In 1933 Michael Sopocko, a priest and professor of moral theology, was assigned as confessor to a small community of nuns in Vilnius (then in Poland). There he met a young nun named Mary Faustina Kowalska, who worked in the garden. In her first confession, which would be the turning point in his life, she confided that she had been receiving private visitations from Jesus and that he had given her an important mission. She was to paint an image of Jesus as he appeared to her—with two bright rays emanating from his breast. It was an image of Divine Mercy, which Jesus intended should be venerated throughout the world. Fr. Sopocko’s first response was to order a psychiatric examination. When Faustina was found to be of sound mind, he instructed her to keepa diary. He came to believe her story and dedicated himself to her cause. Arranging for an artist to paint the image under Faustina’s direction, he had it installed in a chapel in Vilnius. There, in Faustina’s presence, he preached his first sermon on the Divine Mercy.
After Faustina’s death in 1938, Fr. Sopocko continued to promote her mission. Yet her posthumously published writings aroused concerns. Devotion to the image was suppressed and Fr. Sopocko was censured—an order eventually lifted by Arch-bishop Karol Wojtyla, who later, as Pope John Paul II, canonized St. Faustina and established Divine Mercy Sunday. Fr. Sopocko died on February 15, 1975. He was beatified in 2008.“There is no virtue to which Holy Scripture assures a greater reward than to those who practice the virtue of mercy.”—Blessed Michael Sopocko