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The other Saint of Divine Mercy: Blessed Michał Sopoćko

For many decades after Sister Faustina’s death in Poland in 1938, it was a priest, Fr. Sopoćko, who kept devotion to Divine Mercy alive and in the hearts of Catholics all over the world.

Pictures of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938) and Blessed Michał Sopoćko (1888-1975) in the Church of the Holy Cross in Łomża, Poland. (Image: Fczarnowski/Wikipedia)

When we think about the Divine Mercy image, novena, or chaplet, it’s hard not to think about two great saints as well. Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938) was a Polish religious sister and mystic whose diary describes her visions involving Divine Mercy. Saint John Paul II (1920-2005) instituted the feast of Divine Mercy, following the instructions in Faustina’s diary, after he had become pope.

But, for many decades after Faustina’s death in Poland, it was a priest, Blessed Michał Sopoćko, who kept this devotion alive and in the hearts of Catholics all over the world.

When Michał was born in 1888, his hometown was known as Juszewszczyzna, Russia (now Nowosady, Poland). His family was persecuted by the czarist authorities both because they were Polish and because they were Catholic. Michał recognized God’s call to the priesthood; he was ordained in 1914, serving as a parish priest until 1918. He then became a military chaplain and even accompanied Polish soldiers on the front lines during a war with Russia. He later entered the seminary for advanced studies and completed a doctorate in theology.

Michał was clearly an intelligent, hard-working priest, eventually serving as spiritual director to seminarians, regional coordinator for military chaplains, rector of a parish, and head of a theology department. In 1933, he was asked to add another responsibility to his priestly life, serving as the confessor and spiritual director to the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in the city of Vilnius.

That’s when he met an unusually gifted and devout woman: Maria Faustina Kowalska. Sister Faustina had been receiving visions of our Lord for some time, visions in which Jesus appeared to her and insisted that she share a message of God’s love and mercy with the entire world. Her superiors and confessors didn’t believe her, with the single exception of Jesuit priest Joseph Andrasz. Struggling to understand these messages, discouraged by those around her, and limited by her own lack of education, Sister Faustina humbly begged our Lord to send her a spiritual director who could help her discern God’s will. When she saw Father Michał Sopoćko for the first time, the voice in her soul told her that he was the one.

Father Sopoćko listened to Faustina and evaluated her mystical experiences carefully. He asked her to keep a written journal of what she experienced in her relationship with the Lord, which she obediently did. He helped her find an artist, Eugeniusz Kazimirowski, to paint an image of Jesus Christ according to the vision she had seen. He did not scoff at her inspiration to establish a new religious congregation, although he encouraged her to remain in her own congregation for various reasons. He supported her through spiritual direction as she suffered from debilitating ill health, ridicule from other sisters, and spiritual difficulties.

Demonstrating that even saints need spiritual direction, Faustina destroyed her earliest journal at one point when an angel appeared to her and told her to burn her diary, proving Saint Paul’s admonition (2 Cor 11:14) that Satan can even disguise himself as an angel to mislead us. Fortunately, Faustina never disobeyed Father Sopoćko again, and, at the time of her death in 1938, she left behind 700 handwritten pages describing her experiences, visions, and spiritual reflections.

As a priest, Father Sopoćko was assigned various tasks over the years following Faustina’s death. During World War II, he secretly supported Polish Jews, who were constantly being persecuted under the Nazis, and he narrowly escaped arrest and imprisonment for doing so. After the war, he served as a seminary professor and taught many subjects. But the devotion that Faustina described, now known as devotion to the Divine Mercy, influenced the rest of Father Sopoćko’s life.

Not only did a love of God’s mercy inspire his own priestly service, he promoted the devotion to others. He organized the printing of prayers and litanies, including the now-famous Divine Mercy chaplet and novena. He made sure the Divine Mercy image painted by Kazimirowski was publicly displayed on the Sunday after Easter, and he preached about its meaning. There were 150 Divine Mercy centers in Poland just thirteen years after Sister Faustina’s death, and he wrote articles about God’s mercy in Polish magazines for decades. He passed on Divine Mercy materials to other priests, including a Marian priest who was the first one to bring the devotion to the US. He remembered Faustina’s insistence about founding a new religious congregation and wrote the constitution for what is now the Congregation of the Sisters of the Divine Mercy.

But he also suffered innumerable setbacks and constant ridicule for promoting this message. Because of Sister Faustina’s lack of education, early translations of her diary were misleading, and her writings were banned by the Holy Office (now called the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith) in 1959. Although the image and the associated devotions—separate from Faustina’s diary—were even encouraged by Popes Pius XI and Pius XII, it wasn’t until 1978, several months before Karol Wojtyła became pope, that the prohibition was lifted.

Michał Sopoćko died on February 15, 1975, just a few years shy of the total vindication of Saint Faustina’s writings, after having spent a lifetime promoting devotion to God’s mercy. He was declared a blessed on September 28, 2008 in Bialystok, Poland, as a result of his own holy life.

Today, it is difficult to find Blessed Michał’s writings in English, while information about Saint Faustina has exploded all over the world. There are now translations of her diary available in at least twenty languages, biographies and films about her life, different versions of the Divine Mercy image, and many devotional books explaining the concept of Divine Mercy.

But it is hard to imagine Blessed Michał being jealous about the fact that his work is almost completely forgotten today. After all, he always knew that his life’s work involved promoting an awareness and love for God and His Mercy, not about promoting Michał Sopoćko.

However, on his feast day, February 15th, we can thank God for Blessed Michał. He was, in some ways, like a relay race runner, taking the baton of Divine Mercy from one saint—Saint Faustina—carrying it his whole life long—and placing it in the hands of another saint—Saint John Paul II. Those of us who pray the Divine Mercy chaplet at 3 pm each day owe a debt of gratitude to Saint Faustina for her visions and Saint John Paul for his leadership. But we should also give thanks to the persistence of Blessed Michał Sopoćko.

Update: I am delighted to learn that a new collection of Bl. Michal Sopocko’s writings in English has been released by the Divine Mercy Shrine of Stockbridge, MA. Find out more about God’s Amazing Mercy here.


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About Dawn Beutner 101 Articles
Dawn Beutner is the author of The Leaven of the Saints: Bringing Christ into a Fallen World (Ignatius Press, 2023), and Saints: Becoming an Image of Christ Every Day of the Year also from Ignatius Press. She blogs at dawnbeutner.com.

7 Comments

  1. Really like your articles. In particular as indicated Blessed Michal is an underappreciated, hopefully Saint, in the passing on of the Devine Mercy chaplet and devotion. Hopefully this will help in making known his important and critical role in God’s plan for the promulgation of Devine Mercy.

  2. Divine Mercy in My Soul, 299-300
    I desire that the first Sunday after Easter be the Feast of Mercy. Ask of my faithful servant [Father Sopocko] that, on this day, he tell the whole world of My great mercy; that whoever approaches the Fount of Life on this day will be granted complete remission of sins and punishment.

    Well done Father Sopocko! Jesus Himself gave Father Sopocko the job of spreading His Divine Mercy to the world. Upon his death the job was passed on to St. John Paul II. Since my first introduction to St. Faustina’s Divine Mercy in My Soul, about 10 years ago, I have taken up Jesus’ request to spread His Message of His Divine Mercy Sunday.

    I cannot tell you just how Eternally Huge Jesus’ message of Divine Mercy Sunday, given through St. Faustina, really is! When deciphered, Jesus’ Divine Mercy Sunday, is the Wedding Garment Jesus Wills His Bride, the Catholic Church, to be wearing upon His Second Coming. Jesus is not Second Coming, Coming to totally destroy the earth. Jesus is Second Coming, Coming to Marry His Bride the Catholic Church and reside in the Body of His Church (Catholics who are in a state of grace) and take His Bride back into the Garden of Eden, on free-willed earth. As pre-fall Adam and Eve lived in the Presence of God in the original Garden of Eden, now Christ’s Faithful will live in the Presence of Jesus, in Revelation 21’s ‘New Jerusalem’, ‘God’s Holy City’, the Restored Kingdom of Israel. Jesus will rain down massive miracles upon His New Bride the New Jerusalem, and the nations will stream to her, through her gates of the Sacraments of Baptism and Reconciliation.

    Please Visit my, ‘Jesus is Getting Married’
    http://www.apocalypseangel.com/married.html

    And my, ‘Reentering the Garden of Eden upon Jesus’ Kingdom Come’
    http://www.apocalypseangel.com/eden.html

    Please receive Jesus’ recent, year 2000, gifts of Divine Mercy Sunday, this April 16th.

  3. I cannot help but often compare the spiritual and theological acumen and writings of the greatest women -also compatriots – saints canonized by St. Pope John Paul II and that by Pope Benedict XVI respectively. I see the gap and difference of the depth and richness of the lives and messages between St. Faustina Kowalska and St. Hildegard of Bingen as also somehow reflective of the depth of the meanings and messages of the lives and reigns of their canonizing Popes respectively.

  4. What is correct? Question to Divine Mercy devotees.
    What is more efficacious? JMJ Dear Devotees of the Divine Mercy, I was just meditating on Blessed Fr Spoko. Miraculous how he went from Poland to USA. Producing with the assistance of the local Bishop the 1944 leaflet of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, only 6 years after the death of St Faustina.

    Before continuing, how important is the Holy Name of “Jesus”? Is it in the Satan’s interest to expunge this name?

    Would 3M people recite the DM Chaplet daily?

    Imagine if in the world the Holy Name of Jesus was proclaimed 150M more times a day than it currently is? Then take that back 30 years, so that is 150M x 30 years x 365 days.

    2 Philippians [10] That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth:

    … [11] And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.

    Quoting from the article.
    “ After all, it’s such an old artifact that it contains the original English translation from the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska.”

    What’s different about the original translation?

    On the small beads:
    “Through the sorrowful passion of
    Jesus show mercy unto us and to all
    the world.
    (10 times)

    What’s the hinge or climax of this prayer?

    Is the word important?

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. The other Saint of Divine Mercy: Blessed Michał Sopoćko | Passionists Missionaries Kenya, Vice Province of St. Charles Lwanga, Fathers & Brothers
  2. The other Saint of Divine Mercy: Blessed Michał Sopoćko | Franciscan Sisters of St Joseph (FSJ) , Asumbi Sisters Kenya

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