Photo: Felix Carroll

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by Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, and David Came

Seventy-seven years ago on Feb. 22, Jesus appeared to a simple, uneducated Polish nun known today as St. Faustina. The vision led to the painting of The Divine Mercy image. This image has become a source of amazing graces for souls who trust in Jesus by venerating or honoring it.

Protected by the image
Consider these accounts. In the mid-1990s, a woman in Job, Nigeria, who worked for an international agency was pressured by a group to do something illegal. She refused and received death threats. Since she was living alone and was devoted to The Divine Mercy, she placed copies of the image on each window of her home.

Late one evening, two jeeps pulled up to her house, and four men got out with submachine guns. They riddled her house with bullets. Inside, the woman dropped to the floor. And her neighbors notified the police. The police arrived on the scene and discovered that none of the bullets had penetrated the house. Not a single window was broken, although the police found many spent cartridges around the house.

Another incident took place during World War II in Warsaw, Poland. The Gestapo had cordoned off several blocks and were detaining all the residents so that they could be identified and then sent to extermination, concentration, or labor camps. One gentleman asked the officer in charge if he could go back to his apartment and retrieve something.

After receiving permission, the man ran back and found a small Divine Mercy image. When he returned with the image, he discovered that the officer had moved on with the other detainees and had forgotten about him. The man was a judge, and since the Nazis eliminated the educated first, he probably would have been sent to an extermination camp.

In 1948, after the war, this man joined our Marian community. As Fr. Julian Chrosciechowski, MIC, he dedicated the rest of his life to spreading Divine Mercy.

A vision reveals the image
What exactly is the story behind this miraculous image that Fr. Julian and the woman in Nigeria venerated?

On Feb. 22, 1931, Sr. Faustina Kowalska, a Sister of Our Lady of Mercy, was in her convent in Plock, Poland, when Jesus appeared to her:

I saw the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand was raised in the gesture of blessing, the other was touching the garment at the breast. From beneath the garment slightly drawn at the breast, there were emanating two large rays, one red, the other pale. In silence I kept my gaze fixed on the Lord; my soul was struck with awe, but also with great joy. After a while, Jesus said to me: "Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You. I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and [then] throughout the world."
— Diary of St. Faustina, 47

The merciful Savior also promised that the soul who will venerate this image "will not perish" and even promised such a soul "victory over [its] enemies already here on earth, especially at the hour of death" (Diary, 48).

Sister Faustina didn't know what to do after receiving these astounding revelations. She tried to paint Jesus herself and failed. Then she started asking her fellow sisters in the convent, "Can you paint?" Her superior was concerned about Sr. Faustina causing a commotion in the community, so she had her transferred to the religious house in Vilnius, Lithuania.

In Vilnius, Sr. Faustina confided in Fr. Michael Sopocko as her confessor and spiritual director. He first ordered psychiatric tests for Sr. Faustina to make sure that she was not delusional. Once the tests confirmed she was normal, he began to guide her in fulfilling the Lord's requests concerning the image. One big step was helping Sr. Faustina to recognize that the Lord Jesus was not just giving the image to her, rather He was giving it to all people. As Jesus told her, "I am offering people a vessel with which they are to keep coming for graces to the fountain of mercy. That vessel is this image with the signature: 'Jesus, I trust in You' " (Diary, 327).

Realizing this, Fr. Sopocko commissioned the artist Eugene Kazimirowski to paint the image under Sr. Faustina's direction. It was completed in 1934, and is now known as the original Vilnius image. When Sr. Faustina first saw the image, she wept in disappointment, asking the Lord Jesus, "Who will paint You as beautiful as You are?" But Jesus told her, "Not in the beauty of the color, nor of the brush lies the greatness of this image, but in my grace" (Diary, 313).

Today, there are many different versions of The Divine Mercy image. And no matter which version of the image we prefer, Jesus is telling us that it is a vehicle of His grace if we revere it with trust in His mercy.

The meaning of the image
Along with finding an artist to paint the image, Fr. Sopocko asked Sr. Faustina about the meaning of the two rays. She, in turn, asked the Lord and He told her:

"The two rays denote Blood and Water. The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the very depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross."
Diary, 299

These two rays coming from the pierced Heart of Jesus correspond exactly with the Passion account in John's Gospel where we read of a Roman soldier thrusting his lance into Jesus' side and "blood and water" flowing out (Jn 19:34).

Do you realize what is happening here? The Blood and Water pouring forth is the gift of the Holy Spirit for our salvation! Not only is the grace flowing, but the image helps us to understand what took place for our salvation — Christ died on the cross. However, that's only one dimension. The image also captures the risen Christ, with the Blood and Water flowing from His side now transformed into glorious, healing rays.

Even more, the Water signifies Baptism, "which makes souls righteous," while the Blood points to the Eucharist as "the life of souls." And these are the most important Sacraments of our Christian faith. Thus, this miraculous image is a powerful summary of our Christian faith.

In The Spirit of the Liturgy, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, speaks of sacred images or icons of Christ in just this way. In fact, it is as if Cardinal Ratzinger had The Divine Mercy image in mind when he wrote:

The center of the icon of Christ is the Paschal Mystery: Christ is presented as the Crucified [One], the risen Lord, the One who will come again, and who here and now hiddenly reigns over all.

Take a minute. Gaze on The Divine Mercy image. Read these words again. In this image, we glimpse the saving power of Jesus in the Easter mystery!

Seeing Christ with new eyes
Also, in The Spirit of the Liturgy, Pope Benedict encourages "a new kind of seeing" in which we prayerfully gaze upon an image of the Lord, recognizing that it is not a photograph, but a window that opens onto eternity. He speaks of "an encounter in faith with the new reality of the risen Christ," "an interior gazing" of the heart and soul upon the Lord Jesus in the image.

Let this "new kind of seeing" guide your response to Jesus in The Divine Mercy image:

Show trust in Jesus by venerating the image. Give the image a place of honor in your home, office, and parish church. Venerate the image by reverently kneeling or bowing whenever you pass by it. Along with venerating large framed images, consider keeping a prayercard with the image in your wallet or purse. Take it out throughout your day and gaze on the merciful Savior. Give veneration of the image special prominence on Divine Mercy Sunday in your parish and at home (see Diary, 341). Whenever you venerate the image, say, "Jesus, I trust in You!" Hand over all of your problems and fears to the Lord Jesus.

Let the image remind you to perform works of mercy. Just as Jesus has shown you His mercy through His death and Resurrection, now — through the image — He reminds you to show mercy to others. "By means of this image I shall grant many graces to souls," Jesus told St. Faustina. "It is to be a reminder of the demands of My mercy, because even the strongest faith is of no avail without works" (Diary, 742). So, as you gaze upon The Divine Mercy image, see in Jesus your brother and sister in need. Then, as you perform your works of mercy, do them out of love for the Lord Jesus.

In these ways and more, keep gazing upon Jesus. Behold the merciful Savior who died and rose for you. Let this image of the Lord Jesus keep transforming you until you behold Him face to face in heaven. "Jesus, I trust in You!"

Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, is Director of Evangelization and Development for the Marians of the Immaculate Conception in Stockbridge, Mass. David Came is the Executive Editor of Marian Helper magazine.

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Be a part of the discussion. Add a comment now!

Moderator - May 8, 2008

The Eucharistic Apostles of Divine Mercy help to set up lay prayer and discussion groups devoted to the Divine Mercy. These groups are called "Cenacles." For more information on these Divine Mercy Cenacles, please visit:

Beth - May 3, 2008

Would like suggestions on how to begin a lay prayer group devoted to "Divine Mercy" in our parish, and how can we promote and carry out "works of mercy" in this manner.

John - Apr 3, 2008

I find this video and Divine Mercy in Song to be inspired and quite helpful - . For those needing help, this is a good place to start.

Joe - Mar 26, 2008

Through the spreading of this devotion you will receive many graces.You must trust in Jesus who offers us mercy through recitation of the chaplet.I leave the leaflets of Divine Mercy in my local church.Thank you St.Faustina for dedicating your life to spreading the news of Divine Mercy

jerry vicencio - Mar 23, 2008

I love the Divine Mercy image, i put the image beside my bed to remind that God is always beside me. I always pray the novena when Good Friday comes. always trust in His unfathomable mercy.

Martha - Mar 17, 2008

I love the Devine Mercy.
Please pray for my brother Andrew who has kidney failure. Please pray for his wife and kids.

Angelo from The Philippines - Mar 10, 2008

When my father was still alive and working in the U.S. he received a small image of the Divine Mercy from the Marian Father through the mail. After he died last year from heart attack, the image was sent to us here in Manila together with his belongings. I placed the image inside my bedroom and it has become a source of strength for me in all the crisis that happened since my father's death. It has become like a connection between me and my father as I remember him every morning when I say the chaplet.

Ellie-March 3 - Mar 3, 2008

Let all your divine mercy hours and prayers be said for muslims, sinners, and others who reject Jesus.Pray for hardened hearts and the addicted, they are the souls who need divine mercy.

paula calabrese - Feb 29, 2008

I love reciting the divine mercy song i have . I irecite thie every night . i have trouble sleeping this has helped me out alot.

divine mercey - Feb 29, 2008

I love reciting the chaplet. Ihave the divine mercy song I recite every night before i go to sleep.ANd I recite it again every day at 3;00 pm on th ewtn station.

Dolores Skolimowska and Shelley - Feb 24, 2008

I love the Divine Mercy Chaplet but did not appreciate until I read St. Faustin's Diary. My dog has Hip Dyplasia and is now moving better. I have macular degeneration, and may lose three toes on left foot due to an ulcer, and Rheumatoid Arthritis. I also wish my two nephews, darren and michael, 9 years old will be baptized. Their parents are Catholic, but I don't understand their resistance, at least fully. Please help them, especially Michael as he has the illness that makes him overactive and it is very hard on his mother. I have a plate and candle with St. Faustina next to her image. Need to order an image of Divine Mercy, I have cards but not a picture to display. God Bless everyone associated with the Divine Mercy. Jesus I trust in you.

Priyanka-24 feb 2008 - Feb 24, 2008

I have a Divine Mercy picture in my room and when i go to my room i look up and glaze at it.

please pray for me,my mum and my dad who does not believe in Jesus. Also please pray that i will have good friends in school. I am 9 years old and live in Scotland,United Kingdom.

Imara - Feb 24 2008 - Feb 24, 2008

I love the Divine Mercy Image too and we pray the Chaplet every Friday in church.

Please pray for my mum who is loosing her sight due to Macular Degeneration. I ask the Divine Mercy to give her sight back as she takes care of my sister who has downsyndrome.

Please also pray for my husband who does not believe in Jesus. I pray that he will be converted soon.

Susan - Feb 23, 2008

I feel so blessed to know about the Divine Mercy and the image. I have a large image in my livingroom to the right when you walk in the house. Often before I go out I look at the image and talk to Jesus give him a kiss and go. I love this image. I placed my rocking chair in front of the image and I pray the rosary and the chaplet there. Even the words "Jesus I trust in You" are becoming more real in my soul. I put a small image on my visor in the car and that is good too.

Joel 02/21/08 - Feb 22, 2008

Does the Image of The Divine Mercy have to be blessed by a priest before one can venerate? Do any other images such as crosses or saints have to be blessed for that matter?
Thank You!

sebastian - Feb 22, 2008

Thank You, Lord Jesus, King of Mercy for Your Divine Mercy Image. Let our hearts be indelibly imprinted in Your Grace and Divine Mercy. We bring to You all souls who did not have an opportunity to meditate the Divine Mercy. Give us Your Grace for a true repentance and firm amendment. " Solo Dios basta". Good Jesus, transform us to be Your witnesses of Divine Mercy.

mary davao city - Feb 21, 2008

it is really true I have my Divine mercy outside our house and our rooms.I pray this every minute of the day.beautiful and very inspiring I hope many can read this story so that they will also do this with full of faith and trust in Jesus..God bless.

Denise - Feb 21, 2008

Please pray for my husband in his quest to fight his addiction to alcohol.

Linda - Feb 21, 2008

I love the Divine Mercy Image. I have it in my bedroom so I can gaze on it when I wake up and start my day, and before I go to sleep at night. I often stop and give Jesus my worries and concerns throughout the day.