The story of a very precious Painting
Fr. Michael Sopoćko has endured the denial of the propagation of Saint Faustina’s form of devotion to the Divine Mercy, first in his diocese and then in the whole Church. He could not give up the divine message, which he has been convinced of, but he did not want to go against the priest’s obedience to the Church authorities. He has searched everywhere for indispensable help and support. In a certain moment he has found the conviction that Saint Faustina’s vision is the same, as the Apostles have experienced while seeing the Resurrected Christ, as it has been written in St. John’s Gospel: “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
He started to search with doubled effort the justification of God’s Mercy within the Holy Scripture. He asked also the well-known painter from Vilnius Ludomir Ślendzinski (later, after the Second World War, the President of the Technical University in Krakow) to paint the image according to the evangelic records i.e. with the doors of the Upper Room closed and without the inscription “Jesus, I trust in you”. The painting received its imprimatur on Oct. 5th, 1954 and has been evaluated as appropriate for cult purposes by the Main Commission of the Polish Episcopate.
But this was not the painting, which found its way to the Cathedral in Białystok. After being in various locations, almost forty years later, in 1993, the painting has been found in Kalisz, in the church of the Society of Jesus, which has been known for its special devotion to the Holy Heart of Jesus.
The Church in Kalisz has accepted the image with special love. The painting became – “a very precious painting” – in the Sanctuary of the Heart of the Merciful Jesus founded by Bishop Stanislaw Napierala in 1998. In 2002 the painting of the Merciful Jesus has been thoroughly renewed; the team of world-famed specialists led by Ryszard Wujtowicz has made the preservation works. And all that just for the purpose that the work of Ludomir Sleńdzinski would visit each parish of the Kalisz’ diocese. There was even the thought to show the painting to the Pope so that He bless it while dedicating the sanctuary of God’s Mercy in Łagiewniki, but it failed.
In October 2004 the Kalisz sanctuary celebrated the 50th anniversary of the image’s painting, with the presence of the Primate of Poland. Bishop Stanisław Napierała said – among others – “Father Primate! You will preside the solemn recall of the 50th anniversary of the painting of Merciful Jesus. One could wonder why Poland’s Primate celebrated the 50th anniversary of a painting. I would like to explain that this painting is a special one. This is the painting connected to the Conference of the Polish Episcopate. The image is of great importance in the history of the devotion to God’s Mercy as revealed by Sister Faustina Kowalska. 50 years ago this devotion has been banned by the Church and even questioned”.
The image of the Merciful Jesus in front of us is the response to recommendations of Saint Faustina, which she has received when Jesus ordered her to paint His image. This conformity has been confirmed by God’s Servant Fr. Michael Sopoćko, Sister Faustina’s confessor. The main and only source of inspiration for the creation of the Painting has been not only Saint Faustina’s description but also Saint John’s Gospel. The image shows Jesus, who – in the day of his Resurrection – has appeared to the apostles. He stood in the door of the Passover room and said to the frighten ones: “Peace be with you. [...] Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (Jn 20, 21-23). Thus, we can say that the image revealed by Saint Faustina’s description is somehow contained within the Image of the Resurrected Jesus shown to us by St. John within his Gospel”.
The inhabitants of Kalisz call “their” painting the “very precious one”. But the story of this image is connected to one person, Father Michael Sopocko. Until the very end Fr. Sopoćko was a cheerful priest, who lived for the great mission, who propagated the idea that God’s Mercy is just this spark, which will be spread within us throughout the world. But first we should be concerned deeply about it, concentrate and improve ourselves under its blessed action, practice it in our daily life, in our merciful deeds we provide to people, including our worst enemies, and revere it in private and officially, or rather worship the Lord in its greatest perfection and propagate this devotion among other nations.