For Pilgrims

We invite you to embark on a prayerful pilgrimage, visiting and reflecting on places associated with the message of Divine Mercy.

The Gates of Dawn

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The Role of Mary, Mother of Mercy:

In 1503 the residents of Vilnius guarding against enemy attacks under the order of Alexander, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, started building the Vilnius city defensive wall. It is thought that the foundation-stone, sanctified by the bishop was put at the place of the Gates of Dawn. There were two paintings on the gate, on the inside, the painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy who embraces everybody who stays in the city and on the outside, the painting of Jesus, the Saviour, who sees all the ingoing and outgoing. Mary portrayed in the painting is the real Star of Dawn and Hope especially during times of disaster, oppression and occupation. Not only Catholics but also Orthodox Christians and Greek Catholics found shelter near Her. Carmelites who moved to Vilnius in 1626 started building the convent and the Church of St. Theresa of Avila. To take care of the painting of the Gates of Dawn they built a chapel and arranged prayer times. In 1927 when the painting was adorned with papal crowns (Pope Pius XI), it received the title of Mother of Mercy. The Gates of Dawn was especially dear to Sister Faustina who belonged to the convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. The Gates of Dawn are particularly precious. It was exactly at the Gates of Dawn in 1935, at Easter, at the end of the Jubilee Year of the World Redemption, that the image of the Merciful Jesus, which had been decorated with wreaths of flowers by Faustina herself in the evening, was displayed for the first time in the Gates of Dawn as an illustration of the work of Fr. M. Sopocko’s sermon about the mercy of God.

St. John Paul II wrote in his encyclical Dives in Misericordia: “Mary is also the one who obtained mercy in a particular and exceptional way, as no other person has. (…) No one has experienced, to the same degree as the Mother of the crucified One, the mystery of the cross, the overwhelming encounter of divine transcendent justice with love: that kiss given by mercy to justice. No one has received into his heart, as much as Mary did, that mystery, that truly divine dimension of the redemption effected on Calvary by means of the death of the Son, together with the sacrifice of her maternal heart, together with her definitive “fiat”. Mary, then, is the one who has the deepest knowledge of the mystery of God’s mercy.”

The House of Painter E. Kazimirowski

The Image of Merciful Jesus:

The studio of the painter, Eugeniusz Kazimirowski as well as the temporary shelter of Fr. Michael Sopocko was in a particular place – near the complex of the Missionary monastery, convents of Daugthers of Charity and the Sisters of the Visitation, situated on Saviour Hill. Founder of congregations of Mission and Daughters of Charity St. Vincent de Paul was a real Apostle of Merciful Love. Whereas the Sisters of the Visitation, whose most important feature also was mercy, gave a modest French sister St. Margaret Mary Alacoque who, like St. Faustina experienced the visions of Jesus and became the foundress of the devotion of Sacred Heart of Jesus.

In Vilnius both convents were established at the end of the XVII century and the neighboured churches – the Church of the Ascension of the Lord and the Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus – were consecrated in 1730 and 1756. This is the place where the bl. M. Sopocko settled down temporarily wishing to finish his scientific paper. During the first half of 1934, after having prayed at the Gates of Dawn, Sister Faustina used to come here to watch how the image of Divine Mercy was being painted and to give further instructions. During the Soviet occupation, authorities opened a prison in the convent and church of the Sisters of the Visitation and a hospital in the Missionary monastery. When the convent buildings and the church of the Sisters of the Visitation were returned to Vilnius Archdiocese, in 2005 the Sisters of Merciful Jesus settled in this house and set up a chapel where the painter’s studio used to be.

In His revelations to St. Faustina, year 1935, Jesus asked to establish a new religious order. Bl. M. Sopocko began the arrangement to create the order. The first candidate for admission, Jadwiga Osińska, took temporary vows in 1941 at the Ursuline convent on Skapo street. The next year five more candidates took temporary vows, and the vows were renewed each year. In 1944 at the chapel of Carmelite convent (today Paupio st. 31) the solemn profession vows were led by Bl. M. Sopocko when he returned from hiding in Juodšiliai. That was the beginning of establishment of congregation of the Sisters of Merciful Jesus. At the end of World War II, the sisters left for Poland. The congregation was approved by the official decree in 1955. Sisters returned to Vilnius in 2001 and established the convent at the same place where the image of Divine Mercy was painted.

St. Michael’s Church

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The Importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation:

Built by the Chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Leonas Sapiega, and consecrated in 1629 the Renaissance complex of St. Michael the Archangel church and monastery became the mausoleum of the Sapiega family and the contemplative Bernardine sisters had to pray for the country, its monarch and the people. St. Michael’s church was seriously damaged during the war with Moscow in the middle of the XVII century and devastated under the czar and in the Soviet period but acquired a new lease on life each time. The last time it was revived, a Church Heritage Museum was opened in 2009. The blessed M. Sopocko who was the rector of the church from 1934 to 1938 started renewing the shrine of his celestial patron. He took care of the restoration of the miraculous painting of the Sapiega Madonna crowned by the Pope in 1750 and tried to renew the monastery in accordance with regulations of the contemplative sisters. The priest hoped to rent the part of the monastery for the creation of the monastery Jesus asked for, but the war did not allow him to implement such plans. It was here that the painting of the Merciful Jesus, hanging sadly in the dark corridor of the monastery, found its way just after being completed. In a vision Jesus asked Sister Faustina to hang this painting in a church. In 1937 Father Sopocko managed to get the approval of the bishop and on the Sunday of Divine Mercy the painting was hung on the right side of the high altar. It hung there until 1951 protecting the residents of Vilnius during wartime.

St. Ignatius Church

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The Importance of the Gospel’s wisdom:

Jesuit St. Ignatius Church and the novitiate were established in Vilnius quarter which was separated from the modern St. Ignatius street with the help of the defensive wall. In 1773 when the Society of Jesus was suppressed, military barracks were equipped in the buildings of the monastery. For some time, there were stables in the church, and in 1869 a military club was established there. The church was fully destroyed as a sacred building: towers were demolished, a porch was added, and the interior was destroyed. An uneasy task fell upon Father Sopocko who came to Vilnius in 1924 and was appointed as a military chaplain to rebuild St. Ignatius Church. In several years Father Sopocko was also appointed Father of the Ecclesiastical Seminary and Professor of Pastoral Theology. Despite experiencing huge difficulties, Father Sopocko finished reconstruction and in 1929 the church was re-consecrated. However, not for long. During the Soviet occupation, St. Ignatius Church was turned into a film studio warehouse. Later, the chamber orchestra held rehearsals there. In 2004, the restored church was dedicated to the military ordinate. St. Ignatius of Loyola, the eponymous founder of this church, was familiar to Saint Faustina; he visited her in her visions as well as other honourable Jesuit saints such as: Stanislaus Kostka, Andrew Bobola, and Saint Casimir.

The Shrine of the Divine Mercy

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The Importance of Eucharistic adoration:

A modest shrine of Divine Mercy is situated between houses and came into existence at the end of the 15th century as the Gothic Church of the Holy Trinity. After the fires in the middle of the 18th century the reconstructed church belonged to the university. In 1821 the reign turned it into the Orthodox Church of the Divine Revelation and later dedicated it to the pastoral care of the Orthodox soldiers of Vilnius garrison. One hundred years later it was turned into a Catholic Church again and given to the Vincent de Paul’s Brotherhood. The last to work in this church after the Second World War in 1946 to 1947 was Father Sopocko. After he left for Poland, in his testament he expressed his will to donate the Image of Divine Mercy to the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Vilnius. His wish was fulfilled only in 2005 when the church was resurrected for a new mission, to become the centre of Divine Mercy, giving graces through the Image of Divine Mercy.

The painting by E. Kazimirowski, painted according to Saint Faustina’s visions, depicts Jesus with his left hand touching his robe by his heart from where flows forth two rays, one whitish and one red. The whitish ray symbolizes the baptismal water which cleanses the soul, and the red ray symbolizes the Blood – the Eucharist which refreshes the soul. With his right hand, Jesus blesses everybody. The frescoes of sombre colours created by Nijole Vilutyte embody both the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Gates of Dawn and hopeful heavenward sighs in different languages: “Jesus, I trust in You”.

Church of the Holy Spirit

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The Role of Evangelisation:

The first Dominican church is believed to have been built as early as the time of Grand Duke Gediminas in the 14th century, but the monks did not stay here for long. In 1501 they were invited by Grand Duke Alexander and given the parish church of the Holy Spirit, founded by Vytautas the Great in 1408. Rebuilt many times, its present structure was formed during the reconstruction of the late 17th century, and the interior, rebuilt after the fires, was later enriched with Rococo forms. The church boasts a valuable, original 18th century organ and 16 altars. On 5th of September 1993, the church was the site where St. Pope John Paul II met with the Polish community. A relic of his blood is kept here. Between 1986 and 2005, the church sheltered the painting of the Merciful Jesus.

This painting knocked twice on the door of the Church of the Holy Spirit. The first time was when, after the closure of the Archangel Michael’s Church, two devout Vilnius women took it and handed it over to the pastor of the Holy Spirit Church a short time later. He did not hang the painting, but in 1956 gave it to Fr. M. Sopocko’s friend Juzef Grasievic, who asked for it when he returned to Vilnius after several years of imprisonment in a Soviet gulag. The painting thus travelled to Belarus together with J. Grasievic and hung in a small church in Naujoji Rūda for about 30 years. In 1986, the painting was secretly brought back to Vilnius. When it occurred that it would not be possible to hang the painting in the Gates of Dawn as intended, it was entrusted again to the Church the Holy Spirit. The church was being renovated at the time, so the new painting, which was hung on the right-hand side of the church in front of the pulpit, did not arouse the suspicions of the authorities. Here, the painting of the Merciful Jesus was slowly preparing the city of Vilnius to open up to the graces that flowed through it.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Stanislaus and St. Ladislaus of Vilnius

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The Role of Those Who Worship Divine Mercy:

Built in the heart of the city, the Cathedral Basilica commemorates many important events for Lithuania and the capital. Not only did St. Casimir pray, encourage, give hope and left the mark of his saintliness there, but also St. Pope John Paul II, who visited Lithuania, His Holiness Archbishop Jurgis Matulaitis, the Servant of God Archbishop Mečislovas Reinys. All of them ministered to the people in the times of particular difficulty for Lithuania. They were all, in different ways, special apostles of Divine Mercy. Vilnius Diocesan Cathedral was built as a Gothic temple when Lithuania was being baptised. Over the centuries, due to fires and other calamities, it has changed its appearance several times – it was Renaissance, Baroque, and finally it acquired its present Classical appearance thanks to the touch of architect Laurynas Stuoka-Gucevičius at the end of the 18th century. He harmoniously incorporated the jewel of the sanctuary, the Baroque chapel of St. Casimir, built in 1636. To this day it preserves the earthly remains of the saint, the heavenly patron saint of Lithuania and its youth. The oldest image depicts St. Casimir with three hands. Legend has it that the artist painted him this way because of divine Providence. Interestingly, the saint was known to St. Faustina from her childhood. The church in her home parish was named after St. Casimir. The Vilnius Cathedral was closed as a house of worship between 1949 and 1989, and for a long time it housed a picture gallery, which is why it was possible to preserve not only the interior, but also a significant part of the Cathedral’s treasury, which was hidden and preserved in one of the walls. It is now on display in the Church Heritage Museum.

Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, the Apostles

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Mother Mary, the Refuge of Sinners:

This church arose as gratitude to God after the war with Moscow in 1655 after which the town was turned into a heap of ruin and ash. The Vilnius Voivode, the Grand Hetman of Lithuania, Mykolas Kazimieras Pacas, took care of the church construction. This church is called the masterpiece of Vilnius Baroque. It is full of Baroque symbols and images made with a help of stucco technique, creating the organic entirety. The Virgin Mary who saved Vilnius at various times during plague and disaster modestly looks at us from the altar of repose. The image of the Merciful Mother Mary, which was brought by the Bishop Jurgis Tiškevičius from Italy in the middle of the 18th century shows the Virgin Mary breaking the arrows of God’s wrath and thus giving people the Divine Mercy. There was a time when the Brotherhood of Merciful Mary operated here. On the other side of the transept there is the altar of the Five Wounds of Jesus Christ, which belonged to the Brotherhood. The altar on the left of the presbytery is dedicated to the miraculous Antakalnis Jesus statue which was brought from the Trinitarian Church when it was turned into the Orthodox Church in 1863. Saint Faustina with sisters used to pray often in this parish at Antakalnis Church. This is the least injured church which was not closed during the Soviet occupation. From 1953 to 1989 the relics of Saint Casimir found temporary shelter here and attracted pilgrims. A small square in front of the church is named after St. Pope John Paul II in the memory of his visit to Lithuania.

The House of Saint Faustina

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The Role of Those Who Worship Divine Mercy:

The Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy moved to this place at the beginning of the 20th century thanks to the benefaction of the Duchess Maria Radzivilova. It is said that the duchess sent her envoy, Anna Kuliesa, to Vilnius to find a place to buy houses for a future convent. She was praying for several days, asking to choose the proper place. In these days she experienced an unusual dream. She saw herself praying before Jesus in the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, the Apostles. Then Jesus left the church, turned to Senatoriu street (now V. Grybo str.), stopped and pointed at the property of Russian general Bychovskij. In 1908, Anna Kuliesa bought the houses situated in this area and shortly after that the sisters settled there and dove into ministering services of divine love. They established a house to foster morally fallen girls. During the interwar period they had around ninety girls called penitents. The sisters also looked after a big garden, took care of the military hospital, baked bread and did the laundry. Sister Faustina lived in Vilnius in 1929 and 1933-1936 and experienced the apparitions of Jesus in this convent. She started writing her Diary here and the Chaplet of Mercy was dictated to her in 13th-14th of September 1935. Only a small wooden convent house where Sister Faustina used to live remains among the multi-storeyed blocks of flats built during the Soviet period. In 2008, the house was renovated, and Sister Faustina’s cell was restored, where one can concentrate and pray, and events are held to spread the message of the Divine Mercy.