She had never heard of the patron saint of mercy, but when she visited her shrine in Lithuania she was miraculously healed.
- Posted on Jan 24, 2020
The pain wasn’t the first thing I thought of as I woke up that morning in my hotel room in Vilnius, Lithuania. But when I sat and swung my legs out of the hotel bed, I was quickly reminded. I winced as my feet hit the floor. A sharp burn shot up through my legs. I had hoped it would have subsided by now. No such luck.
When I’d agreed to tag along with my sister-in-law’s choral group on an Eastern European tour, I hadn’t expected to be in pain the whole time.
It was a nine-day trip with performances in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. I’d never been there before. I bought a stack of travel guides and mapped out everything I wanted to see. I was so excited.
But a few days before we left, my feet started to hurt. The pain quickly radiated up my legs and stayed, hot and throbbing. It could be plantar fasciitis, my doctor said and suggested that I get plenty of rest, stretching and icing my feet if the pain got too bad. As I pictured the winding cobbled streets I’d seen in my guidebooks, I winced just thinking about them.
I’d listened to the doctor’s advice, but nothing worked. Now, two days into the trip, the pain was worse than ever. I hobbled around the hotel room, getting ready. I didn’t think a day of trekking around the city was in the cards for me, but I’d try to rally. We had just arrived in Vilnius the night before, and I hadn’t yet had a chance to explore. I was having a coffee downstairs when I spotted Mary. She took a seat across from me. Like me, Mary wasn’t a member of the chorus, so we spent a lot of the trip together while the group rehearsed. When she asked if I wanted to go on an adventure with her, I was game.
Mary explained that just outside of the city was the onetime home of Sister Faustina, a famous Polish nun. This nun held a dear place in Mary’s mother’s heart. “I can’t be this close to her house and not go!” said Mary. “I’d love to get my mom a little something—a book or a souvenir.”
I’m Catholic, but I’d never heard of this Sister Faustina before. In any case, a taxi ride out to the countryside sounded a lot nicer than wandering around on my aching feet.
The drive wasn’t long. We’d barely left the narrow city streets when we were surrounded by trees and rolling hills. The house was a quaint, single-story structure made of dark wood. It was simple but elegant, with beautiful eaves that arched overhead as we entered.
I was struck by a sense of peace as soon as we went inside. The interior was minimalistic as well—plain white walls and bare wood floors. A few photos and important relics hung on the walls. The atmosphere was heavy with the importance of most sacred spaces. Mary and I browsed the collection, scanning the informational plaques.
I learned that Sister Faustina had been born in Poland in 1905. As a teenager, she reported having visions of Jesus and conversations with him. At age 22, she took her vows. In 1933, she transferred to this convent in Lithuania. This house hadn’t been a convent for years. Now it was a memorial to her life and works.
One room was a shrine to Sister Faustina. As soon as I stepped into it, I was flooded with a tingling warmth. It stopped me in my tracks. It was as if a presence had entered my body. I’d never felt anything like it.
“Are you all right?” Mary asked.
“Yeah,” I said, my voice shaking slightly. “I just...felt something...”
As the bizarre warmth faded, I felt different. My heart leaped. My pain wasn’t as bad! It was the most relief I’d felt in days. I toured the rest of the house warily, half expecting it to return with a vengeance...but it didn’t. I felt great as Mary purchased a biography about Sister Faustina from the little gift shop and we returned to the hotel.
The pain didn’t disappear immediately. It gradually faded over several days. Then it was gone. I couldn’t believe it; I couldn’t explain it. Was I going crazy? I just kept returning to that moment at Sister Faustina’s house. It couldn’t have been something I just imagined.
When I confided in Mary, she was slack-jawed. “Amy,” she said, “you know, Sister Faustina was a saint—the patron saint of mercy. I’ve been reading the book I got for Mom, and one of the miracles ascribed to Sister Faustina was healing a woman with leg pain...”
I researched it myself. In 1981, an American named Maureen Digan was suffering from lymphedema. It became so severe, she had to have her right leg amputated. She heard about Sister Faustina and traveled to her tomb in Poland. There she prayed for a cure...and the pain and swelling in her left leg went away.
Her doctors couldn’t explain what happened. Just as I can’t exactly explain what I felt during my visit to Sister Faustina’s home. All I know is, in the four years since, the pain has never returned. No one can tell me why. But I believe that on my visit there the patron saint of mercy took mercy on me.
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