"I offer people a vessel with which they are to keep
coming for graces to the fountain of mercy.
That vessel is this image with the inscription:
Jesus, I trust in You" (Diary, 327).
THE FIRST IMAGE OF MERCIFUL JESUS Vilnius (Lithuania)
Płock [Poland] “February 22, 1931: In the evening, when I was in my cell, I saw the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand was raised in the gesture of blessing; the other was touching His garment at the breast. From beneath the garment, slightly drawn aside at the breast, there were emanating two bright rays, one red, and the other pale. In silence I kept my gaze fixed on the Lord; my soul was struck with awe, but also with great joy. After a while, Jesus said to me: paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the inscription: Jesus, I trust in You.
(...) I promise that the soul that venerates this image will not perish.
I also promise victory over its enemies here on Earth, especially at the hour of death. (...) I desire that there be a Feast of Mercy. I want this image, which you will paint with a brush, to be solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter; that Sunday is to be the Feast of Mercy. I desire that priests proclaim this great mercy of Mine towards the souls of sinners. Let the sinner not be afraid to approach Me.
(...) Once, exhausted because of the various difficulties that had befallen me because of Jesus speaking to me and demanding me to paint this image, I made up my mind to approach Father Andrasz before my perpetual vows, and to ask him to dispense me from all these interior inspirations and from the duty of painting this image. After having heard my confession, Father Andrasz gave me this answer: I will dispense you from nothing, Sister; it is not right for you to turn away from these interior inspirations, but you must absolutely – and I say, absolutely – speak about them to your confessor; otherwise you will go astray despite the great graces you are receiving from God. For the present you are coming to me for confession, but understand, Sister, that you must have a permanent confessor; that is to say, a spiritual director. I was very upset by this. I thought that I would free myself from everything, and it turned out quite the opposite - an explicit command to follow the requests of Jesus. And now, still another torment, as I had no permanent confessor.
(...) But the goodness of Jesus is infinite; He had promised me tangible help here on Earth and a little while later I received it in Vilnius, in the person of Father Sopoćko. I already knew him before I came to Vilnius, thanks to an interior vision. One day I saw him in our chapel between the altar and the confessional and suddenly heard a voice in my soul say: This is the tangible help for you on Earth. He will help you to carry out My will on Earth (Diary, 47-53).
The task set by Lord Jesus for Sister Faustina was beyond her human capabilities since she lacked even basic artistic skills. She tried to obey the God’s will by seeking help from one of her co-sisters to paint the image. But that did not work.
On the one hand, she was being urged by Lord Jesus to complete the work and, on the other hand, she faced disbelief of confessors and supervisors. This resulted in great personal suffering for Sister Faustina. During her stay in Plock (over 2 years), and then in Warsaw, Sister Faustina kept thinking about the outstanding request from Lord Jesus, the more so because He was showing her the importance of this task in God’s plans.
“Suddenly, I saw the Lord who said to me: Know, that if you neglect the matter of painting the image and the whole work of Divine Mercy, you will have to answer for a multitude of souls on the day of judgment” (Diary, 154).
After taking her perpetual vows, Sister Faustina was moved to the convent in Vilnius (May 25, 1933). Here, she met the help she was promised – her confessor and spiritual director, Father Michael Sopoćko, who undertook the attempt to complete the request of Lord Jesus.
Father Sopoćko “Memoirs”:
“Driven more by curiosity about how the image would look, rather than the faith in the truthfulness of these visions, I asked the fine painter Prof. Eugeniusz Kazimirowski to paint the image”.
Father Sopoćko partly introduced the mission of Sister Faustina to the painter and swore him to secrecy. When painting the image of Merciful Jesus this esteemed and well-educated painter gave up his own artistic vision in order to paint diligently what he was told to by Sister Faustina. She came to the painter’s studio (accompanied by Sister Borgia) at least once a week for six months to point out the additions and necessary corrections.
Father Michael Sopoćko was actively involved in painting of the image, trying to ensure that the figure of the Lord Jesus was accurately reproduced according to the instructions of Sister Faustina.
Their time spent together on the painting became an opportunity for a more insightful understanding of the essence of the image. Any disputes were resolved by Lord Jesus Himself (Diary 299; 326; 327; 344). The conversation between Sister Faustina and Lord Jesus about the painted image was very meaningful:
“When I visited the artist who was painting the image, and saw that it was not as beautiful as Jesus is, I felt very sad, but I hid this deep in my heart. (…) Mother Superior stayed in town to attend to some matters while I returned home alone. I asked myself, is it as beautiful as You are? Then I heard these words: neither in the beauty of the colour, nor in the brush lies the greatness of this image, but in My grace” (Diary, 313).
From this conversation emanates the honesty of the person gifted with a supernatural grace, who saw – in her mystical experiences – the real beauty of the resurrected Saviour.
The Lord Jesus appeared often to Sister Faustina in such a form as pre-sented in the image (Diary 473; 500; 560; 1047; 1565), and He also made numerous requests for this painting, which He sanctified with His living presence, to be made available for public veneration.
Thanks to the efforts of Father Sopoćko, on April 26-28, 1935, the image of the Merciful Saviour, displayed in the window of a gallery near to the chaplet of the Mary, Mother of Mercy at the Gate of Dawn in Vilnius, was for the first time venerated publically during the festive ceremony ending the Jubilee of the 1900th anniversary of the Redemption of the World. On the final day of the celebrations – it was the first Sunday after Easter – the service was attended by Sister Faustina. The homily on the Divine Mercy was delivered by Father Sopoćko, just as requested by Lord Jesus.
“For three days it was exposed and received public veneration. Since it was placed at the very top of a window at the Gate of Dawn (Ausros Vartai), it could be seen from a great distance. During these three days, the closing of the Jubilee of the Redemption of the World was being celebrated, at the Gate of Dawn, marking the nineteen hundred years that have passed since the Passion of our Saviour. I see now that the work of Redemption is bound-up with the work of mercy requested by Our Lord” (Diary, 89).
“When the image was displayed, I saw a sudden movement of the hand of Jesus, as He made a large sign of the cross. In the evening of the same day, (...) I saw the image going over the town, and the town was covered with what appeared to be a mesh and nets. As Jesus passed, He cut through all the nets...” (Diary, 416).
Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn in Vilnius.
The present view of the chaplet and gallery at the Gate of Dawn
„When I was in the Gate of Dawn attending the ceremony during which the image was displayed, I heard a sermon given by my confessor. This sermon about Divine Mercy was the first thing that Jesus had asked for so very long ago. When he began to speak about the great Mercy of Our Lord, the image came alive and the rays pierced the hearts of the people gathered there, but not all to the same degree. Some received more, some less. Great joy filled my soul to see the grace of God” (Diary, 417).
The jubilee celebrations at the Gate of Dawn constituted for Sister Faustina a sign and the fulfilment of the graces promised earlier – a public apparition of the power of the Divine Mercy.
“Toward the end of the service, when the priest took the Blessed Sacrament to bless the people, I saw Our Lord Jesus as He is represented in the image. Our Lord gave His blessing, and the rays extended over the whole world.
Suddenly, I saw an impenetrable brightness in the form of a crystal dwelling place, woven together from waves of brilliance unapproachable to both creatures and spirits. Three doors led to this resplendence. At that moment, Jesus, as He is represented in the image, entered this resplendence through the second door to the Unity within” (Diary, 420).
On April 4, 1937, after being positively reviewed by experts and with the permission of the Metropolitan Archbishop of Vilnius, Romuald Jałbrzykowski, the image of the Merciful Saviour was blessed and placed in Saint Michael’s Church in Vilnius. In that church, beautifully exposed in an impressive gilded frame next to the high altar, it was venerated and given numerous votive offerings; it was diffusing sanctity and the Divine Mercy devotion quickly spread beyond the borders of Vilnius. Miraculously, irrespective of physical limitations, it reached millions of people all over the world.
In her later correspondence, Sister Faustina wrote to Father Sopoćko:
“God let me know that He is pleased with what has already been done. Immersed in prayer and God’s intimacy, I have experienced great peace in my soul about this work as a whole. (…) And now, with regard to these pictures (small copies), (...) People are buying them a little and many souls have experienced God’s grace through this source. As with everything, this will take time. These pictures are not as beautiful as the big painting. They are bought by those who are attracted by the grace of God...” (Cracow, February 21, 1938).
As a result of World War II and the annexation of Lithuania by the USSR, the image of Merciful Jesus became inaccessible to pilgrims for several decades. Despite numerous dangers (it was hidden in the attic, many times rolled-up, stored in inappropriate conditions (dampness and freezing), terribly restored), thanks to Divine Providence, the painting miraculously survived the era of Communism.
During his pilgrimage to Vilnius, on September 5, 1993, Pope John Paul II prayed before the image of Merciful Jesus at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Vilnius. In his homily to the faithful he called this image
“A HOLY IMAGE”
In the history of apparitions, there is only one known case of Lord Jesus expressing His wish to paint a picture with the image of Himself. He Himself presented and approved the artistic vision of the image – showing Sister Faustina many times His living presence in such form as is reproduced in the painting. Moreover, promising special graces to the worshippers of the image – He made the painting of extraordinary religious value.
“By means of this Image I shall be granting many graces,
so let every soul have access to it” (Diary, 570).
“I promise that the soul that will venerate this Image will not perish.
I also promise victory over its enemies here on Earth,
especially at the hour of death” (Diary, 47).
“The two rays [in the image] denote blood and water. The pale ray stands for the water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the blood that is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the very depths of My tender Mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross (...). Happy is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him” (Diary, 299).
The first image of Merciful Jesus since 2005 has been worshipped at the Sanctuary of the Divine Mercy in Vilnius.
According to the statements of Father Sopoćko (preserved on tapes), he gave Sister Faustina a free-hand in co-operating with the painter. At the same time, in his statements and the writings he left, he confirms that the image was painted precisely according to her instructions. The Holy Image of the Saviour memorized by Sister Faustina was delivered with due diligence, proof of which is the fact that the image from the painting matches identically the dimensions of the person shown in the Turin Shroud.
Fragment of the Turin Shroud - ANIMATION
THE IMAGE OF MERCIFUL JESUS – CRACOW (Poland)
In 1943 – ten years after painting the first image of Merciful Jesus in Vilnius and five years after the death of Sister Faustina in Cracow – a fine painter, Adolf Hyla, came to the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Cracow Lagiewniki. He desired to paint some image as a gift for the monastic chapel as a token of gratitude for saving his family during the war. The sisters suggested painting the image of the Merciful Jesus.
They presented to the artist a pattern – a replica of the first image painted by Eugeniusz Kazimirowski in co-operation with Sister Faustina. They also added its description from the Diary of Saint Faustina. Despite that, the artist completed the work according to his own idea. Because the size of the painting did not fit the altar in the sisters’ chapel, Mother Irena Krzyżanowska ordered another painting. In 1944 the painting was blessed by the Jesuit Father J. Andrasz and placed in the monastic chapel in Cracow where it has been worshipped until the present day.
In this painting the Image of Merciful Jesus was presented by the artist with the background of a meadow and, visible in the distance, bushes. After the intervention of Father Sopoćko in 1954, the background was painted over in a dark colour and a floor was painted under the feet of the Lord Jesus.
The painting donated by Adolf Hyła as a token of gratitude was placed in the church of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in Wrocław (Poland). (See footnotes of the Diary of Saint Faustina).
After the end of World War II, the first painting of the Merciful Jesus, painted by Eugeniusz Kazimirowski in co-operation with Sister Faustina in Vilnius, ended up in the territory of the USSR where, due to barbarous oppressions, thousands of Catholics for several decades had to keep their faith in God secret. The painting, along with its extraordinary origin, was also hidden. The publication of the second image in Poland, perhaps providentially, distracted attention from the miraculous “Holy Image” (as Saint John Paul II called it in Vilnius in 1993), because then there were no other real possibilities of saving it.
Also, numerous unprofessional conservations, applying layers of overpaint, hid for many years the artistic values of the image. A layer of paraffin wax was applied by one of the restorers. Although it served to a large extent as a protection against the effects of humidity, in time it caused the shades of the original colours to change. Only after a thorough conservation in 2003, removing all overpaints, the painting regained the clarity of its message. The subtle figure of the Merciful Saviour appearing in the dark space, directs the attention of prayerful people to the light of the rays of mercy emanating from His Heart opened at the Cross.
The image painted in Sister Faustina’s presence (Eugeniusz Kazimirowski,
The picture was painted 5 years after the death of Sister Faustina (Adolf Hyła,
“I saw two rays coming out from the Host, as in the Image, closely united but not intermingled...” (Diary, 344).
“When he began to speak about the great Mercy of Our Lord, the image came alive and the rays pierced the hearts of the people gathered there…” (Diary, 417).
“Today I saw the glory of God which flows from the Image. Many souls are receiving graces, although they do not speak of it openly. Even though it has faced all kinds of vicissitudes, God is receiving glory because of it; and the efforts of Satan and of evil men are shattered and come to naught. In spite of Satan’s anger, the Divine Mercy will triumph over the whole world and will be worshipped by all souls” (Diary, 1789). \
“Today, I saw two enormous pillars planted in the ground; I had planted one of them, and a certain person, S. M. (Sopocko M.), the other. (...). These two pillars were close to each other, in the area of the Image. And I saw the Image, raised up very high and hanging from these two pillars. In an instant, upon these two pillars, supported both from inside and outside, there stood a large temple. I saw a hand finishing the temple, but I did not see the person doing so. There was a great multitude of people, inside and outside the temple, and the torrents issuing from the Compassionate Heart of Jesus were flowing down upon everyone” (Diary, 1689).
Without a doubt, the image painted by Adolf Hyla contributed to a great extent to the growth of the Divine Mercy devotion. This is confirmed by testimonials of the graces received through its intercession. But its popularity did not detract from the value of the original image painted in Vilnius – precisely according to the guidelines given by the Lord Jesus. This image finally reached a time when it could be worthily exposed at the high altar of the Sanctuary of the Divine Mercy in Vilnius where, surrounded by the prayers of the Sisters and visiting pilgrims, it has been worshipped publicly ever since.
Perpetual adoration at the Sanctuary of the Divine Mercy
“I promise that the soul that will venerate this Image will not perish.
I also promise victory over its enemies here on Earth,
especially at the hour of death” (Diary, 47).
Marcin Eugeniusz Kazimirowski, son of August and Maria née Kossakowska, was born in 1873 in Wygnanka, Podole region. He studied in Krakow at the WSSP, and also studied in Munich and in Paris. In 1900 he participated in the classes of the Academy of Saint. Łukasz in Rome. After returning to Poland, he lived in Cracow but often travelled to Ukraine and to Vilnius region painting numerous landscapes and religious images. He participated in independence movements and willingly served in the Polish Army. After 1914 he lived in Vilnius where he was a long-term teacher at the Teacher’s College in Vilnius and scene painter at the Grand Theatre and Polish Theatre in Vilnius. His works left in Cracow and Lviv were lost during World War II. Only a few paintings from the Vilnius period have survived. In 1934 in Vilnius, on the request of father Michael Sopoćko, he painted the first image of the Merciful Jesus according to the instructions of Saint Sister Faustina. From 1936 he lived in Bialystok, where in 1939 he suddenly died of pneumonia. The funeral was carried out by father Stanisław Urban, vicar of the Parish Church (1946-1977 - priest). Kazimirowski’s tomb is in a Catholic parish cemetery.
Fragment of the parish deaths records
On the initiative of the Foundation of the Apostles of Merciful Jesus operating at the Church of the Society of Jesus in Łódź, Poland (the organizer and sponsor of the 2003 conservation works on the Divine Mercy painting), in March 2004 a professional photographic session of the first painting of the Merciful Jesus was held at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Vilnius. The photocopies developed from the 20cm slides taken with a professional camera have been made available by the Foundation for the public evangelization.