Photo: Felix Carroll
The following is excerpted from Purest of All Lilies: The Virgin Mary in the Spirituality of St. Faustina (Marian Press), the new book by Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC.
That St. Faustina understood the Virgin Mary to have a special relationship to The Divine Mercy is given in the very name of her religious community: The Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. Interestingly, of all the places that The Divine Mercy image could have been displayed for the first time, it was St. Faustina who asked Fr. Sopocko [her confessor] that the image be first displayed at the Ostra Brama chapel in Vilnius, Lithuania (see Diary, 89).
Furthermore, in her desire to spread the message and devotion to The Divine Mercy, St. Faustina understood that being united with the Virgin Mary was a beneficial way of exalting and making the mercy of God known: "To give worthy praise to the Lord's mercy, we unite ourselves with Your Immaculate Mother, for then our hymn will be more pleasing to You, because she is chosen from among men and angels" (Diary, 1746) Saint Faustina offers a profound reason for why Mary is associated with The Divine Mercy, based on the notion of mercy present in Mary's Magnificat (see Lk. 1: 50, 54). Simply put, Mary, due to her Immaculate Conception and her giving birth to Mercy Incarnate, "is first to praise the omnipotence of Your mercy."
On the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy in 1935, Mary revealed to St. Faustina the link between her spiritual motherhood and The Divine Mercy: "I am Mother to you all, thanks to the unfathomable mercy of God." Saint Faustina, indeed, understood Mary to be the "Mother of Mercy" and, thus, greatly associated in both the message and devotion to Jesus, The Divine Mercy.
Model of Interior Life
Trust is a virtue that gives one the ability to live a deeply interior life, not being swayed by the many external happenings in life, but seeing all things as the unveiling of Divine Mercy. This is what trust meant to St. Faustina, and within this understanding of trust, she looked to Mary as both a model and a teacher in living an interior life of trust.
The 1909 Constitutions of St. Faustina's religious community [the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy] even noted that the Sisters are to live out their vocation by "heartfelt reflection on the virtues and sentiments of their Mother and Patroness, the merciful Mother of God."
Saint Faustina understood the Virgin Mary, at the supreme moment of human history — that is, the Incarnation — to be a lesson in trusting God's merciful plan of salvation: "She [Mary] believes the words of God's messenger and is confirmed in trust" (Diary, 1746). In this, Mary serves as a model and teacher of the interior life and of that wondrous virtue called trust. In fact, St. Faustina often referred to Mary as a model: "You are the model of my life" (874) and "I model my life on you" (1232).
Interestingly, the Mother of God herself conveyed to St. Faustina that she would gain for Faustina a deep interior life:
My daughter, I shall obtain for you the grace of interior life which will be such that, without ever leaving that interior life, you will be able to carry out all external duties with even greater care (785).
The fact that Mary helped St. Faustina to grow in trust through a deep interior life is a constant theme in her Diary. This modeling of her life on the Virgin Mary's trust also involved the element of trusting in the midst of sorrow, as is seen when, on the Feast of the Presentation in 1937, St. Faustina related how she wanted to be like Mary in her suffering the sword of sorrow, crying out: "Sweetest Mother, continue to teach me about the interior life. May the sword of suffering never break me" (131).
In her desire to surrender and become childlike in response to the mercy of God, St. Faustina often portrayed herself as a child of Mary. At times, Mary will call her daughter and child, and St. Faustina often referred to herself in filial terms when presenting her relationship with Mary. Aware of her own struggles in the spiritual life, St. Faustina commented in endearing terms, "Because I am so weak and inexperienced, I nestle like a little child close to her [Mary's] heart" (1097).
The filial relationship, which Faustina had with Mary, also included a Christocentric dimension. This is easily seen when one notes that on many of the occasions when St. Faustina saw the Virgin Mary, Mary held the Christ Child in her arms. On one occasion, when St. Faustina seems to have been participating in a novena to Our Lady, she recounts how Mary requested of her a childlike spirit:
On the evening of the last day [November 15] of the novena at Ostra Brama, after the singing of the litany, one of the priests exposed the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance. When he placed it on the altar, I immediately saw the Infant Jesus, stretching out His little arms, first of all toward His Mother, who at that time had taken on a living appearance. When the Mother of God was speaking to me, Jesus stretched out His tiny hands toward
the congregation. The Blessed Mother was telling me to accept all that God asked of me like a little child, without questioning; otherwise it would not be pleasing to God. At that moment, the Infant Jesus vanished, and the Mother of God was again lifeless, and Her picture was the same as it had been before (Diary, 529)
Father Donald Calloway is vocation director for the Marians of the Immaculate Conception in the United States. To order a copy of Purest of All Lilies: The Virgin Mary in the Spirituality of St. Faustina (Marian Press), please visit our online gift shop.