About a year ago, during first lockdown, I thought that I would use the time to finally get through Saint Maria Faustyna Kowalska’s famous Diary account of her life in Religion and her visions of Christ that have come to be described as the Divine Mercy. One of Sister’s responsibilities was to provide a graphic representation of the vision for the veneration of the faithful. The picture above is the first produced, according to Sister’s own directions. Even then, she was not entirely satisfied with the result, for no artistic work could encompass the beauty of the Holy One that she had seen. Other images we are more familiar with have replaced the original, but Eugeniusz Kazimirowski’s was the first, being exhibited at the Easter celebrations in Wilno in 1934, when Mass was celebrated by Sister Faustyna’s great support, Father Michael Sopoćko.
The Diary represents Sister’s final years, when she was remembering the visions and putting them to paper for the rest of us, according to the request of Christ Himself, Who had with great affection appointed her as the Secretary of His Divine Mercy. The contents seem to be repetitive, because the themes of redemptive suffering, utter humility before God and trust in the Goodness of God recur several times, amid descriptions of life in the Mercy convents between which Sister moved. Reading this six-book Diary required some dedication, and I appreciated what I call Father Sopoćko’s genius: having Sister underline the precise words of Christ in the Diary; this has the effect of pulling the reader through what is, in the end, a 700-page dialogue between Christ and Sister Faustyna, because you are constantly waiting to see what Christ will say next. The original, underlined words are reproduced in a bold text in the standard versions of the Diary. Sister’s spiritual formation was mostly Jesuit, for that Order provided the Sisters with pastoral care, at least in those days, and there is much reference to Saint Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises.
It took weeks, yes, but I think the Diary is a good meditative read for all Catholics, and it needn’t be read from cover to cover, as I have done. It is all quite solid and the picture of Christ that emerges is not the kindly, doe-eyed One of recent decades, but the fiery One of the Gospels.