The Importance of Vilnius
The City of Vilnius, became the Birthplace of the Divine Mercy Devotion, when Saint Faustina began her mission under the guidance and discernment of her new Spiritual Director Fr. Michael Sopocko S.T.D. When Saint Faustina lived in this City before the Second World War, it was politically part of Poland, but today it has reverted to being the capital of an independent nation, Lithuania. It was not until Saint Faustina went to Vilnius that she made progress for the first time in answering the demands made of her by Jesus the Divine Mercy. In Vilnius, Our Lady, Mother of Mercy came alive to her and told her she must do all that her Son requested, and this would happen with the help of her new spiritual director Fr. Michael Sopocko. Jesus had entrusted the very important interpretation of Saint Faustina's mission to her confessor and spiritual director Fr. Michael Sopocko. During Saint Faustina's stay in Vilnius, in the years 1933-1936, he was for her an irreplaceable help in discerning all her interior inspirations and visions.
There were seven main demands that Jesus made of St. Faustina. (1) Diary: She Must Write Everything Down for Fr.Sopocko who would discern God’s will. (2) She must have His Image of Mercy painted. (3) She Must Have the Feast of Mercy established on the Sunday after Easter. (4) She must make the prayers of Divine Mercy known. (5) She must have the message of Divine Mercy Proclaimed to the World. (6) The Image of Divine Mercy must be exposed to the world. (7) She must start a new congregation to pray for Mercy for the World, following this she had visions of this congregation, who were religious sisters.
In a later letter to Fr. Sopocko Saint Faustina said the Lord also requested that a similar religious male congregation be founded The Importance of Fr. Michael Sopocko in Jesus’ plan for these revelations can not be over-estimated. Jesus said to St. Faustina:"He will be My visible help for you on earth. He will help you to carry out My will” (Diary 53). "His thoughts are closely united to Mine, so be at peace about what concerns My work. I will not let him make a mistake, and you should do nothing without his permission" (Diary 1408). It was he, as her confessor, that persuaded her after she had destroyed her first diary to write everything down again so that he could clearly discern if it was God’s will.
These writings recorded in six copy books became known as the DIARY of Saint Faustina, which is now seen as an extraordinarily valuable document of Catholic mysticism. As someone who has studied her writings for over twenty years I am often asked who owns the notebooks today and where are they. Well as these notebooks were written especially for Fr. Sopocko and given to him over a period of time by Saint Faustina it is safe to say that they were always the property of Fr. Michael Sopocko. But when the process of beatification began Fr. Sopocko made the notebooks available to the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Cracow, where Saint Faustina had lived the last years of her life. From here at a much later stage they were handed over to the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, in the U.S.A. where they were published first in Polish and then in English in 1987.
As already mentioned Fr. Sopocko’s part can not be over-estimated if you look at his work in carrying out God’s plan. It was Fr. Sopocko who chose, organised and paid the artist for the original painting of the image of Divine Mercy.
In fact he dressed and posed for the painting the way St. Faustina described the apparition and attended with Sr. Faustina all the meetings she had with the artist. It was Fr. Michael Sopocko who first celeb rated the feast of Mercy and it was his efforts that established the feast day as a solemn feast day in Poland and Lithuania. It was he who got the prayers that Jesus gave to Faustina printed for the first time and made them known to the world. It was Fr. Michael who proclaimed to the world for the first time, the message of Divine Mercy. This was on the first Sunday after Easter, (Mercy Sunday) at the Shrine of Our Lady, Mother of Mercy in 1934 in Vilnius. It was Fr. Sopocko who first exposed the Divine Mercy Image publicly, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy in Vilnius. It was he who founded the new congregation of religious sisters that Our Lord asked for. This in fact took place in his own home in Vilnius, Lithuania in 1942.