St. Faustina was born August 25, 1905 in Glogowiec, Poland. Her parents, Stanislaus and Marianne Kowalska, named her Helena. Helena was the third born of 10 children. Once World War I began, all of Poland suffered destruction, great famine and poverty. The Kowalska family was almost destitute. They had few of the necessities of life, but their trust in God gave them peace of heart and happiness.
Helena was taught to say short prayers very early in her life and as she grew older she prayed with the entire family. She was drawn to commune with Heaven at a very young age. An indication of this was a dream that she had when she was only 5 years old. Her mother recalled that at that time Helena told the family, "I was walking hand in hand with the Mother of God in a beautiful garden." Many times she would awaken during the night and sit up in bed and pray. She told her mother, "My guardian angel must be waking me to pray."
Helena was a loving and obedient daughter who was always joyful and full of song. She loved helping her mother around the house and her father on the farm. She loved to read the bible and read about the saints. Being under Russian rule Polish children were not allowed to attend school, so her father taught the children how to read and write.
Helena continued to feel a special calling to the religious life and when she was 17 she asked her parents permission to enter the convent. They refused because they didn't want to lose her. She was very sad and disappointed, but because she was an obedient daughter she did as she was told. She tried to put aside the calling she felt.
One night she went to a dance with her sister, and while on the dance floor she suddenly saw Jesus standing next to her. He was covered with wounds and in great pain. He said to her "How long shall I put up with you and how long will you keep putting Me off?" (Diary, 9). Then just as suddenly He was gone. She immediately left the dance and went to the Cathedral of St. Stanislaus Kostka. There in front of the Blessed Sacrament she fell to her knees praying. She begged God to tell her His will and what she should do. At once she heard the voice of Jesus telling her, "Go immediately to Warsaw; you will enter a convent there." (Diary,10)
The very next morning she said good-bye to her family, packed a small bag, gave away what few possessions she owned, and took the train to Warsaw praying to Our Blessed Mother for guidance. Arriving at Warsaw she told a priest of her desire to join the religious life. He helped her find a place to live and temporary employment. During that time she spent months going from convent to convent, but she was refused because of her lack of education and skills.
One day she went to the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. The Mother Superior told her to go to the chapel and ask the Lord in prayer if she should be accepted. She did so and heard immediately a voice say, "I do accept you; you are in My Heart." With great joy she ran back to Mother Superior and told her. The Mother Superior said, "If the Lord has accepted you, then I also will accept you." The convent dowry would be waived, but Helena worked for nearly a year saving every penny for her wardrobe at the convent, and on August 1, 1925, at the age of 20, she entered the convent. The following year she was given the name Sister Maria Faustina. The name "Faustina" means "the fortunate, happy, or blessed one."
Throughout the years St. Faustina had many visions and conversations with Jesus and Our Blessed Mother. Then in February of 1931, she received the first of many revelations pertaining to her mission in life, which was to spread the message of Divine Mercy. Jesus appeared to St. Faustina clad in a white garment. One hand was raised up as in blessing and the other was touching His heart. From His heart there were two large rays - one red and the other pale. Jesus said to 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 entire world. I promise that the soul that will venerate this Image will not perish. I also promise victory over its enemies already here on earth, especially at the hour of death. I Myself will defend it as My own glory." (Diary, 47). When He finished speaking He disappeared into the darkness.
When St. Faustina told her spiritual confessor, Fr. Michael Sopocko, about her visits with Jesus he was doubtful, but he was curious to see what the Image would look like. He took St. Faustina to an artist. After many visits to the artist, St. Faustina was disappointed and cried to Jesus that the artist was not capturing His true beauty. Jesus said to her, "Not in the beauty of the color, nor of the brush lies the greatness of this Image, but in My grace." (Diary, 313)
At the request of Fr. Sopocko, St. Faustina asked Jesus about the meaning of the two rays. Jesus told her, "The two rays denote Blood and Water. The pale ray stands for the Water, which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood, which is the life of souls... These two rays issued forth from the very depths of My tender Mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross." (Diary, 299)
During her 13 years as a nun St. Faustina suffered from tuberculosis and endured innumerable sufferings, which she accepted as sacrifice for sinners. There were times when she suffered excruciating stomach pains in reparation for the sin of abortion. Throughout those 13 years she continued to work, and to pray, and to record in her diary all the things Jesus told her, right up until the time of her death. St. Faustina died in a convent in Krakow, Poland on October 5, 1938. She was 33 years old. She is buried in the convent chapel beneath the image of the Divine Mercy.
St. Faustina was beatified on April 18, 1993. On April 30, 2000 she was canonized a saint by Pope John Paul II. Both of these dates fell on the Feast of Divine Mercy. October 5th is her Feast Day. Jesus told St. Faustina, "Do whatever is within your power to spread devotion to My mercy." (Diary, 1074), and she did. Jesus calls each of us to do the same - to spread the message of His Divine Mercy in all that we do, in what we say, and in prayer.