Photo: Marian Archives
The Priest Who Believed St. Faustina
He was the man on the other side of the confessional window. An energetic, intensely spiritual priest who was happy in his pastoral duties. But little did Fr. Michael Sopocko realize that in 1933, when he was appointed to be confessor to the convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Vilnius, Poland, his whole world would soon be turned upside down.
It was there, in a confessional, where he met Sr. Maria Faustina, a humble nun with a tremendous weight upon her. The Lord had begun revealing to her His message of Divine Mercy — an urgent message that He wanted her to share with the whole world. But who would believe her? At first, no one. Not her superiors in the convent and not her previous confessors.
Sister Faustina had prayed for a spiritual director, someone to help guide her, someone who understood that what she was experiencing was real. Father Sopocko was the answer to her prayers, and eventually he became the main promoter of her revelations, the very linchpin in the Lord's call to spread Divine Mercy throughout the world.
And now we can call him a Venerable Servant of God. In Dec. 20, 2004, the Vatican Congregation for Sainthood Causes published a decree recognizing the heroic virtues of the Servant of God Rev. Michael Sopocko. A miracle attributed to his intercession and then recognized by the Vatican is needed for his beatification.
Father Sopocko "is the visible help for you on earth," Jesus told Sr. Faustina. "He will help you to carry out My will on earth" (Diary of Saint Faustina, 53).
Indeed, he did just that. It was Fr. Sopocko, a well-trained theologian, whose research into the writings of St. Thomas and St. Augustine, among others, helped him to confirm the authenticity of Sr. Faustina's revelations that God's greatest attribute is mercy.
It was Fr. Sopocko who first instructed Sr. Faustina to keep her Diary. When Sr. Faustina told Fr. Sopocko of her visions of Jesus and His request for a new image to be painted and spread throughout the world, it was he who found the artist, E. Kazimirowski, who would paint The Divine Mercy image.
He didn't stop there. In actions that mark the beginning of the spread of The Divine Mercy devotion, Fr. Sopocko made sure The Divine Mercy image was displayed on the Sunday after Easter, 1935, over the famous Ostra Brama gate to the city of Vilnius. And in the nearby church, he preached the message of mercy.
Father Sopocko eventually suffered ridicule from spreading the devotion. But, during the 20-year ban of the devotion (1959-1979, due to faulty translations of the Diary), he took comfort in Sr. Faustina's prophecy that the devotion would only seem to be "utterly undone" (see Diary, 378).
He died in 1975, before his zeal for Divine Mercy was vindicated by the lifting of the ban. The nun whose confession proved to be nothing less than divine revelation rose to the altar of sainthood in 2000, and now many millions around the world are touched by the Lord's message of mercy.
Now, as Fr. Sopocko's cause of beatification advances, we are learning more about the priest who believed St. Faustina.