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María Faustina Kowalska.5,.English.16.1,22

4. “From today on you shall be called Sister Maria Faustyna”

From today on you shall not be called by your baptismal name, you shall be called Sister Maria Faustyna, Helen heard these words during the ceremony for the taking of the veil on 30 April 1926. During the ceremony she fainted twice. Sister Klemensa Buczek, who helped her take off her white dress and veil and put on the habit, thought it must have been due to the emotions associated with abandoning the world. Whereas, it turned out, God let her know how much she would suffer. She saw clearly what she was taking upon herself. The suffering lasted a minute and then God again filled her soul with great comfort.

After less than two months of Sister Faustina’s novitiate there was a change of novice mistress (20 June 1926). Mother Małgorzata Gimbutt was replaced by Mother Józefa Brzoza, who had been trained for the office in Laval (France), which served the Foundress, Mother Teresa Ewa Countess Potocka née Sułkowska, as the spiritual model for the Congregation’s religious life and apostolic work in Poland. The Novice Mistress’ thorough training and personal experience gave her the confidence to lead the novices into the spiritual life, teaching them to know God more profoundly, to pray and practise the ascetic life, so that their piety should not be emotional and “soft” but thorough, and bring them to an ever deeper union with God through obedience, humility, a self-sacrificing love of their neighbours and a zeal for the salvation of the souls entrusted to the Congregation’s apostolic care. Sister Faustina followed the novice mistress’ instructions attentively and fulfilled all the duties allotted her with exactitude. We were together in the novitiate for a year, recalled Sister Krescencja Bogdanik, who was a year ahead of her in her vocation. I saw how enthusiastically Sister Faustina carried out all her duties. As I was a senior novice I had to act as her guide (“angel”). I was to bring her into the life of the community, and admired her for her quick learning. You didn’t have to tell her twice, as often happens with other novices. And you could always observe a childlike joy on her face. At this time Sister Faustina often spoke of God’s mercy, Sister Szymona Nalewajk recollects, while I would challenge her and stress His justice. But her arguments always won. Her fellow nuns called her “the lawyer” because she could direct the discussion to the subject of God’s truths. They liked her and gathered around her during recreation, as her thoughts and words were focused on God and she was always cheerful.

That joy faded somewhat towards the end of her first year in the novitiate when she started to go through a period of extremely painful spiritual experiences known as the passive nights. Toward the end of the first year of my novitiate, she recorded in her diary, darkness began to cast its shadow over my soul. I felt no consolation in prayer; I had to make a great effort to meditate; fear began to sweep over me. Going deeper into myself, I could find nothing but great misery. I could also clearly see the great holiness of God. I did not dare to raise my eyes to Him, but cast myself into the dust under His feet and begged for mercy. … I did not understand what I was reading; I could not meditate; it seemed to me that my prayer was displeasing to God. It seemed to me that by receiving the Holy Sacraments I was offending God even more. But despite this, my confessor did not let me omit one single Holy Communion. God was working very strangely in my soul. I did not understand anything at all of what my confessor was telling me. The simple truths of the faith became incomprehensible to me. My soul was in anguish, unable to find comfort anywhere. At a certain point, there came to me the very powerful impression that I am rejected by God. This terrible thought pierced my soul right through; in the midst of the suffering my soul began to experience the agony of death. I wanted to die but could not (Diary 23).

Sister Faustina was helped through these extremely painful experiences by her novice mistress, who correctly diagnosed her spiritual condition (which was not easy) and applied the right remedy. She instructed Sister Faustina to say the exclamatory prayers instead of long prayers which required a considerable amount of concentration, and thereby accept the will of God. She told her that God was still her Father although he was testing her, and that these trials were to prepare her soul for a fuller union with Him.

In these dark nights of the soul there were moments of light and joy, when God allowed her to feel His love or when Our Lady came to her aid. One such moment was the ceremony for her first vows, which was celebrated on 30 April 1928 by Bishop Stanisław Rospond. Sister Faustina’s parents came to the Łagiewniki convent. It was the first time she saw them since several years. They found her full of joy and happiness. See, Father, she said to her father, who had been so staunchly against her entry into the convent. The One to whom I have made my vows is my husband and therefore your son-in-law. This argument and their child’s happiness persuaded her parents and from then on they had no further objections to her life in the convent.

After taking her first vows Sister Faustina stayed for a few months in Kraków. In October 1928 the Congregation held its General Chapter, and the office of Mother General was entrusted to Mother Michaela Olga Moraczewska who was educated (a graduate of a music conservatory) and spoke several languages. She was magnanimous and devoted her entire life to the saving of souls. For 18 years she directed the spiritual and apostolic life of the entire Congregation which, following Sister Faustina’s visions, she entrusted to the care of Mary, Mother of Mercy, the Congregation’s heavenly Superior General. Sister Faustina put an immense amount of confidence in Mother Michaela, who helped her tremendously in the accomplishment of her vocation and was the woman of providence for the recognition of the mission of prophecy.

In the first years of her juniorate, that is after making her first religious profession, Sister Faustina worked in many of the Congregation’s houses. Firstly in Warsaw in the Żytnia, in 1929 she went to Wilno to replace Sister Petronela Basiura, who was leaving for her third probation; then she returned to Warsaw and the house in the Żytnia, only to be sent off to a new house on the Hetmańska in the Grochów district. In the same year she went to Kiekrz near Poznań, to take over in the kitchen for Sister Modesta Rzeczkowska, who was ill. In December of the same year she came back to the house in the Żytnia, but not for long. Things turned out in such a way, Mother General Michaela Moraczewska explained Sister Faustina’s frequent moves, that she had to be transferred fairly often to new places, so that she worked in almost all of the Congregation’s houses. After a brief stay in Warsaw in the Żytnia and at Grochów, she was again sent off to Płock, and from there for a short time to Biała, an agricultural colony of the Płock house. Her main occupation at Płock, until her third probation, was serving customers in the baker’s shop.


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