The Shrine of Divine Mercy is in Lagiewniki (Krakow), Poland. The theological idea of the mercy of God goes back to Biblical times, but the Divine Mercy of Jesus Christ has been emphasized in a special way since the early 20th century. Jesus revealed the Divine Mercy message to St. Faustina Kowalska in the 1930s. The message and her visions were written from 1934-1938 and published as the Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul, a profound account of her mystical encounters with Christ. Jesus said to St. Faustina, “I am Love and Mercy itself.” She was commanded to have an image painted that would convey Christ’s mercy and bring graces to wherever it was displayed. The painting says “Jezu, Ufam Tobie” or “Jesus, I trust in you”. St. John Paul II canonized St. Faustina in 2000, and he dedicated the Second Sunday of Easter in the Roman Catholic Church calendar to Divine Mercy.The Shrine of Divine Mercy in Lagiewniki (Krakow) Poland is the center of Divine Mercy devotion in the world. It is where St. Faustina is buried. The chapel is dedicated to St. Joseph and is within the complex of the convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, the order to which St. Faustina belonged. The chapel is a very popular place of pilgrimage, and to handle the large crowds, a new church was built (1997-2002), and then was consecrated by St. John Paul II in 2002, during his final pilgrimage to his homeland. Since March 6, 2003, the church has been a Minor Basilica.
Among the many pious practices of modern-day Catholics, devotion to the Divine Mercy is near the top of the list. The first Sunday after Easter is now known as Divine Mercy Sunday. The Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow is now one of the most popular destinations in Poland for Catholic pilgrims. Saint Faustina came from a poor Polish family and was the third of ten children. At the age of 20 she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, having had only three years of formal education. As is so often the case, Jesus chose to manifest himself to someone humble and simple rather than the high and the mighty. On the first Sunday of Lent in 1931, Jesus appeared to her at her convent in Plock, Poland. He appeared wearing an ankle-length white robe with his right arm raised in blessing and his left arm touching his robe at his chest. From the area of His heart two large rays came forth: one red and the other translucent. This image is now known and recognized throughout the world. Overcome by His presence, Saint Faustina was overcome with a feeling of joy and reverence. Jesus told her: Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the inscription ‘Jesus I trust in you'”. He then went on to say that he wanted this image venerated in the chapel at the convent and then throughout the world.
The history of Vilnius and Lithuania being part of Poland began in 1920 when Vilnius and its region was annexed by Poland. It was called Żeligowski's Mutiny led by Polish General Lucjan Żeligowski in October 1920, which resulted in the creation of the short-lived Republic of Central Lithuania. Polish Chief of State Józef Piłsudski had secretly ordered General Żeligowski to carry out the operation, and revealed the truth several years later. This operation paved the way for the Polish annexation of Vilnius, and the Vilnius Region. In an agreement between the Soviet Union and Germany in 1939 Lithuania became part of the Soviet Union. When Germany invaded Russia in 1941 they also occupied Lithuanuia. After the Second World War the Soviet Union again occupied Lithuania up until 1993 when it finally got its independence back. It is now a member of the European Union and NATO.
It was Fr. Michael Sopocko who was instrumental in bringing the message of Divine Mercy to the attention of world, he was the only one at that time who truly believed that the messages which St. Faustina was receiving were authentic. It was his efforts that had the Image and the Feast of Mercy approved by the Church, and celebrated for the first time as a solemn feastday in 1946 at St.Johns Church in Vilnius. It was Fr. Sopocko convinced her to write the diary and it was he who arranged for the Image of Divine Mercy to be painted in Vilnius and he visited the artist with St. Faustina every time she went there to instruct the artist. It was Fr. Sopocko who first celebrated the Feast of Mercy in 1935 at the shrine of the Mother of Divine Mercy in Vilnius. He publically revealed the Image of Divine Mercy to the world during this ceremony. It was Fr. Sopocko who founded the Congregation of the Sisters of Merciful Jesus, that Our Lord asked Saint Faustina to found We will visit all of the places associated with St.Faustina and Fr. Sopocko on this pilgrimage. Also we have mass in front of the original Image of Divine Mercy which is displayed in a special international Shrine of Divine Mercy, and in front of the Image of the Mother of Divine Mercy which is a shrine that is in Vilnius for the past 500 years. This very famous image of Mother of Divine Mercy has a long and fascinating history. St. Faustina often visited this shrine and recorded in her Diary that on one occasion that this image came alive and Our Lady spoke to St. Faustina regarding the mission which Jesus had entrusted to her. Vilnius is a beautiful city and on this pilgrimage we will have some time to take in their culture and see many of the fascinating sites which make this city so special. But we also visit the historic Hill of Crosses and the apparition site of Our Lady of Siluva. Both of these sites were visited by Pope John Paul II during his pilgrimage of holy shrines in Lithuania. Siluva was the first apparition of Our Lady in Europe in 1608. But our pilgrimage is not only about visiting these holy shrines. It is also a retreat pilgrimage so people have time everyday to spend in prayer and we arrange Mass for our group every day. Furthermore we will be staying in Vilnius’s seminary so we will always have time to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in the morning and evenings, when we return back from our day’s tour. We have been organising pilgrimages to the City of Divine Mercy for the past six years and we know that everyone who goes on this pilgrimage is truly inspired by their time in this special place.
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