Examining the life of St. Faustina, we can see that God can speak to us at all times and places and in any circumstance. Saint Faustina was born Helena Kowalska in 1905 in Glogowiec, Poland. After requesting permission from her parents at age 18 to enter the convent and being refused, St. Faustina says in her Diary, Divine Mercy in my Soul, that, “I turned myself over to the vain things of life, paying no attention to the call of grace.” Most of us can relate to becoming complacent as she did to spiritual things and being distracted by the things of the world at one time or another. It is very difficult to avoid being drawn into worldly occupations and neglecting our spiritual lives, especially when living amidst the noise and confusion of our times.
However, Jesus does not give up on us, and He did not give up on Faustina. He spoke to her, of all places, at a dance she attended. It was here that the Lord reawakened her call to religious life. While she and her sister were enjoying themselves there, she suddenly saw Jesus and heard him say to her, “How long shall I put up with you and how long will you put me off?” He was calling her to abandon the world for a deeper union with Him as a religious sister.
Like Peter and Andrew leaving their nets at the call of Jesus, Faustina slipped quietly away from the dance and went to the Cathedral of Saint Stanislaus Kostka, where she fell prostrate and fervently prayed to know what to do next. What love and trust she showed with her prompt and unwavering obedience to the voice of Jesus! Without hesitating, she believed and obeyed. Her immediate compliance is an example to us of listening and quickly responding when we become aware that God is asking something of us. It was a virtue that Faustina practiced regularly and perfected, which lead to her holiness and eventual sainthood.
It is important to note that Faustina’s obedience and attentiveness was always rewarded with guidance from the Lord, and He responded to her love with many comforting graces. After begging for direction in the Cathedral, she heard these words, “Go at once Warsaw; you will enter a convent there,” at which she went home to prepare to leave. Because of her trust and dependence, Jesus showered her with graces and spiritual favors and guided her actions and decisions throughout her life.
Like all of the saints, Faustina was holy but she was also human. The pages of her Diary are brimming with inspiring examples of her submission and obedience to all that Jesus asked of her, but she also struggled with very real weaknesses such as fear. On one instance, Jesus asked her to suffer in atonement for sins committed in her religious house. When he revealed to her the immensity of the suffering she would undergo, she became frightened and hesitated. Jesus allowed her to know that the decision to accept the suffering rested entirely with her. She wrestled with the decision and experienced real fear and apprehension. Her willingness to follow God’s will won out, however, and she accepted the sacrifice, from which she said there was as much suffering as she could bear.Not only did St. Faustina demonstrate consistent obedience to Jesus and her superiors, she also showed tremendous deference and humility to the sisters around her. Similarly to St. Therese of Lisieux, she was particularly tried in patience and virtue by one certain sister. One day she ordered Faustina to stand for a half hour and wait for the Mother Superior and to accuse herself of faults she did not commit. The humble and submissive Faustina complied, as humiliating as the experience was, and seemed to bear no ill will toward the sister.
Although we likely won’t be called to serve in the same way Faustina was, and we probably won’t receive visions or audible locutions, the Lord is constantly speaking to us in many ways. It is up to us to be attentive and in tune with the Holy Spirit and to be open and obedient to his voice. We can begin to do this by imitating St. Faustina’s method of faithfully listening to the voice of God. She became disposed and receptive to Jesus’ messages primarily through turning to Him in frequent and persistent prayer. For lay people with jobs and other occupations, scheduling daily prayer time and maintaining a reflective spirit throughout the day are important for hearing what the Lord wants to tell us. We certainly can not commit to the hours of prayer that she, as a religious, did; but even as secular people we can discern God’s voice and his will if we are consistent and faithful to making time for prayer.
We can also limit our focus on distractions which prevent us from being aware of the promptings of the Holy Spirit and responding to them. As a religious, St. Faustina lived within the walls of an enclosed convent and observed periods of silence. In the secular world, we must be deliberate about trying to reduce or eliminate noise and distractions to create a time and place for prayer.
To be ready to respond to God requires that we be disposed to say yes to Him; that our hands and hearts are open and willing to abandon our plans and projects to take up His. The season of Lent, which we are in now, is an excellent time to detach from our wills and seek God’s will instead. The Lenten disciplines of fasting and penance purify us and help to make us more receptive to the Holy Spirit. Our relationship with Jesus is deepened so we can more genuinely know Him.
St. Faustina left the world and entered a convent at the beckoning of Jesus. At the sound of His voice, she dropped the nets of worldly pursuits so she could more clearly hear the voice of God and more closely and perfectly follow his Will. What are some things we hold on to that prevent us from abandoning our own nets and following Him more closely?