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Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska

The Book That Sparked the Divine Mercy Movement The Diary chronicles God's message given through St. Faustina to the world to turn to His mercy. In it, we are reminded to t... Read more

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By Felix Carroll (Nov 7, 2014)
He was an energetic, intensely spiritual priest who was happy in his pastoral duties. But Fr. Michael Sopocko could never have imagined how in 1933, when he was appointed to be confessor to the convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Vilnius, in present-day Lithuania, his life would change.

It was there, in a confessional, where he met Sr. Maria Faustina (1905-1938), 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.

Blessed Michael Sopocko (1888-1975) was beatified Sunday, Sept. 28, 2008 in Bialystok, Poland. And with that, the world has begun to get to know the man on the other side of the confessional whom Jesus assured St. Faustina would be her "visible help ... on earth. He will help you to carry out My will on earth" (Diary of Saint Faustina, 53).

There are many things we know about Fr. Sopocko.

"He was a priest's priest," says Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, one of the world's leading experts on St. Faustina and the message of Divine Mercy. "He was a professor of theology. He was a mentor and teacher to many. He was confessor to a number of convents, and he was a military chaplain. And he wrote so much. After being St. Faustina's confessor, he wrote four big volumes on Divine Mercy, and many articles for religious publications."

He was born in Nowosady, near Vilnius. He studied theology at the University of Vilnius, and then in Warsaw. He earned his doctorate in moral theology in 1926. Among his duties was serving as confessor to the Sister of Our Lady of Mercy, who had a house in Vilnius. It was there where he first met St. Faustina, who shared with him her startling revelations.

"At first, he wanted to quit," says Fr. Seraphim. "He didn't want to be the confessor over there because of what she was saying. Then the Mother Superior said, 'Well, what are we supposed to do?' And he said, 'Well, have her checked out by a psychiatrist.' "

She was tested, and she was deemed mentally stable.

"Father Sopocko found out from the nuns that she was one of the best nuns in the convent," says Fr. Seraphim. "But she told him things in confession that nobody could possibly have known. Nobody. And that scared him."

Saint Faustina had less than three years of formal schooling, and yet here she was shedding light on the progress of the mystical life of the soul and giving an unparalleled understanding into the mystery of Divine Mercy. Father Sopocko had to turn to the writings of St. Thomas and St. Augustine, among others, to help him to confirm the authenticity of St. Faustina's revelations that God's greatest attribute is mercy.

"In the confessional it became apparent that she knew things that no one under normal circumstances could know about," says Fr. Seraphim. "For instance, one Lent, Fr. Sopocko was asked to give a talk on the radio. She didn't hear the talk. But next time he came for confession, she told him how Jesus was very much displeased with his talk on the radio because he did not have a 'pure intention.' He later wrote that she was right, that he had tried to make an impression on people on what he said and how he said it that was not a pure intention.

"So Jesus squealed on him!" Fr. Seraphim says, with a laugh.

"At another time," says Fr. Seraphim, "there was a meeting of priests at the sisters' convent. They were discussing some thing about the Holy Trinity. They had hit a blank wall during their discussion. Father Sopocko paused the meeting and asked one of the nuns to have Sr. Faustina come in. She entered, and Fr. Sopocko posed the question to her, and she came out with such an answer that all the other priests' mouths were gaping because they were wondering how she knew the things she knew."

It was Fr. Sopocko who first instructed St. Faustina to keep her Diary, which chronicles her experiences of Divine Mercy and her mission to share it with the world.

When St. 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.

Following St. Faustina's death, and at the outbreak of World War II, Fr. Sopocko gave Divine Mercy material to Fr. Joseph Jarzebowski, MIC, a member of the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception, who was escaping the Nazis.

"He's the one who gave the material to Fr. Joseph Jarzebowski as he was coming to the States," says Fr. Seraphim. "And where Fr. Jarzebowski was doubting he would be able to get here to the United States, Fr. Sopocko didn't say 'If you get to the States spread this,' he said 'When you get to the States spread this.'"

Father Joseph eventually did make it to the U.S., where the Marians established a beachhead from which they have spread the message of Divine Mercy around the world.

In the meantime, Fr. Sopocko suffered ridicule from spreading the devotion, as St. Faustina prophesized. She wrote in her Diary:

One day, I saw interiorly how much my confessor would have to suffer: friends will desert you while everyone will rise up against you and your physical strength will diminish. I saw you as a bunch of grapes chosen by the Lord and thrown into the press of suffering. Your soul, Father, will at times be filled with doubts about this work and about me.

I saw that God Himself seemed to be opposing [him], and I asked the Lord why He was acting in this way toward him, as though He were placing obstacles in the way of his doing what He Himself had asked him to do. And the Lord said, I am acting thus with him to give testimony that this work is Mine. Tell him not to fear anything; My gaze is on him day and night. There will be as many crowns to form his crown as there will be souls saved by this work. It is not for the success of a work, but for the suffering that I give reward (90).

During the 20-year ban of the devotion (1959-1978, due to faulty translations of the Diary), Fr. Sopocko took comfort in Sr. Faustina's prophecy that the devotion would only seem to be "utterly undone" (see Diary, 378).

Indeed 1935, St. Faustina had a vision of the road ahead for her confessor:

Once as I was talking with my spiritual director, I had an interior vision — quicker than lightening — of his soul in great suffering, in such agony that God touches very few souls with such fire. The suffering arises from this work. There will come a time when this work, which God is demanding so very much, will be as though utterly undone. And then God will act with great power, which will give evidence of its authenticity. It will be a new splendor for the Church, although it has been dormant in it from long ago. That God in infinitely merciful, no one can deny. He desires everyone to know this before He comes again as Judge. He wants souls to come to know Him first as King of Mercy. When this triumph comes, we shall already have entered the new life in which there is no suffering. But before this, your soul [referring to Fr. Sopocko] will be surfeited with bitterness at the sight of the destruction of your efforts. However, this will only appear to be so, because what God has once decided upon, He does not change. But although this destruction will be such only in outward appearance, the suffering will be real. When will this happen? I do not know. How long will it last? I do not know. But God has promised a great grace especially to you and to all those... "who will proclaim My great mercy. I shall protect them Myself at the hour of death as my own glory. (378)

Father Sopocko died in 1975, before his zeal for Divine Mercy was vindicated by the lifting of the ban. Three years after his death, with the help of the Archbishop of Kracow, Karol Cardinal Wojtyla, the ban was lifted. Cardinal Wojtyla would become Pope John Paul II, who eventually beatified and canonized St. Faustina. It was Pope John Paul II who also declared: "There is nothing more man needs than Divine Mercy — that love which is benevolent, which is compassionate, which raises man above his weakness to the infinite heights to the holiness of God."

Divine Mercy has since become what Fr. Seraphim calls "the greatest grassroots movement in the history of the Church." None of this would have been possible if it weren't for Fr. Sopocko, the priest who believed St. Faustina.

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deacon charlie - Feb 15, 2010

My dad had a geat devotion to the Divine Mercy. I can still picture him saying the Chaplet of Mercy while holding my dying mother's hand and she passed away peacefully two days later. He had asked me to do an oil painting of the Divine Mercy which I donated to the parish and it is displayed on Divine Mercy sunday. So dad's dream of
having Divine Mercy devotion in our parish was fulfilled three years after his death.

edwin copingco - Feb 15, 2010

Divine Mercy devotees in Jimenez, Misamis Occidental, Mindanao, Philippines, commemorate the Feast Day of Blessed Fr. Michael Sopocko on his 87th year death anniversary. Quiet, hidden and a simple mass celebrated by Rev. Fr. Mario Magcanam and a deacon Rev. Sandy Cumita in his feast day.Attended by devotees in the remote place in St. John the Baptist Church. At present, the St. John the Baptist Church observes important dates linked to the Divine Mercy such as, Divine Mercy Sunday every 2nd Sunday of Easter started in 1995; Feast Day of Saint Faustina October 5. started in 1996; November 11, 2002, the arrival of the relic of Saint Faustina in St. John the Baptist Church and the Feast Day of Blessed Fr. Michael Sopocko started these year 2010. While Rev. Fr. Michael Sopocko was venerable at that time our parish celebrate the day of his beatification last September 29, 2008 by enthronement of his image and a prayer for his intercession. edwin copingco- archdiosesan propagator of Divine Mercy in the Archdiocese of Ozamiz

Apostle of The Divine Mercy New Orleans - Feb 16, 2010

Are there any first class relics available of Fr. Sopocko? I would very much be interested. I had started a novena to St. Peter in preparation for the feast of The Chair of Peter on February 22 and by coincidence went to the computer last night (which I do not usually do) and went for the first time in almost a year to the Divine Mercy web site. I belong to a group of people which promote the message of The Divine Mercy and we have been doing this since 1986. In 1983 my father had a miraculous healing through the Divine Mercy Chaplet and it was only last night when I happened to go to the web site that I found out my father's anniversary of his birth is the same date as Fr. Sopocko's passing to eternal life. My sister's birthday is October 5th and my father's parents' wedding anniversary is Oct. 5th. These coincidences have me in amazement! Praise be to the Divine Heart of Jesus!

Bob D. - Feb 16, 2010

Another great article by Felix! Many Thanks!
It is interesting to note that the late Fr. Walter "Pel" MIC (the noted Fr. Joseph) who knew Fr. Sopocko had told a group of us tht the last conversation he had with Fr. Sopocko that the good Fr. Sopocko had asked Fr. Pel to pray that the Good Lord would take him home to Heaven quickly. Fr. Pel was surprised that Fr. Sopocko whould say such a thing! Because it was only when he and Sr. Faustina was together in the next life that the mesaage would spread and be accepted. (Please see the above article and diary # 1738

JMP - Feb 18, 2010

On this the beginning of the Lenten season, please pray that my wife be converted, return to the sacrements, open her heart to love me and reconcile our marriage.

Isabelle - Feb 25, 2010

On Holy family Monastery web site .. it says Divine Mercy is not authentic, and I have been praying the chaplet for over 20 years.This cannot be a fallacy.Our Divine Lord has heard all those chaplets,no?

Jim Miller, Lay Apostle of Divine Mercy - Jan 1, 2011

"He is a priest after My own heart...Through him it pleases Me to proclaim the worship of My mercy." (Diary 1256) How very greateful I am to Blessed Fr Michael Sopocko for his priestly holiness, courage and fortitude in listening to Jesus speak in his heart dedicating his life in proclaiming Divine Mercy in word, prayer and action as Jesus requested. Reading this article we draw deeper into his life as we become more aware of what Jesus expects of us in forever continuing to bring His Divine Mercy to the whole world.

Jim Miller, Lay Apostle of Divine Mercy - Farmington Michigan - Jan 2, 2012

It has been one year since I commented of Felix Carol's spiritually uplifting article on Fr Michael Sopocko. Inspired by Felix Carol's words I traveled from Detroit to New York State on to Boston, the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge Massachusetts, across the sea to Ireland and back to Las Vegas…proclaiming Jesus message of Divine Mercy in word, prayer and deed as He requested us to do.(Diary 301, 687, 998) Pray, read the article again and again and follow the message Felix teaches us through Jesus’ words as told to St Faustina and Blessed Fr Sopocko, “Proclaim to the whole world, My unfathomable Divine Mercy…” (D142)

edwin copingco - Feb 5, 2012

Tomorrow Feb 6, 2012, the first day novena in honor to Blessed Fr. Michael Sopocko, on his feast day February 15. Blessed Fr. Michael Sopocko, Pray for us.From St. John the Baptist Parish, Jimenez, Misamis Occidental, Philippines.

Cecilia - Apr 4, 2014

Isabelle (Feb 25, 2010)- I hope someone answered your question regarding Holy Family Monastery. It's a sedevacantist organization run by Michael Dimond. They are anti Vatican II, Pope John Paul II and I would say that they are anti Catholic as well.
It's great that you are praying the chaplet for so long. Please keep it up. I am just now learning in detail of the Divine Mercy and pray the chaplet in addition to the Rosary. God bless you!