The deep devotion that Visitation Sisters have to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and our mission to spread this love since St Margaret Mary’s apparitions of the Lord, has also led many Visitandines to focus on the Divine Mercy devotion and Chaplet.
In the hidden providence of Our Lord and His unfathomable designs, He arranged, through a variety of circumstances, that the ORIGINAL PAINTING OF THE DIVINE MERCY IMAGE be executed on the premises of the Visitation Nuns Monastery in Vilnius, Lithuania!
This is a new discovery for many Visitandines, but certainly was known and evident at the time. Here is the story as best we can find it and we welcome YOUR RESEARCH and INPUT for developing a fuller history of this painting.
Visitation Monastery, Vilnius
The Visitation Monastery in Vilnius was founded in 1694 at the invitation of Bishop Bzostovskis and served as a contemplative community which also educated some young girls. It closed in 1865 and became an Orthodox Monastery, but in 1915 the Orthodox left and the Visitandines returned in 1919, remaining until just around or after the Second World War.
In the early 1930’s, Blessed Michael Sopocko, a priest and later spiritual director of St. Faustina, who received the revelations of Divine Mercy, was offered a room in the cottage on the Visitation Sisters’ property in Vilnius. Serving as confessor to the community that St. Faustina was a member of, he came to know the Saint and the request of Our Lord to paint a picture of Divine Mercy. In the Visitandines’ cottage, Fr Sopocko lived on the second floor, but on the ground floor the artist Eugeniusz Marcin Kazimirowski lived and it was he who Fr Sopocko commissioned to paint the picture of the Divine Mercy. In fact, St. Faustina was given permission by her Superior, on occasion, to visit with this artist at this studio, so we can suppose she also was on the Visitation Monastery premises.
Researching Polish language sources brings the discovery that Bl Michael Sopocko, the director of St. Faustina, who lived in a cottage of the Visitation Nuns in Vilnius, gave conferences to the Visitation Nuns and even spoke about Divine Mercy to them. Knowing them so well, when it came time for the artist to paint the picture, Bl. Sopocko even took it upon himself to borrow an alb from the Visitandines so he could represent the figure of the Lord for the artist.
St Faustina came several times to the Visitation premises to look over the painting. When it was complete it was brought to the Visitation Nuns Parlor so they could see it.
Fr. Sopoćko asked what the sisters thought about this picture. Their statements were different. One of the Sisters said she thought that the heart was not visible, but what are the rays? Fr. Sopoćko asked Mother Superior to bring this image to our church. (Ed. It is a church. Sacred Heart of Jesus in the convent of the Sisters of the Visitation).But the image did not harmonize with the interior of this Chapel.
That they did know Fr. Sopocko is made even more evident by this photo we have of them together:
It wasn’t long after the painting was completed that Fr Sopocko moved to St. Michael’s Church.
But, symbolically, and mystically, there is a spiritual connection between the Devotion to the Sacred Heart and the Divine Mercy and the fact of the first painting’s history in connection with the Visitation only enhances it!