St. Faustina and Important Facts
After Saint Faustina’s final vows she was sent to the convent in Vilnius. She said, because of my frequent changes (to many different convents), I did not have a permanent spiritual director and I had great difficulty in speaking of these things, (the messages received from God). So I prayed ardently that the Lord would give me a spiritual director. My prayer was answered only after I went to Vilnius. The priest was Father Michael Sopocko. God had allowed me to see him in a vision even before I went to Vilnius. (Diary 34)
It was in the city of Vilnius, today called “The City of Divine Mercy” that Saint Faustina and her spiritual director, Blessed Fr. Michael Sopocko, revealed the message of Divine Mercy in all its facets to the world for the first time. (Vilnius in Saint Faustina’s time was politically part of Poland, but today it is the capital of Lithuania).
It was the place where St. Faustina spent the longest period of her convent life and it was in this Vilnius convent at the insistence of her spiritual director Fr. Michael Sopocko, that she wrote the now famous Diary, to record all that Jesus said to her.
It was here in this city that the first Image of Jesus the Divine Mercy was painted, and it was in this convent in Vilnius where she received the powerful prayer “The Chaplet of Divine Mercy”, today recited all over the world.
It was also in Vilnius that “The Sisters of Merciful Jesus”, were founded, the religious congregation Our Lord asked her to found, to give their lives working and praying for those who needed His mercy most in the world. It was in Vilnius that the “Feast of Mercy” was celebrated for the very first time, at the shrine to Our Lady of Mercy in 1935.
It was here also that the first books and leaflets on the message of Divine Mercy were printed by Blessed Sopocko. It has today become known as the most important place in the history of the Divine Mercy message and devotion. This is why Vilnius has become known as the “City of Divine Mercy.” It was where all of our Lord’s demands of St. Faustina in His message of Divine Mercy were finally realised.
It was in her convent room in Vilnius that an angel appeared to her. “I saw an Angel, the executor of divine wrath. He was clothed in a dazzling robe, his face gloriously bright, a cloud beneath his feet. From the cloud, bolts of thunder and flashes of lightning were springing into his hands, and from his hands they were going forth, and about to strike the earth. When I saw this sign of divine wrath which was about to strike the earth, and in particular a certain place, I began to implore the Angel to hold off, and let the world do penance. But my plea was a mere nothing in the face of the divine anger. Just then I saw the Most Holy Trinity. The greatness of its majesty pierced me deeply, and I did not dare to repeat my entreaties.
At that very moment I felt in my soul the power of Jesus’ grace, which dwells in my soul. When I became conscious of this grace, I was instantly snatched up before the Throne of God. Oh, how great is our Lord and God and how incomprehensible His holiness! I will make no attempt to describe this greatness, because before long we shall all see Him as He is. I found myself pleading with God for the world with words heard interiorly. As I was praying in this manner, I saw the Angel’s helplessness: he could not carry out the just punishment which was rightly due for sins. Never before had I prayed with such inner power as I did then. The words with which I entreated God are these”:
Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world; for the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us, and on the whole world. The next morning, when I entered the chapel, I heard these words again: Jesus said: “Every time you enter the chapel, immediately recite the prayer which I taught you yesterday. When I said the prayer, I heard these words in my soul: “This prayer will serve to appease My wrath, you will recite it for nine days, on the beads of the rosary, in the following manner”
First of all, you will say one OUR FATHER then one HAIL MARY and then the I BELIEVE IN GOD. On the OUR FATHER beads you will say the following words: “Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.” On the HAIL MARY beads you will say the following words: “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
In conclusion, you will recite these words three times: “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
Saint Faustina wrote about the Vilnius house, where she stayed until March, 21st 1936. She said she was surprised as the convent was made up of a number of small houses, rather than one large building which was common for religious life. She lived in one of the small houses, but said that community life was very spiritual there, and you got time for private prayer.
The author of this article said after his first visit to Vilnius: When I went to Vilnius to research how much this city was involved in the revelations to Saint Faustina, and I discovered that the only remaining house left of the five houses that formed this convent community, was the house where Saint Faustina had lived herself, it seemed a miracle in itself, the house in which the Diary was written and the “Chaplet of Divine Mercy” was given to the world. It was the only house that had survived out of the five after World War 2. It survived the German occupation from 1941 to 1944 and then the communist occupation from 1944 to 1991. It was so astonishing that this one house should be still standing, when everything else was levelled around it, that I set out to have what I considered a sacred place, restored and preserved for future generations. This I did with the help of the my Irish Charity HUDT and the Archbishop of Vilnius, Cardinal Audrys Backis, and it is now completely restored as it was in Saint Faustina’s time, and is back in the hands of the Catholic Church.
The Divine Mercy image that Jesus asked Saint Faustina to have painted, and which she was having so much trouble getting painted, did not happen for her until she came to Vilnius. This was an extraordinary act of Providence, for it was in this city that the image of the “Our Lady of Mercy” was painted over 500 years before, and was now enshrined over the entrance gate to the old city of Vilnius. Now the Image of Jesus the Divine Mercy also painted in Vilnius, was for the first time to be publicly exposed and venerated, not only in the same city, but at the same shrine as Our Lady, His mother, and therefore the “Mother of Divine Mercy”, surely there was much more to this than an extraordinary coincidence, it had to be part of God’s plan.
It was also in this city, Vilnius, that Saint Faustina met her spiritual director Blessed Michael Sopocko, of whom Jesus said, “He will be your visible help here on earth, his thoughts are closely united to Mine, so be at peace with him about what concerns My work. I will not let him make a mistake, and you should do nothing without his permission" (Diary 1408).
With Saint Faustina continually insisting that Jesus wanted this image painted, Blessed Sopocko commissioned and paid the artist Eugene Kazimirowski out of his own meagre salary, over a period of six months, to paint the original image of Divine Mercy as Jesus requested.
It was on January 2nd 1934, that Saint Faustina and Blessed Sopocko visited the artist for the first time to begin the most important image that would ever be painted in this world, the image of God as the Divine Mercy, to remind people He was the font of all mercies, and the only way through which man could enter eternal life, and have peace on this earth.
After many long sessions with Fr. Sopocko and St. Faustina, the artist finally finished the painting in June 1934. Saint Faustina was not entirely satisfied with it and in the chapel the day it was finished she looked at the Sacred Heart and said: “Who can paint You as beautiful as You really are?” She then heard these words: “The greatness of this painting lies not in the colours of the paint, or the skill of the artist’s brush, but in My Mercy which flows from it”.
From the artist’s workshop, the painting first went to Fr. Sopocko’s apartment where he stored it for some time. But as he became a little unsure of the correctness of the painting, he decided to keep it out of sight behind a hoarding in the corridor of the Bernadine convent where he was Rector. He wanted to be more convinced of it being asked for by God. Shortly afterwards to his amazement, Saint Faustina said that Jesus told her He did not want His image hidden but he wished it exposed to the world. She also told him that Jesus wanted it displayed first, at the shrine of “Our Lady of Mercy”. This would not be easy for Fr. Sopocko to expose such a new image of Jesus at the most famous shrine in Lithuania.
However providence intervened again, it was close to the end of the celebration of the Jubilee Year of 1935, and Fr. Sopocko surprisingly was invited to celebrate the mass at the shrine of Our Lady at the end of the Jubilee year, April 26th to April 28th . This ended with a mass on the 28th which was the Sunday after Easter. “Our Lady of Mercy”. Shrine, was known as Ausros Vartai or the Gates of Dawn in Lithuanian, and Ostra Brama, the Pointed Gate, in Polish. This was the Sunday which is now known to the world as the “Feast of Mercy” but only St. Faustina and Fr. Sopocko knew the significance at that time. It was here on this day, the Sunday after Easter that Fr. Sopocko got the opportunity to expose the image in public, beside the icon of “Our Lady of Mercy”. This was seen by Fr. Sopocko as Mary, once again, bringing Divine Mercy to the world, through her Son Jesus. Saint Faustina was in the congregation for the celebration on that Sunday. Describing it in her Diary she said: “I was there at the Pointed Gate during the celebration, when the image was exposed in public for the first time, and the sermon was given by my spiritual director on Divine Mercy, it was the first thing demanded by Jesus in my first apparition. When Fr. Sopocko started speaking of the Divine Mercy, the image became a live person, and the beams of His Mercy penetrated the hearts of people gathered in the congregation”.
Fr.Sopocko, immediately after the ceremonies brought the image back and hung it over the side altar, next to the high altar of St. Michael’s Church where he was rector. The image soon became popular in the entire Vilnius region, it was venerated there every day and it is said, great graces flowed from it. After the closure of St. Michael’s Church in 1948 by the communist authorities, the image was secretly brought to the Church of the Holy Spirit in Vilnius, but the parish priest, Father Jan Ellert, was not comfortable with an image not yet approved by the church, so he kept it away from the public in the Dominican Monastery. When another Dominican priest Fr. Jozef Grasiewicz, a friend of Fr. Sopocko, was being transferred to a new wooden church in a little town inside the Soviet Union called Nowa Ruda, he took the painting with him and hung it in the church there.
In 1951 Fr.Grasiewicz was arrested by the Soviets and this little church was closed down. But the Image of Divine Mercy was secretly moved to a new location by the faithful in Nowa Ruda where it remained out of sight for thirty five years.
Finally in 1986 the image was returned to the church of the Holy Spirit in Vilnius. This time there was a new parish priest who placed it at a side altar in the Church and it stayed there until 2004 when a new international shrine was created out of the remains of a ruined church in the centre of Vilnius, a church that Fr. Sopocko had been rector at, and this is where the original Divine Mercy image hangs today.
It is the same image that was painted in the presence of Saint Faustina and Blessed Sopocko. It is the only Divine Mercy image that Saint Faustina ever saw or stood in front of.
It is the image that was used in the first celebration of the feast of Mercy in the presence of Saint Faustina’s and Blessed Sopocko in Vilnius in 1935.
On March 21st 1936, Saint Faustina was transferred to Warsaw and left Vilnius. Shortly afterwards the Mother General sent her to another convent in Walendow, and from there in April 1936 to yet another convent in the small town of Derdy. On May 11th 1936, she returned to the convent in Cracow. On September, 19th 1936, she fell ill, she was examined at the hospital in Pradnik (now called the John Paul II Hospital). She wrote in her Diary, “When we came out from the doctor’s room, and went into the hospital chapel for a moment, I heard these words in my soul: “My child, just a few more drops in the cup, it will not be long now”. On her next visit to the hospital, the doctors diagnosed a serious pulmonary tuberculosis, and directed that she be separated from other sisters.
From December 1936 to September 1938, Saint Faustina was treated in this hospital several times. This fact is commemorated by the plaque placed on the left side of the chapel in Pradnik Hospital. Early in 1938, as her health deteriorated, her superiors sent her to a country convent in Rabka to convalesce.
She stayed there, however only for a very short time, because she said she felt so bad, she was forced to stay in bed. After her return to the convent in Cracow, Saint Faustina’s health got increasingly worse. In 1938 she was again sent to the Hospital in Pradnik. From there, four months later, she wrote to the Mother General, Michaela Moraczewska and said: “Dear Mother, this will be our last communication on earth. I feel very weak and I am writing with a trembling hand. I suffer as much as I can bear, but Jesus does not allow it beyond my capacity. If the suffering is great, the Divine Mercy is also great. I completely entrust myself to God now and His Divine Mercy. Goodbye, Dearest Mother, we shall see each other again at the feet of the throne of God.”
Saint Faustina Kowalska died on October 5th 1938 at 10.45 p.m. The funeral took place two days later, on the liturgical commemoration of Our Lady of the Rosary, and on the first Friday of the month. Her body was first interred in a common tomb at the convent cemetery. Today her remains are under a side altar in the convent chapel.