which is our judgment before God when our earthly life is over. We must always be prepared for it, get our affairs in order, and clear our souls of the sinful baggage we haul around with us. If we are clinging to sin when we meet our death, then we must answer for it at our judgment.  Hebrews 9:27 reminds us: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment”. Wisdom 4:20 tells us: “They shall come with fear at the thought of their sins, and their iniquities shall stand against them to convict them.”

Ash Wednesday is a mandatory day of fasting and abstinence according to the laws of the Church. Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 are obliged to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The Guidelines for fasting are that we are allowed one normal meal and two smaller meals, which when added together are smaller than a normal meal. Snacks are not permitted, but beverages are permitted unless they are filling or constitute a meal like a shake. In addition, all Catholics 14 years old and older must abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Fridays of Lent. Fish and meat products such as milk or eggs are permitted.

Fasting and abstinence, like the Lenten sacrifices that we are called to do help us order our priorities toward God. We give up things that we like so that we can remember what is truly important: God. Fasting and abstinence also help us build our resolve against sin by practicing deprivation of things that we enjoy. By saying no to meat or regulating our diet, we help control our urges, strengthening our will.

Finally, Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent. During this season, we keep our sins always in mind, remembering the tremendous cost of our rejection of God through these sins. We look ahead to Good Friday and the passion of Our Lord, which was brought about by the sins of the word, including our own. Jesus was tortured and killed because of our sinfulness. This should cause us to make a firm resolution to avoid sin.

 



Who Was St. Nicholas? The History and Pious Catholic Legend of a Great Saint

clock December 6, 2012 14:27 by author John |

St. NicholasSt. Nicholas is one of the most popular saints in the Catholic Church and his feast day is December 6th. Traditionally, Catholics leave their shoes out on the eve of his feast day and find treats in them the next morning in the same manner as we look forward to Christmas presents from this Saint on Christmas morning.

Nicholas was born in the city of Patara in Lyrica, a port on the Mediterranean Sea in Asia Minor, about the middle of the third century. He was of Greek heritage and his parents, Epiphanius and Johanna (also known as Theophanes and Nonna) were devout Christians and wealthy. Nicholas was deeply attached to his faith as a child, only eating a single small portion in the evenings on Wednesdays and Fridays, which were days of penance at the time. His parents died from an epidemic while he was still young, so he went to live with an uncle, who was a bishop and also named Nicholas. His uncle raised him in the faith and later ordained him as a priest. Later, when the bishop of his district died, he was made Bishop of Myra. Nicholas became renowned for his extraordinary piety and zeal and performed many great miracles.

Nicholas was known for his generosity and his love for children. He gave freely of his wealth to the poor, widows, and orphans. He famously helped a poor man who had three daughters but could not afford a proper dowry for them. Without a dowry, they would remain unmarried and probably would have to become prostitutes. Nicholas heard about this tragic situation and decided to help him, but through his modesty as well as discretion for the man’s situation, he went to his house at night and threw three purses (one for each daughter) filled with gold coins through the window opening into the man's house. In some versions of the story, Nicholas does this on three separate occasions, and the man becomes curious after the first two occasions about the identity of the benefactor and tries to watch Nicholas in the act of giving the third time. Supposedly, Nicholas learned of the poor man's plan and dropped the third bag down the chimney instead. One version claims that the daughter had washed her stockings that evening and hung them over the embers to dry, and that the bag of gold fell into the stocking.

Popularization of this story led to the tradition of giving gifts on St. Nicholas’ feast day, December 6th. Variations in saying his name resulted in the popular name, Santa Claus.

A great famine struck Myra in 311 and a ship was anchored at the port loaded with wheat for the Emperor in Constantinople. Nicholas asked the crew to unload a part of the wheat to help the people through the famine. The crew at first objected to the request, because the wheat had to be weighed before being delivered to the Emperor. Nicholas assured them that they would arrive at their destination with the full load and the sailors agreed to give Nicholas the portion. When they arrived later in the capital, they found just what Nicholas had promised: the weight of the load had not changed, even though the wheat removed in Myra was enough for two full years and could even be used for sowing.

According to Greek historians, he imprisoned and tortured for his faith and made a glorious confession near the end of the great persecution ordered by the emperor, Diocletian. When the Christian Emperor Constantine assumed the throne, the captives, including Nicholas were released.

St. Methodius writes in his biography of Nicholas that "thanks to the teaching of St. Nicholas the metropolis of Myra alone was untouched by the filth of the Arian heresy, which it firmly rejected as death-dealing poison”. He is also claimed to have been present at the Council of Nicaea and there condemned Arianism. Some accounts state that he went so far as to slap Arius in the face. These accounts are disputed in some cases.

Another story of St. Nicholas is also very famous. The governor Eustathius had taken a bribe to three innocent men to death. On the day of their execution, Nicholas went to them and stayed the hands of the executioner, and they were released. Then he turned to Eustathius and rebuked him until he admitted his guilt and sorrow for his actions. Three officers were present to witness this while they were on their way to duty in Phrygia. Later, when they were in Constantinople, the prefect Ablavius became jealous with them and ordered them imprisoned on false charges and an order for their death was obtained from the Emperor Constantine. The officers remembered the incident they witnessed and they prayed to God that they would be saved through Nicholas. That night St. Nicholas appeared in a dream to Constantine, and told him with threats to release the three innocent men, and Ablavius experienced the same thing. In the morning the Emperor and the prefect told each other of their dreams. The emperor asked the three men about the dream and when they had confirmed that they asked for the help of Nicholas, who had appeared to him, Constantine set them free and sent them to Nicholas with a letter asking him not to threaten him anymore but to pray for the peace of the world. This was for a very long time, the most famous miracle of St. Nicholas, and at the time of St. Methodius was the only thing generally known about him.

He died at Myra, and was buried in his cathedral, though some of his relics were later taken during the crusades either by thieves or pious Christians trying to preserve them and brought to Venice.  His relics are still preserved in the church of San Nicola in Bari, and also in Venice’s Lido.  An oily substance, called the “Manna di S. Nicola”, which smells of roses and is known for its healing powers, is said to flow from the relics in Bari. Scientific study has confirmed that the relics in Venice and Bari came from the same person.



What is the Catholic Meaning of Advent?

clock December 1, 2012 14:14 by author John |

Advent - the AnnunciationWhat is Advent?

Advent is the liturgical season preceding Christmas, and the beginning of the Church’s liturgical year (in the West). It is the time that Christians use to prepare for the coming of the Savior, Jesus Christ. The word Advent comes from the Latin word “Adventus” which means “coming”. We wait with joyful anticipation for Christmas, when Jesus was incarnate of the Virgin Mary.

As the words from the beautiful Christmas carol, ‘O Holy Night’ remind us, “Long lay the world in sin and error pining.” From the time of Adam, humanity waited for the savior to come to save us from the eternal separation from God that our sinfulness had warranted. Our only hope of salvation was the coming of Christ.

In the Old Testament, Jesus’ coming was foretold in the prophesies such as Isaiah 7:14:

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.

The season of Advent is a time for Catholics to prepare themselves. This preparation is focused on becoming holier and worthy to celebrate Christ’s coming into the world on Christmas. It is also a time to prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming to us in the form of the Eucharist. Finally, it is a time to prepare for His Final Coming as the Just Judge both at our death and at the end of the world.

The History of Advent

The feast of the Nativity was established in the 4th century and the concept of preparation for the Birth of Christ gradually grew until the season of Advent was established near the end of the 6th century. The preparation was more penitential in the early centuries of the Church, showing similarities to Lent. Fasting and other acts of penance were prescribed for the faithful.  Between the 7th and 11th centuries, Advent was observed for 5 Sundays. In the end of the 11th century, Pope Gregory VII reduced the number of Sundays in Advent to 4.

Present Day Advent

We now continue the penitential theme, though it is accompanied by a prayerful and joyful anticipation of the birth of Christ and His second coming. Fasting and acts of penance are still valuable means of preparation, though we should also include prayers of joyful hope and gratitude for the gift of Christ’s Incarnation, life, and death. The late Pope John Paul II called Advent a time of intense training.

Traditional Advent Observances

In Churches and many Catholic homes, an Advent wreath is prominently displayed. It contains four candles, one is lit on each Sunday in Advent. Another popular custom is the Advent calendar, which counts down the days until the birth of Jesus. The most important Advent observance, however is participation in the sacraments of the Church in order to prepare our souls. Confession and the Eucharist are appropriate ways to prepare spiritually for Christ’s coming.



St. Leonard of Port Maurice – Powerful Preacher and Missionary

clock November 26, 2012 12:22 by author John |

St. Leonard of Port MauriceNovember 26 is the feast of St. Leonard of Port Maurice. He was a preacher and ascetic writer, born on December 20, 1676, at Porto Maurizio, in present day Italy. He was the son of Domenico Casanova and Anna Maria Benza. He joined the Jesuits in Rome. On October 2, 1697, he received the habit, and after making his novitiate at Ponticelli in the Sabine mountains, he completed his studies at the principal house of the Riformella, S. Bonaventura on the Palatine at Rome. After his ordination he remained there as a professor, and expected to be sent as a missionary to China, but in 1704, he became so ill that he was sent to his native area of Porto Maurizio, where there was a monastery of the Franciscan Observants. After four years he regained his health, and began to preach in Porto Maurizio and the vicinity. Leonard later began to give missions to the people in Tuscany, which were marked by many extraordinary conversions and great results. His colleagues and he always practiced the greatest austerities and most severe penances during these missions. In 1710 he founded the monastery of Icontro, on a peak in the mountains about four miles from Florence, where he and his assistants could retire from time to time after missions, and devote themselves to spiritual renewal and fresh austerities.

In 1720 he began preaching in Central and Southern Italy, and his missions were received with much enthusiasm and produced many great fruits. Pope Benedict XIV called him to Rome and held him in high esteem. Everywhere Leonard went, he made produced many conversions, being forced to preach in the open, as the churches could not contain the crowds who came to listen.

He founded many pious societies and confraternities, and was particularly devoted to the Stations of the Cross, promoting it frequently. He promoted the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the perpetual adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and devotion to the Immaculate Conception. He wanted to see the Immaculate Conception defined as a dogma of faith by the Holy See. He erected nearly 600 stations throughout Italy, including the one at the Coliseum in Rome.

In November, 1751, while preaching in Bologna, Benedict XIV called him to Rome, as already there were indications of his rapidly approaching end. The strain of his missionary labors and his corporal mortifications had completely exhausted his body. He arrived on the evening of November 26, 1751, at the monastery of St. Bonaventura on the Palatine in Rome, and died on the same night at eleven o'clock at the age of seventy-five. His body is partly incorrupt. Pius VI pronounced his beatification on 19 June, 1796, and Pius IX his canonization on 29 June, 1867. His feast day is celebrated on November 26.

The numerous writings of St. Leonard of Port Maurice include many sermons, letters, ascetic treatises, and books of devotion for the use of the faithful and of priests, especially missionaries. Many of his writings have been translated into many languages and republished: including his "Via Sacrea spianata ed illuminata" (the Way of the Cross simplified and explained), "Il Tesoro Nascosto" (on the Holy Mass); his celebrated "Proponimenti", or resolutions for the attainment of higher Christian perfection. One of his most famous sermons, “The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved” is a powerful reflection on the great numbers of people that fall into Hell and the reason they do so – their own sinfulness. These are some of his words from this eye-openning homily:

God did not create anyone to damn him; but whoever is damned, is damned because he wants to be.

Ungrateful sinner, learn today that if you are damned, it is not God who is to blame, but you and your self-will.

I am speaking to you who live in the habit of mortal sin..., and who are getting closer to hell each day. Stop, and turn around.

I ask You not for wealth, honor or prosperity; I ask you for one thing only, to save my soul.

Weep over past sins, make a good confession, sin no more in the future, and you will all be saved.

 



What is All Souls Day? (The Catholic Meaning)

clock November 2, 2012 10:47 by author John |

All Souls DayAll Souls Day is a Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed

All Souls Day is a commemoration of all the souls who having faith in God departed this life and now suffer in Purgatory. The Church holds that souls who have died and have not been cleansed of the temporal punishment due to them as a result of their sins or who have retained attachment to sin cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven without first being sanctified. These souls can be helped toward the reward of Heaven through the prayer and sacrifices of the Church Militant, that is to say, the faithful who are still living in the world.

All Souls Day is not a Holy Day of Obligation (but You Should Go to Mass Anyway)

In the ordinary form of the Roman Rite, All Souls Day is celebrated on November 2nd. In the extraordinary form, the feast is normally on November 2nd, but if the 2nd falls on a Sunday, the feast is transferred to November 3rd. It is not a holy day of obligation, but you should go to mass anyway, since our prayers, (particularly the mass) are efficacious for the poor souls in Purgatory. Our prayers and sacrifices for them help them reach the reward of Heaven more expediently. Those souls in Purgatory, grateful for our aid will pray for us as well.

Origin of All Souls Day

All Souls Day was originally commemorated during the Easter season. The feast was moved to October by the 10th century and eventually St. Odilo of Cluny ordered that it be commemorated on November 2nd in every Benedictine monastery under his direction. Eventually all of the Benedictines and also the Carthusians followed suit. This was then adopted by the Church as a whole in the 13th century.

Indulgence for Visiting a Cemetery

In her mercy, the Church has established a plenary indulgence (removal of all the temporal punishment due for your sins) for visiting a cemetery between November 1 - November 8 and a partial indulgence the rest of the year. To obtain the plenary indulgence on November 1-November 8, you must meet the following conditions:

1. Visit a cemetery and pray for the departed (even if only mentally)
2. Receive Communion on the day in which the indulgence is to be gained
3. Make a sacramental Confession within a the week of the indulgence
4. Rid yourself of all attachment to sin
5. Pray for the intentions of the Pope (one Our Father and one Hail Mary) on the day in which the indulgence is to be gained

 

Articles you may like

What is Mortal Sin?

What is Venial Sin?

Litany for the Poor Souls in Purgatory

Offering of the Precious Blood (Prayer for the Souls in Purgatory)

Eternal Rest Prayer

 



What is All Saints Day (The Catholic Meaning)

clock November 1, 2012 11:02 by author John |

All Saints DayAll Saints Day is a Holy Day of Obligation

The Feast of All Saints (All Saints Day) is a holy day of obligation for Catholics in most countries. In the United States, the feast is abrogated (moved to Sunday) if it falls on a Saturday or Monday. If it falls on any other day of the week, attendance at mass is required unless a serious reason exists preventing the person from attending (such as illness).

All Saints Day honors all saints known and unknown. It is a feast for remembering all the holy men and women who have attained the reward of Heaven. While the Catholic Church recognizes thousands of saints officially, there are undoubtedly many more saints who are in Heaven, enjoying the beatific vision, but who are not known to be in Heaven. While many saints have their own feast days, the feast of All Saints gives the due honor to all the saints who have done so much good in their lives for Christ and His Church.

Our Connection with the Saints

There is a special connection between the souls in purgatory (the “Church Suffering”), those in heaven (the “Church triumphant”), and the faithful who are still living in the world (the “Church militant”). The mutual prayers of the Church Triumphant, Suffering, and Militant are a channel of many graces for the Church, both living and suffering. We build each other up, praying for one another so that one day we may all enjoy the reward of Heaven.

History of the Feast of All Saints

The Christians in the early years of the Church would celebrate the anniversary of a martyr’s death by observing an all-night vigil, and then celebrating mass over their tomb or the shrine at their place of martyrdom. In the 300s, Christians began to share in the celebration of martyrs from neighboring areas. During the great persecutions, so many martyrs arose that they could not each be given their own feast day. A common feast day was appointed for all martyrs, which was celebrated as early as the year 270. The origin of the festival of All Saints celebrated in the West dates to the year 609 or 610, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs; the feast of the dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated in Rome ever since.

The feast of All Saints, on its current date, began with the dedication by Pope Gregory III (731–741) of an oratory in St. Peter's for the relics "of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world", with the day moved to 1 November and the 13 May feast suppressed. It was made a holy day of obligation throughout the Frankish empire in 835, by a decree of Louis the Pious, issued "at the instance of Pope Gregory IV and with the assent of all the bishops", which confirmed its celebration on 1 November. The octave was added by Pope Sixtus IV (1471–1484).

 

Articles you may like:

Litany of the Saints

What is the Year of Faith?

The Story of St. Faustina, the Apostle of Divine Mercy



The Story of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, the Apostle of Divine Mercy

clock October 4, 2012 22:12 by author John |

St. Maria Faustina Kowalska
St. Maria Faustina Kowalska

October 5th is the feast of St. Faustina, the Apostle of Divine Mercy. Saint Faustina's full professed name was Maria Faustina Kowalska. She was a member of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy and a mystic visionary, bringing the world the devotion of the Divine Mercy.

Maria Faustina was the third of ten children, born Helena Kowalska on August 25, 1905 in Glogowiec, Poland, which at the time was part of the Russian empire. Her family was poor and deeply religious. At the age of 7, she was in adoration before the Holy Eucharist and felt called to the religious life. Her parents however would not permit her to enter the convent when she concluded finishing school. She worked as a housekeeper to support herself and her parents. She approached her parents twice more, asking to join a convent, each time being denied.

At the age of 19, Faustina went to a dance in a park in a nearby town. At the dance, she had a vision of Jesus suffering. She quickly went to a church, where she was told by Jesus to leave for Warsaw and join a convent. She took a small bag with her on the 130 mile trip the next morning, leaving without her parent’s permission and with no connections in Warsaw.

She arrived in Warsaw and entered the first church she saw, (St. James’ church) and attended mass. She asked the priest, Father Dabrowski, for guidance, and he recommended staying with a local lady he trusted until she could enter a convent.

Faustina was denied entry to several convents in Warsaw because she was penniless and uneducated. Several weeks into her search for a convent that would accept her, she came to the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, where the Mother Superior offered to accept her as a lay sister if she could find a way to pay for her habit. As a lay sister she was unlikely to advance to higher levels in the order due to her lack of education. Her duties would primarily be housekeeping chores for the convent.

She worked as a house maid for a year to save up money, posting money at the convent throughout the year to satisfy her end of the agreement with the Mother Superior. On April 30, 1926, she received her habit and took the name of Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament. In April 1928, she took her first vows as a nun, with her parents attending the ceremony.

From February to April 1929, she was sent to the convent in Wilno (Vilnius, in present day Lithuania) as a cook. She would later return there and meet Father Sopocko, who supported her mission. In May 1930, she was transferred to the convent in Plock, Poland for about 2 years. In the autumn of 1930, she contracted Tuberculosis and was sent away to rest at a form owned by the convent. Several months later, she recovered and returned to the convent in Plock.

On the night of Sunday February 22, 1931, while she was in her cell in Plock, Jesus appeared to her as the "King of Divine Mercy" dressed in a white garment, with rays of white and red light streaming from his heart. Jesus told her:

"Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: "Jesus, I trust in You". I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and then throughout the world. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish."

Jesus also told her that he wanted the Divine Mercy image to be

"solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter; that Sunday is to be the Feast of Mercy."

Faustina did not know how to paint, so she asked for help from some of the other nuns in the convent, but they did not assist her. Faustina returned to Warsaw to prepare to take her final vows as a nun in November 1932. On May 1, 1933 she took her final vows in Lagiewniki and became a perpetual sister of Our Lady of Mercy. She then was sent to Vilnius again to work as the gardener. Shortly thereafter, she met Father Michael Sopocko, the confessor to the nuns, who was also a professor at Stefan Batory University.

During her first confession to Fr. Sopocko, she revealed her visions and Jesus’ instructions to her. Fr. Sopocko insisted that she undergo a psychiatric evaluation, which she passed without issue. Sopocko grew to trust in Faustina’s mission, and supported her. It was Fr. Sopocko who encouraged her to keep a diary of her visions and conversations with Jesus.  He also introduced her to the artist Eugene Kazimierowski, who was also a professor at Stefan Batory University. Kazimierowski finished the first rendition of the image we now know as the Divine Mercy Image in June 1934. Several other artists would reproduce the image, the most famous of which was created by Adolf Hyla.

Faustina predicted that her message would be suppressed for some time, stating in her diary on February 8, 1935:

There will come a time when this work, which God is demanding so very much, will be as though utterly undone. And then God will act with great power, which will give evidence of its authenticity. It will be a new splendor for the Church, although it has been dormant in it from long ago.

This did come to pass. The Vatican in 1959 suppressed her messages, but the suppression was lifted in 1978 by Pope John Paul II.

On Good Friday, April 19, 1935, Jesus told her that He wanted the Divine Mercy image publicly honored. On Friday, April 26, 1935, Fr. Sopocko delivered the first sermon on Divine Mercy, with Sr. Faustina in attendance. The first mass in which the Divine Mercy image was displayed was on April 28, 1935, which was the second Sunday after Easter.

On September 13, 1935, Faustina wrote about a vision in which she was given the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. In the vision, she received the purpose of the Chaplet, namely to obtain mercy, to trust in Christ’s mercy, and to show mercy to others. In November of 1935, Faustina created the rules for a new contemplative religious congregation devoted to the Divine Mercy. In December, she visited a house in Vilnius that she had seen in a vision as the first convent for the new congregation.

The next month, Faustina visited Archbishop Jałbrzykowski to discuss the new congregation, but he reminded her of her perpetual vows to the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. In March, 1936, after telling her superiors of her thoughts about leaving her order to found a new order, she was transferred to Waldenow, which is southwest of Warsaw.

The first Divine Mercy pamphlet, which contained the image was created by Fr. Sopocko and given an imprimatur by Archbishop Jałbrzykowski. Copies were sent to Faustina in Warsaw.

Later in 1936, she became ill with what is believed to be tuberculosis and she was moved to the sanatorium in Pradnik, Krakow. She prayed the chaplet frequently for the conversion of sinners and kept her diary for the remaining 2 years of her life. In August of 1937, Fr. Sopocko asked Faustina to write the instructions for the Novena of Divine Mercy, which she received in a vision from Jesus on Good Friday of 1937.

The message of Divine Mercy grew in 1937. That year, the first holy cards with the Divine Mercy image were created, a pamphlet was published entitled Christ, King of Mercy, and on November 10, 1937, Faustina’s Mother Superior showed her the booklets while Faustina lay in her bed, her health deteriorating. The booklets contained the novena, chaplet, and the Litany of Divine Mercy. Meanwhile, her visions became more intense and she could sense the end of her life was near. By June of 1938, she was so ill that she could no longer write.

In September, Fr. Sopocko visited her in the sanatorium, finding her in very poor health, but in ecstasy, praying. In September, she was transferred back home to Krakow as her end was near, where Fr. Sopocko visited her one last time in the convent. On October 5, 1938, Faustina made a final confession and died in Krakow. She was buried on October 7 and now rests at the Basilica of Divine Mercy in Krakow.

The Divine Mercy Devotion

Divine Mercy Image

In 1942 Archbishop Jałbrzykowski was arrested by the Nazis, but Father Sopocko and other professors went into hiding near Vilnius for about two years. Sopocko used his time in hiding to establish a new religious congregation devoted to the Divine Mercy. After the War, Sopocko wrote the constitution for the congregation and assisted in founding the Congregation of the Sisters of the Divine Mercy. By 1951, there were 150 Divine Mercy centers in Poland.

After Faustina died, her sister nuns sent her writings to the Vatican. Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani tried unsuccessfully to persuade Pope Pius XII to condemn the writings. In 1959 he included her writings on a list he submitted to the newly elected Pope John XXIII in 1959. The Pope signed the decree placing her work on the Index of Forbidden Books. The Vatican forbade the Divine Mercy devotion, and reprimanded Sopocko, suppressing all of his work. The Divine Mercy writings remained on the Index until it was abolished on June 14, 1966 by Pope Paul VI.

In 1965 Archbishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow who would later become Pope John Paul II opened a new investigation. In 1967 he submitted some documents about Faustina to the Vatican, requesting the start of the process of her beatification. The case was accepted for review in 1968.

In 1977, just before he was elected as John Paul II, Wojtyla asked the Vatican to reconsider the ban on the Divine Mercy devotion. In April 1978, the Vatican lifted the ban, and identified misunderstandings created by a poor Italian translation of Kowalska's Diary. Afterward, the questionable material could not be correlated with the original because of difficulties stemming from World War II and the subsequent Communist era.

Faustina was beatified on April 18, 1993 and canonized on April 30, 2000 - the first saint in the 21st century. Divine Mercy Sunday is now celebrated on the Sunday after Easter.