Faustina Kowalska was a nun in Poland during the first third of the 20th century. She is remembered for her visions of Jesus as the King of Divine Mercy, and I knew nothing about her until I did a google search this morning for “happy saints.” As you can see from the photograph, St. Faustina carried a countenance of joy. This might be surprising to many who grew up with stern nuns in parochial school; even more so when one comes to learn that she suffered from Tuberculosis for the final eight years of her short life (she died at 33).
St. Faustina is remembered as the Patron Saint of Mercy, which is the basis of the little cartoon from happysaints.com. As you can see, the button made in remembrance of her includes one of the Beatitudes from Matthew’s Gospel, which is the version appointed in the old Book of Common Prayer lectionary for All Saints’ Day.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”
“Blessed” sounds nice and religious, but it really isn’t what Matthew tells us that Jesus said during his Sermon on the Mount. The Greek word “makarios” is better translated as “happy.” Being a saint of God means something more than dour blessedness, it means a life of joy, living fully into the calling of God that is unique to each and every one of us. This is what makes the Beatitudes so powerful. Jesus takes circumstances which we would not normally associate with joy, and turns them upside down. When God is there, being poor in spirit is a reason to rejoice. With God’s comfort, even mourning is an opportunity for joy. When we reach out in mercy, we find the joy of reciprocity.
Being a saint means following God’s will for your life, which should, by its very nature, be an opportunity for joy. Alternatively, if you aren’t finding joy in the work you are doing to build of the Church and God’s Kingdom, then you haven’t found God’s will for you yet. Spend some time searching out your spiritual gifts. Listen for God’s small, still voice to guide you. Be attuned to your emotions. It really is God’s will that you should find happiness, even in hardship: happiness in service to God and neighbor. That, it seems to me, is what sainthood is all about.