Feast Day: October 5th | Patronness of World Youth Day and of Divine Mercy
Last week we got to know Helena Kowalska, seeing how the Lord’s gently loved her into the convent. This week, I would like to pick up her story again, finding in this young woman an example of continuing to discern and follow the Lord. After three weeks in the convent the peace and consolations she had been flooded with fled from her heart. She was frustrated by the busy-ness of that particular convent, and found the chapel where once Jesus seemed so clear and close, to be now filled with other sisters, and a nagging feeling of futility in prayer. Helena thought that maybe she was called elsewhere, and this voice got ahold of her heart. She would try to bring the question to Jesus, but found that only silence and unrest filled her soul. One night, in anguish from the uncertainty, she was in her cell, unable to sleep, and threw herself into fervent, anxious, prayer. All the other sisters seemed so serene, so prayerful, so content, but her heart was breaking: where had Jesus’ love gone?
She was desperate. She planned to talk to the Mother Superior and ask to leave the convent. But she first took her breaking heart to Jesus, and He showed the constancy of His Loe. Again, she saw the face of Christ in His suffering, and her prayer immediately became one of concern for Him: “Jesus who has hurt You so?” The Lord seemed so clear then: “It is you who will cause Me this pain if you leave this convent. It is to this place that I called you and nowhere else; and I have prepared many graces for you.” What a gift to hear His voice! What a relief to have such clarity, at last, in her vocation. What a grace to finally realize that she would have to fight against the false voice that disquieted her soul, but that to flee that temptation was actually to make another act of love for Jesus!
She would bring that prayer to her confessor the following day, and he would reassure her that the Lord’s voice was never the disquieting one nudging us away from love, but only the gentle, never-accusing, one that leads us to purer and greater love. We must all fight to listen only to Jesus’ voice! It takes time, effort, prayer, and trust to know the voice of the Good Shepherd! How easily we are also tempted away from our vocations, often by so many good, but false, reasons: “It would be easier over there.”; “I would do more good if I didn’t have to deal with this hardship or worry.”; “If God called me here certainly I wouldn’t be so annoyed at times … so weak … so unproductive … so humbled.” But the Voice of Truth, the Voice of Christ, is the one that speaks to us in that suffering, not necessarily eradicating it, but also not ignoring it. He knows our lives and vocations are hard sometimes, but that truer and more beautiful love is only found upon His path, sometimes carrying the cross with Him.
Sr. Faustina, as she would be called after completing her novitiate 2 years later (her full name being “Sr. Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament”, named after an early deacon and martyr, St. Faustinus: feast day February 15th), would find tremendous peace and solace from this encounter with Christ in her suffering. Jesus did not promise that she would no longer suffer. In fact, right before receiving her habit, she had the joyous pain of knowing that her life would often require suffering, but the assurance that those would be crosses that always won the fruits of conversion and mercy for sinners all over the world, and that in accepting them she was stepping up to the cross with Jesus Who had already carried it so far for her.
During the following years of her novitiate she found herself at times completely engulfed in spiritual anguish, feeling the darkness of hell catch ahold of her. It was disconcerting, horrible, painful, and went on for months. Again, her soul cried out to Jesus “where are you?!” and He seemed so far from her. She fought the despair that filled her heart but all her recommitments and acts of trust seemed so ineffective against the torment. Little sparks of grace kept her going: during one time of prayer Mary’s voice broke through the shadows “I know how much you suffer, but do not be afraid. I share with you your suffering, and I shall always do so”, and later, when she professed her first vows (her mom and dad now present!) and found in her heart the ineradicable and ardent desire to empty herself for God. And then, so tenderly and lovingly, His response “You are My joy; you are My heart’s delight.” Somehow, at long last, these words finally broke the darkness and her soul was inundated with the light of knowing herself a daughter of her Heavenly, Beloved Father. Again, sufferings would return, but this bedrock assurance would never budge from her heart.
Why such suffering for the good young sister? We cannot know, and she did not know then, but beautifully, the Lord would work through her heart so sorely tested, to bring His message of mercy to the world. In some way she had experienced the darkness that we all plunge into when we sin – though sometimes this abyss is not as clear to us as it was felt by her – but by this hard-won personal experience of God’s Mercy, Sr. Faustina would now be able to spread that message to the world.
– Fr. Dominic Rankin has often been puzzled by the particular set of circumstances he is going through. Why this Lord? Why this frustration, this experience, this conundrum? What good can it possibly be?! Every single time, at some point later on, he has found that that hard-won wisdom and grace was something that someone else needed. Trust God that He will carry you through the fight, and that it is worth it in His larger plan.