Thursday, 3 December 2015

Reminiscences of the life of St. Faustina Kowalska

We were together in the noviciate between 1926 and 1928. Sister Faustina stood out for her inner recollection, the extent of the mortifications she practised and for her spirit of prayer. The Mistress of Novices, Mother Maria Josephine, said of her, after she had taken her vows and left the noviciate, that :”One of the sisters, who has now left the noviciate, is so deeply united with the Lord Jesus, that, were she to tell me that she spoke with the Lord personally, I would instantly believe her.” In answer, all the sisters, as with one voice, said the name of Sister Faustina. She did not contradict them.

On leaving the noviciate, Sister Faustina worked as a cook in the Sisters’ kitchen, where I, still a novice, was a kitchen assistant. She was always joyful, kind and very encouraging, always reliable. Towards the winter (of that year), she was moved to Wilno (1) (now Vilnius, Lithuania), where she also worked as a cook. Mother Irene, the Wilno Superior, wrote to Mother Josephine:” Sister Faustina works in our kitchens. Her behaviour builds us up and is an encouragement to us.” Mother Josephine read this to us, and added: “Let that also be said of all of you.” I was still a novice and envied her that (good opinion).

In 1933, Sister Faustina came to Wilno (where I then was) for a second time, following her final vows. I went to meet her at the station and took her back to the convent. From that time onwards, we became very friendly. She worked in the kitchen for a short time only, as Mother Superior assigned her to work in the garden, in place of another sister. She worked quietly and fruitfully, despite the fact that she often had to rest in bed and that she also had little experience of gardening.
When I once visited her when she was ill in bed, I said to her: “I admire the fact that you can lie here so peacefully, when you know that there is so much work to be done in the garden. I couldn’t do that.”, to which she replied sweetly, saying: ”Sister, the Lord Jesus wishes me to rest and everything will be taken (good) care of in the garden.”

She asked me to say the novena to the Holy Spirit with her for a certain intention. I said that I would, on condition that she told me the intention, so she said that it was that the Lord Jesus should tell her if Father Sopocko was to be her spiritual director. I said:” You have Father Andrasz in Jozefow, Sister, would you like to have another spiritual director here?” “Yes”, she replied,: ”The Lord Jesus wishes me to have another Spiritual director here”.

Father Sopocko frequently questioned me about Sr.Faustina’s progress and behaviour. I would answer him without questioning his reasons for asking.
Archbishop Jalbrzykowski, our spiritual director, once said to me:”Fr.Sopocko is a very holy priest. You should take full advantage of the fact that he has been assigned to you.” It was only much later, that it occurred to me that he had been assigned to us on account of Sr.Faustina.

In the autumn of 1933, I went to Warsaw for the third probation, and remained in Jozefow after my final profession. Sister Faustina came here from Wilno in 1936.(2) I once again went to meet her at the station. Our time in Wilno meant that we had much in common, and re-ignited our friendship.

 Sister Faustina was sent to help in the garden.  She was very prudent in co-operating between those responsible for the kitchen and the garden, attempting to satisfy the demands of all the Sisters, giving them what they asked for, never refusing any Sister, as, having been a cook, she knew what was needed for the kitchen. This was not so easy, as the Sister responsible for the garden was very sparing with the vegetables which she supplied to the kitchen. There was, however, no ill-feeling between the cooks and the sister responsible for the garden, during the whole time that Sister Faustina supplied vegetables for the kitchen. There had been misunderstandings with others of the Sisters, as great tact was required to settle such matters amicably, given the character and personalities of the sisters involved. Sister Faustina must have done everything with the help of the Lord Jesus. I once asked her: “Is it good to be working in the garden, Sister?”, to which she answered:”Sister, I  do the Will of God, so it is very good. There will always be adversity ,but, we must remember that it is given by God.” Sister Faustina’s attitude to work, to children, to the Sisters, and to her duties as a religious, was always one that built up the morale of others around her.

In March 1938,Sister Faustina, then very weak, lay in isolation .  She had been given peas to shell.  They lay, untouched, for several weeks, and Sister Faustina made a beautiful decoration that was to form part of the decoration for the three altars. The unshelled peas were the subject of some annoyance and unfavourable comments in the house, directed against Sister Faustina.  When visiting her, I quite sincerely asked her why she was making a decoration, rather than shelling the peas, in accordance with her duty of obedience, to which she quietly answered; “I don’t think that the Lord Jesus is demanding it of me, but I want so much to complete the decoration, as it is for the Lord Jesus for the altar, and I get so tired, shelling peas!” “Does making the decoration not tire you ?”, I then asked, to which she answered:”No, it doesn’t”.  I then went to the Mother Superiorasking that she should be relieved of the task, repeating the words that I had just heard from Sr. Faustina:”I get so tired, shelling the peas.”

In 1937-1938. Sr. Faustina stayed mostly in the ‘Antoninek’, the small outbuilding  by the gate on the first floor, together with Sr. Gertruda. They observed the silence well, and when Sr. Faustina sometimes talked unnecessarily, she would accuse herself of this transgression immediately.

She was once ill and lay in bed for three days, without receiving the Lord Jesus in Holy Communion.  I visited her on the third day and said: ”Sister,you’re lying here for three days without receiving the Lord Jesus.  How can you stand it?”, to which she replied: ”The Superiors know that I’m lying here.” It seemed as if she felt forgotten and did not complain, even though it must have cost her hurt. A few of the Sisters said that she prayed too long in the chapel, that she was being spoilt, that she had arranged to live like a Duchess and that they could not understand such perfection. This gossip did reach her ears in a roundabout way, but human considerations interested her little, it was very evident that she was only interested in pleasing the Lord Jesus. One Sister in particular was against her, disbelieving that she was really ill. And Sr. Faustina’s spirituality irritated her.

Sr. Felicja Zakowiecka ZMBM

 (1) After her first profession, Sister Faustina went first to Warsaw, and then, in 1929, to Wilno.

(2) Sister Faustina left Wilno for Warsaw on 21 March 1930, later to Walendow, then to Derdy, and came to Cracow on 12 May 1936.

Taken from ‘Oredzie Milosierdzia’ 71 & 72

Original Article - Divine Mercy Group - Edinburgh