"Paint an image according to the pattern you see,
but I will delay the possibility of their being carried out
and make it depend on others (...) but know,
My daughter, that this offering will last until your death." (Diary 923).
THE HISTORY OF IMAGE OF MERCIFUL JESUS
The house where the first image of the Merciful Jesus was painted. In the background – a church converted by the Soviet authorities into a prison (operating until 2008).
“Once, my confessor (Father Sopoćko) asked me where the inscription should be placed, because there was not enough space on the painting for everything. I said I would pray and give him an answer the following week. When I left the confessional and was passing before the Blessed Sacrament, I received an inner understanding about the inscription. Jesus reminded me of what He had told me the first time; namely that these three words must be clearly in evidence. These words are: Jesus, I trust in You” (Diary, 327).
"I am offering people a vessel with which they are to keep coming for graces
The dictated inscription, which is a significant part of the image, was written on a separate board and placed at the frame beneath the image. Then, as Lord Jesus explicitly requested through Sister Faustina, Father Sopoćko started making efforts to place the image in St. Michael’s Church in Vilnius, where he held the post of a rector.
As a result, on April 4, 1937, with the consent of Metropolitan Archbishop of Vilnius Romuald Jałbrzykowski, the painting of the Most Merciful Savior, positively reviewed by experts, was hung next to the high altar in St. Michael’s Church, where it was righteously worshipped by the faithful for about eleven years.
The second committee of experts, appointed at the Archbishop’s request in 1941, stated that: “The image is painted in an artistic manner and it constitutes a valuable contribution
The painting in the St. Michael’s Church (1937-1948)
The parish priest of the Church of the Holy Spirit, Father Jan Ellert was interested neither in keeping the image nor in displaying it, so he hid it in the storage area at the back of the church. It was not until 1956 when the friend of Father Sopoćko, Father Józef Grasewicz, returned to Vilnius after being released from a Soviet labour camp, undertook to find the painting. He contacted Father Sopoćko who was agonising over the lack of information about the image of the Merciful Jesus.
Father Grasewicz received permission to resume his priestly service in Nowa Ruda. Before leaving Vilnius, he asked the parish priest of the Church of the Holy Spirit if he could move the painting to his parish in Nowa Ruda. He received a positive response. So, Father Grasewicz brought the painting to Nowa Ruda and placed it in the church keeping its origin a secret. Father Sopoćko considered taking the painting to Poland, but he gave up his efforts when it turned out that it would be dangerous. Despite many changes in the administration of the church, the painting stayed in Nowa Ruda for about thirty years.
The painting in Nowa Ruda, today Belarus (1956-1986)
The church in Nowa Ruda at present
Father Sopoćko remained concerned about the painting throughout his whole life. Secretly, he sent numerous requests to move the painting to Vilnius. He requested that the painting be placed at the Gate of Dawn in Vilnius, where it was originally displayed to be worshipped publicly. This request was not passed on until 1982 (already after the death of Father Sopoćko). When he received it, Father Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, then the priest at the Gate of Down, refused and suggested placing the painting in the Church of the Holy Spirit, where Father Aleksander Kaszkiewicz was the parish priest. Initially hesitant, Father Kaszkiewicz eventually agreed to hang the picture in the Church of the Holy Spirit. So, Father Grasewicz made the decision to bring the painting back to Vilnius.
To steer the communists’ attention away from the extraordinary origin of the painting, one November night in 1986, the original painting in Nowa Ruda was secretly replaced with a copy prepared earlier. The residents of Nowa Ruda, who gathered in prayer in the abandoned church, were not aware of this. With the assistance of the Sisters of the Mother of Mercy (from the Gate of Dawn), the canvas was removed from the stretcher bar, rolled-up, and, the same night, taken first to Grodno, and then to the Church of the Holy Spirit in Vilnius.
The changes were inconsistent with the artistic composition of the image painted by Prof. Kazimirowski in collaboration with Sister Faustina and Father Sopoćko. It was a drastic interference, which decreased considerably the original value of the work.
Thanks to the efforts and devotion of Sisters, in April 2003, a thorough restoration of the painting was performed in the chapel of the sisters’ convent in Vilnius. All the overpaints and stains (resulting from moisture and attempts of chemical cleaning) were removed. As a result of this restoration, the original form of the panting and the appearance of the image of Merciful Jesus were restored.
The painting at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Vilnius (1987-2005) before and after the conservation
The circumstances surrounding this event triggered controversial discussions in all media publications and thus, unintentionally, became a huge, positive promotion, reminding people of the existence of the original image of the Merciful Jesus in Vilnius and of the history of its origin, again spreading the message of Divine Mercy delivered through the Saint Sister Faustina.
Perpetual adoration at the Divine Mercy Sanctuary in Vilnius, 12 Dominikonu st.
"I desire that there be such a Congregation" (Diary, 437)."And every act of mercy will flow from God’s love, that love with which they will be filled to overflowing. They will strive to make their own this great attribute of God, and to live by it and to bring others to know it and to trust in the goodness of the Lord" (Diary, 664).