Sunday, April 15, 2012

(80) The Divine Mercy Message and Our Four Visits to the Divine Mercy Shrine in Krakow, Poland

The first painting in the Vilnius convent by Kazimierowski which more closely follows the instructions of St. Faustina.

The later more popular second painting by Hyła that is seen in most Catholic Churches around the world.
              Christ appeared to a semi-literate simple but holy nun by the name of Maria Faustina Kowalska a number of times at her order's convents in Plock-Poland, Vilnius-Lithuania, and Krakow-Poland beginning in 1931. He asked her to record the conversations in a diary which became a book, “Divine Mercy in My Soul”, which has been translated into many languages. This classic is also on line at and can be bought from

     The main message is that Christ not only is a God of justice but also a God of mercy, who anxiously waits to bring souls back to Him as innumerable sins drown in the ocean of mercy. We in turn should show mercy to others through kindness and love as we forgive those who have hurt us. At the same time the Redeemer wants us to place all of our trust in Him, no matter how bad things. Then sooner or later will come the victorious resurrection for those who trust.

     The Image. Our Lord asked St. Faustina to direct an artist Eugene Kazimierowski to paint what she saw. It is pictured above on the left and remains in the order's Vilnius-Lithuania convent, where most of the appearances occurred. The painting was the best the artist could do after trial and error. St. Faustina was never satisfied because no artist could duplicate exactly the beauty and majesty what she saw. After her death in 1938, Adolph Hyla painted a second image on the right in thanksgiving for surviving the second world war. The latter stood for many years to the left of the main altar of the convent chapel. In 2002, a magnificent basilica shrine was completed on the grounds of the convent. The image now stands over the main altar there.

       Notice the white and red rays protruding from our Lord's sacred heart. They are rays of love, grace, and mercy. The white rays symbolize the purifying water of Baptism and the red rays the blood He shed for us. This is reminiscent of the heart of Christ being pierced by the lance of the soldier after Christ died on the cross and a mixture of water and blood flowed out from His heart through His side (John 19:31-37).

          Differences between the first and second paintings of Christ as described by St. Faustina.  Eugene Kazimierowski painted the first image according to what St. Faustina personally described.  Adolph Hyła tried to improve on it according to the description left by St. Faustina in her diary.  After the Soviet invasion, the occupiers looted the convents and churches of paintings.  However, they overlooked the image of Divine Mercy and a priest left it in an attic until discovered years later.  Thus the second painting by Hyła was placed in the convent chapel in Krakow.  The apparitions and paintings were relatively unknown outside the order until Blessed Pope John Paul II spread the Divine Mercy devotion to the entire world.

          St. Faustina’s spiritual director, Fr. Michael Sopocko actually had objections to the second image.  In the first image the darkness behind Christ is more apparent to indicate that Christ is the light of the world.  According to Church regulations at the time, a priest was not supposed to make a blessing with his hands above the shoulders.  Our Lord wanted to adhere to the norms of the Church to indicate that “Whatever thou shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven” (Matthew 16:19 & 18:18).  The second image does not adhere to that norm.  In addition the image of Christ is not as manly in face and body as in the first.  Furthermore, the rays of red and pale white are supposed to be closer together as a blend since it was a mixture of blood and water that poured out from the side of Christ John 19:34). See      

Blessed Pope John Paul II, the Vicar of Christ, in front of the second image in the original convent chapel, before construction of the large church.

       Trust. The inscription below the image, “Jezu ufam tobie” translates to “Jesus, I trust in you.” Our Lord challenged us through St. Faustina to trust Him:

      "Your duty will be to trust completely in My goodness, and My duty will be to give you all you need. I am making Myself dependent upon your trust: if your trust is great, then My generosity will be without limit."  (Divine Mercy in My Soul para.548) In paragraph 1578 we see: “The graces of My mercy are drawn by means of one vessel only, and that is trust. The more a soul trusts, the more it will receive”.

      Trust constitutes the foundation of the Divine Mercy devotion. It means complete acceptance of God's will, seeking it in making decisions, and praying for His will to be done in our lives especially in career decisions.  "Fear nothing l am with you always" (Diary 586).  "Humanity will not find peace until it turns trustfully to divine mercy" (Diary, 300). As John Paul II, the Mercy Pope said, Divine Mercy is a message for the new millenium.

      Mercy towards one's neighbors is the second most essential element of the Divine Mercy devotion. The Lord reminds us through St. Faustina about the basic Christian duty in paragraph 742. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it.

        I am giving you three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbor: the first-by deed, the second-by word, the third-by prayer. In these three degrees is contained the fullness of mercy, and it is an unquestionable proof of love for Me. By this means a soul glorifies and pays reverence to My mercy. Yes, the first Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Mercy, but there must also be acts of mercy, and I demand the worship of My mercy through the solemn celebration of the Feast and through the veneration of the image which is painted. By means of this image I shall grant many graces to souls. It is to be a reminder of the demands of My mercy, because even the strongest faith is of no avail without works.”

    In the revelations, our Lord expressed a desire that each of us should be witnesses of Divine Mercy.......perform out of love for Him through deed, word, or prayer at least one act of mercy toward our neighbors every day. Mercy is of greater merit for the soul and adds that one does not need material resources to perform acts of mercy. Indeed it is a requirement of the Gospel.......specifically the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.

         Corporal Works of Mercy
    • To feed the hungry;
    • To give drink to the thirsty;
    • To clothe the naked;
    • To shelter the homeless;
    • To visit the sick;
    • To ransom the captive;
    • To bury the dead.

         Spiritual Works of Mercy
    • To instruct the ignorant;
    • To counsel the doubtful;
    • To admonish the sinner;
    • To bear wrongs patiently;
    • To forgive offenses willingly;
    • To comfort the afflicted;
    • To pray for the living and the dead.
       A Wonderful Promise of Mercy. Christ also directed the world to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, especially at 3 pm, the hour of grace when He died on the cross. The Chaplet is a litany asking for mercy while meditating on the passion. You can watch it being recited on EWTN television or on the internet at any day at 3 pm. For details on how to say the Chaplet and selected quotes from her book, see
         Furthermore, Christ promised that if the Chaplet is recited in the presence of a dying person, He would come to him or her:
"....When they say this Chaplet in the presence of the dying, I
will stand between My Father and the dying person not as the just
judge but as the Merciful Savior"
(Divine Mercy in My Soul).
My wife Jaga and I have had that privilege a few times since we regularly bring Holy Communion to the sick as Eucharistic Ministers.
The main altar of the Divine Mercy Shrine in Krakow during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
       Divine Mercy and the Eucharist. In paragraph 1447 Christ expresses His love in Holy Communion. Oh, how painful it is to Me that souls so seldom unite themselves to Me in Holy Communion. I wait for souls, and they are indifferent toward Me. I love them tenderly and sincerely, and they distrust Me. I want to lavish My graces on them, and they do not want to accept them. They treat Me as a dead object, whereas My Heart is full of love and mercy. In order that you may know at least some of My pain, imagine the most tender of mothers who has great love for her children, while those children spurn her love. Consider her pain. No one is in a position to console her. This is but a feeble image and likeness of My love.”
       Some History. For years the Vatican would not approve the visions of Sister Faustina, who died in 1938, as worthy of belief.   In fact they suppressed her writings and put her work on the Index of Forbidden Books from 1959-1966. As God's providence works, a young Karol Wojtiła was working at a quarry near the convent during the German occupation in the early 1940s and learned about Faustina from the nuns when he visited their chapel.

      By 1963 this youth became the Archbishop of Krakow. He investigated the visions and Faustina's writings and interviewed witnesses, becoming convinced of her holiness and the authenticity of the revelations and her writings. Theologians were amazed how a simple woman with only a third grade education could write a book with such profound depth. In 1967, the year he was made Cardinal, Wojtiła submitted documents about Faustina to the Vatican, requesting that the process of her beatification begin and it did in 1968. In 1977 he asked the Vatican to review and lift the ban on the Divine Mercy devotion. The Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith lifted in April 1978 a few months before he was elected Pope in October. The misunderstandings were all due to a faulty translation into Italian.
St. Faustina with the original image of Divine Mercy by Kazimierowski.

       After being elected Pope in 1978, his second encyclical was on Divine Mercy titled, Dives in Misericordia (The Father of Mercies and God of all Comfort) November 30, 1980 and her cause for canonization was opened. In 1993 Pope John Paul beatified her and on April 30 2000, the First Sunday After Easter, he canonized her as a saint of the Catholic Church.......the very first of the new millennium. In his homily of that Mass, the Pontiff declared the First Sunday After Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday throughout the world according to the request of our Lord to St. Faustina, close to 70 years before.
          Divine Mercy Sunday and Special Graces. One may obtain special graces by saying the Divine Chaplet for nine consecutive days beginning Good Friday with a different intention and prayer each day as follows: 1) All mankind, especially sinners; 2) The souls of priests and religious; 3) All devout and faithful souls; 4) Those who do not believe in God and those who do not yet know me; 5) The souls of separated brethren; 6) The meek and humble souls and the souls of little children; 7) The souls who especially venerate and glorify my mercy; 8) The souls who are detained in Purgatory; 9) Souls who have become luke-warm.
        Anyone who receives Holy Communion on Divine Mercy Sunday and goes to Confession within three weeks of that day will receive a plenary remission of temporal punishment in Purgatory.
         Our 1995 Visit. At that time Divine Mercy was relatively unknown. I learned about it when I taught at Franciscan University of Steubenville 1980-83. During my first visit to see Jaga's family, I asked to see the Shrine of Divine Mercy. To my surprise hardly anyone knew anything about it. True, Communism had been overthrown only six years before, but they did have a relative freedom of worship, but very limited freedom of religion where the Church could freely build churches, have their own newspapers, schools, minimal government interference, etc. A coworker of Janusz, my sister-in-law's husband, said it was in the Łagiewniki section of Krakow. We went there and had to ask several people before one could tell us where it is.
The old convent with the original chapel in which our Lord appeared to St. Faustina

        Finally, we found this old walled convent by trial and error and asking people who did know as we got closer. As we entered, we saw a large open air theater for Masses on Divine Mercy Sunday some five or six thousand people would come. We found the chapel and was on time for the Mass at 3 pm, the hour of grace when Christ died. The chapel only has room for some 150 people; so many had to stand outside. The artist Adolph Hyla's conception of Christ, as described by St. Faustina, looked stunning over a small altar to the left of the main altar.
        Fascinating was the story of the shrine by a nun from Texas, of all places. In the 1980s she was on a tour of Polish shrines. A priest in the group asked the Communist guide to take the group to the Shrine of Divine Mercy. He didn't know where it was, but they did find it. This young woman returned to the United States enthralled by the Shrine and the Divine Mercy message. After a few months, the Texan was convinced she had a vocation to the Polish order. Thus this girl from Texas joined the order and learned Polish, which she spoke very well.
       Much of what we learned from her is described in this article. One story concerns the time when a beggar knocked at the door of the convent. St. Faustina gave him some food and later Our Lord revealed that He was the beggar. This certainly reinforces what Christ said during His public life “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
        Christ revealed to St. Faustina that if there is even a glimmer of good will in a dying person, He would try to take advantage of it. So this American had to tell our Polish relatives about the fabulous Shrine of Divine Mercy three hours away from them.
The final stop for 6 million Jews as St. Edith Stein and also gentiles
such as the Polish priest St. Maximilian Kolbe.  The Nazis were merciless.

         1999. We stopped at the shrine after we visited Auschwitz, a very somber visit. Some 6 million people were exterminated there, mostly Jews but a significant number of Christians. There was heroism there too as when St. Maximilian Kolbe gave his life so another prisoner could live. St. Faustina foretold that war. As I reflected at the monument there, a terrifying thought entered my mind: “What about our Holocaust? Hitler killed 10 million Jews; we killed 53 million babies since the legalization of abortion in 1973. Our country is indeed in great need of the Lord's mercy! This visit was brief and we heard Mass late in the afternoon. At this time, they were raising money for the new basilica and that year began construction.
         2007 and 2008. While teaching in Kielce during the Spring Semesters of both years, I had the opportunity to visit the shrine on Divine Mercy Sunday by bus. Each time there was a throng of over 50,000 people gathered in a field below an outside altar to the right of the Basilica. Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz presided at the open air Mass each time. He was the secretary and confidant of Karol Wojtila as Archbishop of Krakow and as Pope John-Paul II.
    The Basilica of the Shrine of Divine Mercy is of modern architecture and beautiful with a tower overlooking the convent grounds and the surrounding countryside. The view is great. The original convent and chapel are the red brick buildings in the background. 
        Once Pope John Paul II canonized St. Faustina and declared the Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday, the Divine Mercy devotion grew rapidly. Today everyone in Poland has heard of the Divine Mercy Shrine. Today every Catholic Church in the world celebrates Divine Mercy Sunday. Almost every church in Poland and many in the United States have an image of Divine Mercy.
        God's Mercy in the Bible occurs many times in the Bible as early as Exodus 20:6; 1Samuel 12:7; 1Chronicles 21:13; 2Chronicles 5:13; Hosea 6:6; in the psalms and throughout the New Testament as Matthew 5:7; 9:13; 12:7; 23:23; Luke 1:50,54, 58,72,78; 10:37; 18:9-14, etc. The Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan are excellent examples of mercy.  A little study will show that there is no contradiction between the Bible and the Diary of St. Faustina, i.e. Divine Mercy in My Soul.  In fact, it reinforces the Bible.