This Sunday marks Divine Mercy Sunday.
For the occasion, Zenit decided to take an inside look at how the image of merciful Jesus in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius was depicted by artist Eugeniusz Kazimirowski in secret under the supervision of Saint Faustina and Blessed Father Michal Sopocko.
Born in Poland in 1905, Maria Faustina Kowalska belonged to the Order of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. After the Polish nun received the Message of Divine Mercy from the Lord on various occasions in the 1930s, she spearheaded this project.
It was all done in secret, as who would have ever believed that Jesus had appeared to her and wanted to be really painted. However, Sr. Faustina’s first confessor confirmed to her that yes indeed, the Lord wished to be depicted. Sr. Faustina was always accompanied into the workshop by either a reliable parishioner or another sister.
Today, the painter’s workshop has been transformed into a chapel.
Still living in the house, at the Lord’s request, are the order of nuns founded by Fr. Sopocko. They are also taking care of the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Vilnius.
Jesus had told Sr. Faustina that what matters is that thanks to this picture, “everyone will come to receive my mercy.”
The brightest point in the picture is the heart. The light on the forehead signifies the presence of the Father. The right hand is not raised in the painting as it is in Krakow: it is before the Lord, in a gesture of blessing.
The first time the painting was presented to the worship of the faithful was when the Jubilee of Redemption was to end (1933-1934): it was exposed in the chapel of the Madonna Porta dell’Aurora venerated by Lithuanians to the extent that the Soviets never dared to close it.
On that day, Fr. Sopocko gave a homily on Divine Mercy, as the Lord requested, and Sr. Faustina was there, very happy.
During the Soviet occupation, the image was hidden in Belarus. Later, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Cardinal Audrys Backis (Archbishop of Vilnius, now emeritus) restored and put it in the Church of the Trinity, where Fr. Sopocko was once a priest. The church was restored too.
On the Feast of the Divine Mercy, April 18, 2004, Cardinal Audrys Juozas Backis, Metropolitan of Vilnius, reconsecrated the renovated church of the Holy Trinity in Vilnius into the Shrine of the Divine Mercy.
At the same time, he assigned a prayer service to be carried out by the Congregation of the Sisters of Merciful Jesus. In September 2005, the first image of Merciful Jesus was placed in this Shrine.
The picture has generated “miracles” in people’s lives.
In 2000 at St. Peter’s in Vatican City, Pope John Paul II canonized Sr. Faustina and officially proclaimed the Feast of Divine Mercy.
Pope Francis, Pope of the Jubilee of Mercy, has always marked Divine Mercy Sunday in a special way.
In 2014, Pope Francis canonized John Paul II, who died in April 2005 on Divine Mercy Sunday on April 27.
In 2015, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday morning with the Patriarch of the Armenian Catholic Church, His Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX, and in the presence of His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, and His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church. During the course of the liturgy, the Holy Father declared a 10th Century Armenian monk and mystic, St. Gregory of Narek, a Doctor of the Church.
During the Holy Year of Mercy, the Pope celebrated Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday, and the year before, held a prayer vigil.