Apostles of the Divine Mercy

Apostles of the Divine Mercy are those who are determined to go out into the world and cleanse what is imperfect away from the good.

Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska (1905 – 1938)

“In the Old Covenant I sent prophets wielding thunderbolts to My people. Today I am sending you with My mercy to the whole of mankind” (Diary, 1588).

Helena Kowalska was born on August 25, 1905. She was the third child of ten in a poor and devout peasant family in Poland, in the village of Glogoviec, part of the Svinica parish. At the age of seven, she heard a voice for the first time, calling her to strive for a more perfect life.

“How long shall I put up with you and how long will you keep putting Me off? (…) Go at once to Warsaw; you will enter a convent there.” (Diary, 9-10) Despite her parents’ opposition, having heard such words from Jesus, in 1924 Helena Kowalska left for Warsaw, where she intended to enter a convent. After the advice of the senior sister of the convent to work for a year, Helena Kowalska earned the necessary funds for the convent’s entrance fee. In August 1925, she joined the convent of Our Lady of Mercy in Warsaw. In 1926, during her novitiate, she received the name of Sister Maria Faustina. In 1929, Sister Faustina lived in the Vilnius convent – one month and a half, for a first time.

“Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You. I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and [then] throughout the world.” (Diary, 47) In 1931, at the convent in Plock (Poland), Sister Faustina saw the Lord Jesus Christ, who instructed her to paint an image according to her vision. In May 1933, after giving her perpetual vows, she arrived in Vilnius and, during confession, met her spiritual father – the blessed priest Michael Sopocko. He arranged a meeting between Sister Faustina and the artist Eugeniusz Kazimirowski on January 2, 1934, in Vilnius, at the convent of Sisters of Visitation, located at Rasų street 6.

“Not in the beauty of the colour, nor of the brush lies the greatness of this image, but in My grace.” (Diary, 313) From the first meeting until July 1934, Sister Faustina regularly visited E. Kazimirowski at least once a week to describe how the Merciful Jesus appeared in her visions in 1931. However, after seeing how Jesus was painted in the picture, Sister Faustina was very saddened and complained to Jesus about it in the chapel.

“I desire that you make an offering of yourself for sinners and especially for those souls who have lost hope in God’s mercy.” (Diary, 308) In 1934, on Holy Thursday, Sister Faustina, fulfilling the mission entrusted to her by Jesus, sacrificed herself in prayer during the Holy Mass for the conversion of sinners and especially for the souls who have turned away from Divine Mercy.

“I desire that this image be displayed in public on the first Sunday after Easter. That Sunday is the Feast of Mercy. Through the Word Incarnate, I make known the bottomless depth of My mercy.” (Diary, 88) In October 1934, Sister Faustina saw Jesus for the second time, as she did in 1931 at the Plock convent: with two rays emanating from Jesus’ heart, spreading throughout the world. She saw the same rays again in November 1934 during the Holy Mass. In December 1935, Jesus repeated His request to Sister Faustina that the first Sunday after Easter should become the Divine Mercy Sunday.

“I desire that there be such a Congregation” (Diary, 437) From May 1935, Sister Faustina had been contemplating the idea of a new convent, which is mentioned in many places in her diary. However, she was unable to implement this idea while she was alive.

“Every time you enter the chapel, immediately recite the prayer which I taught you yesterday. (…) 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 and HAIL MARY and the I BELIEVE IN GOD. Then 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, three times you will recite these words: “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” (Diary, 476) In September 1935, in Vilnius, Jesus dictated the Chaplet of Divine Mercy to Sister Faustina. Later, Jesus repeatedly asked her to recite this chaplet for the salvation of souls.

“Do not fear anything. I am always with you.” (Diary, 629) Guided by the words of the Lord, Sister Faustina left Vilnius for Poland in March 1936. She never returned to Vilnius. Initially, she lived in Warsaw, then she was transferred to other convents, until in May 1936 she permanently settled in the Lagiewniki convent in Krakow.

“My child, just a few more drops in your chalice; it won’t be long now.” (Diary, 694) In September 1936, Sister Faustina was diagnosed with tuberculosis, following a significant deterioration in her health.

“At three o’clock, implore My mercy, especially for sinners (…) That is the hour of great mercy for the whole world.” (Diary, 1320) In October 1937, Jesus revealed the Hour of Mercy to Sister Faustina, asking her, if possible, to pray the Stations of the Cross at that hour or at least briefly pray in the chapel to His Merciful Heart. In September 1938, she met for the last time with her spiritual father, Fr. M. Sopocko, and on October 5 of the same year, she departed to be with the Lord.

In 1967, the informative process of Sister Faustina was completed, and her beatification case was sent to Rome. Her diary was first published in 1981 (“DIARY Of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. Divine Mercy in My Soul”). However, it was only in 1993 when Sister Faustina was declared blessed. On April 30, 2000, during the Sunday of Divine Mercy, Pope John Paul II declared Sister Faustina a saint. In proclaiming the message of God’s Mercy to the world, the Pope encouraged the inhabitants of Vilnius, as well as Krakow, Warsaw, Plock, and Bialystok, to particularly become the witnesses of Divine Mercy.

Blessed Father Michael Sopocko (1888 – 1975)

At the end of May 1933, already residing in Vilnius, Sister Faustina met a priest – Father Michael Sopocko (Mykolas Sopočka) for the first time during confession. She had previously seen this priest in her visions in Poland. At that time, Jesus revealed to Sister Faustina that this was the priest who would help her fulfil His will: “This is My faithful servant; he will help you to fulfill My will here on earth.” (Diary, 263)

Jesus brought Fr. Michael Sopocko to assist Sister Faustina in fulfilling her mission – to paint the image of Merciful Jesus, establish the Feast of Divine Mercy on the first Sunday after Easter, and establish a new monastic community, In various places in the diary, Jesus speaks to Sr. Faustina about the importance of Fr. M. Sopocko ‘s role in spreading the message of His mercy: “He is a priest after My Own Heart; his efforts are pleasing to Me. You see, My daughter, that My will must be done and that which I had promised you, I shall do. Through him I spread comfort to suffering and careworn souls. Through him it pleased Me to proclaim the worship of My mercy.” (Diary, 1256) Having met Sister Faustina, Father Sopocko dedicated almost his entire life to the dissemination of Jesus’ mercy and the cultivation of the cult of Divine Mercy.

In 1933, Fr. M. Sopocko had already served in various locations in Poland and Lithuania as a priest, military chaplain, confessor of nuns, spiritual father at the Vilnius Seminary, and university lecturer. He was born on November 1, 1888, in Naujesedis, Lithuania (currently Nowosady, Belarus). He was ordained a priest in 1914. In 1924, Bishop Jurgis Matulaitis of Vilnius invited Fr. M. Sopocko to work in the diocese of Vilnius and appointed him to be the confessor of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. Sister Faustina often spoke to him about her experiences related to the apparitions of Merciful Jesus during long conversations.

Fr. M. Sopocko lived in the convent of the Visitation Sisters in Vilnius from 1932 to 1934. At his request, the painter Eugenijus Kazimirovski, who lived on the first floor of the same house, began painting the first image of Merciful Jesus from January 1934. The priest constantly participated in the meetings of Sister Faustina and the artist regarding the painting of the picture. Therefore, he knew the secrets of the ideological content of the picture and all its nuances.

In 1934, Fr. M. Sopocko held the position of rector at St. Michael’s Church in Vilnius. In April 1937, he consecrated the image of Merciful Jesus in this church. In August 1937, Sopocko arrived at the convent in Krakow. Sister Faustina was very happy that through this priest God helped to perform her tasks: “I was extremely glad, because only God knows how ardently I wished to see him for the sake of the work God is doing through him, and this, even though the visit had some unpleasant aspects to it as well.” (Diary, 1252)

During World War II, Fr. M. Sopocko fervently proclaimed the vision of Divine Mercy, thus attracting many people and igniting their faith in God’s mercy, which is the only one to save the world in such a difficult period. In 1944, in Vilnius, M. Sopocko established the convent of the Sisters of Merciful Jesus. In this way, he implemented the last request revealed by Jesus to Sister Faustina.

Despite the Church’s opposition to approving the cult of Divine Mercy, Fr. M. Sopocko dedicated the rest of his life to the apostolic plans and visions of this devotion, as he himself wrote in his diary. In various theological publications and articles, he constantly tried to justify the existence of God’s mercy based on the teaching of the Church, seeking to establish the Feast of Divine Mercy, just as Jesus insisted in Sister Faustina’s visions.

The idea of Divine Mercy was also associated with two attempts to build Sanctuaries of Divine Mercy. The first project in the Šnipiškės district, Vilnius, collapsed in 1940 due to the Soviet occupation. The second attempt was in Bialystok in 1950 – 1960. Due to his deteriorating health, Father Sopocko was forced to retire. Therefore, this plan also remained unimplemented.

In September 2008, Pope Benedict XVI declared Father Michael Sopocko blessed.

Saint Pope John Paul II (1920 – 2005)

Karol Wojtyla (St. John Paul II) was born on May 18, 1920, in the town of Wadowice, 50 km from Krakow. In 1946 he was ordained a priest, in 1958 he was appointed Bishop of the Krakow archdiocese, and in 1964 – Archbishop of Krakow. In 1978, the Archbishop of Krakow Karol Wojtyla was elected Pope.

Just like Saint Faustina, Saint John Paul II – both apostles of God’s mercy – are closely associated with the city of Krakow. When in 1938 Saint John Paul II began studying Polish philology at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Sister Faustina lived in a convent in Krakow. At that time, St. John Paul II did not yet know that in the year 2000 he would canonize St. Faustina and at the same time establish Divine Mercy Sunday, as Jesus asked her in visions. Being so close in the same city, the two never met.

In 1940, Karol Wojtyla, while doing forced labour often passed by the Lagiewniki convent in Krakow, where Sister Faustina lived until her death in 1938. He used to pray in the convent chapel. On August 21, 2002, at an audience, St. John Paul II mentioned that as a worker and student, later a priest and Bishop, he often repeated this simple and profound appeal “Jesus I trust in You” and thus experienced its effectiveness and power.

At the beginning of his pontificate in 1980, St. John Paul II in his encyclical Dives in Misericordia (“Rich in Mercy”) urged the Church to invoke God’s mercy “taking into account a human’s needs and the dangers facing him in the modern world”. In the prayer section of the Church of our times, he wrote: “Let us pray for God’s mercy to mankind today!”

In 1994, the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy was established within the Holy Spirit Church in Rome. During the period of Archbishop’s service in Krakow, in 1968 Karol Wojtyla began the beatification case of Sister Faustina. He continued his mission further. In 1993, on the second Sunday of Easter, already a Pope, John Paul II declared Sister Faustina Kowalska blessed. During the Divine Mercy Sunday Angelus prayer in 1999, he appealed to all priests and believers: “I warmly encourage you to be the apostles of Divine Mercy, just like blessed Faustina Kowalska, wherever you live and work”.

On April 30, 2000, at very important time, which is a bridge to the third millennium after the birth of Christ, St. John Paul II declared Sister Faustina a saint. In his homily, he said: “Sister Faustina’s canonisation has a particular significance: by this act, I intend today to pass this message on to the new millennium. I pass it on to all people so that they will learn to know ever better the true face of God and the true face of their brethren”. He also spread the message of Divine Mercy to all people, confirming Divine Mercy Sunday as a feast of the entire Church: “It is important to accept the whole message that comes to us from the Word of God on this Second Sunday of Easter, which from now on throughout the Church will be called the Divine Mercy Sunday”.

In 2002, three years before his death, St. John Paul II in his homily at the Sanctuary of Lagiewniki in Krakow with great desire entrusted the whole world to the Divine Mercy. He expressed great desire that the God’s merciful love, announced through Saint Sister Faustina, would fill the hearts of all people with hope.

On May 1, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI declared John Paul II blessed; on April 27, 2014, Pope Francis declared him a saint.