Blessed Fr. Michael Sopocko
“This priest is a great soul entirely filled with God” (Diary 1238).
Father Michael Sopocko walked among saints while on earth, and now he has been confirmed among them in heaven. On Sept. 28, 2008, he was declared Blessed Michael Sopocko at a special Mass at the Church of Divine Mercy in Bialystok, Poland. Saint Faustina praised him greatly in her Diary, and now those praises will be echoed by the Church. Here is a passage in which St. Faustina refers to him: “He is a priest after My own Heart (...) Through him it pleased Me to proclaim the worship of My mercy” (Diary 1256). “His thought is closely united to Mine, so be at peace about what concerns My work. I will not let him make a mistake, and you should do nothing without his permission” (Diary 1408).
In another place of the Diary She asks Jesus about him “At the same time, I saw a certain person [Father Sopocko] and, in part, the condition of his soul and the ordeals God was sending him. His sufferings were of the mind and in a form so acute that I pitied him and said to the Lord, “Why do you treat him like that?” And the Lord answered, For the sake of his triple crown. And the Lord also gave me to understand what unimaginable glory awaits the person who resembles the suffering Jesus here on earth. That person will resemble Jesus in His glory. The Heavenly Father will recognize and glorify our soul to the extent that He sees in us a resemblance to His Son. I understood that this assimilation into Jesus is granted to us while we are here on earth. I see pure and innocent souls upon whom God has exercised His justice; these souls are the victims who sustain the world and who fill up what is lacking in the Passion of Jesus. They are not many in number. I rejoice greatly that God has allowed me to know such souls (Diary 604).
Michael Sopocko was born on November 1, 1888 in Juszewszczyzna, then under Imperial Russia. The Czarist authority persecuted the Catholic Church as well as both the Polish and Lithuanian people within its territories. In the Sopocko family, of noble lineage, the Polish and Catholic traditions were conserved and developed. The young Michael matured in this religious and patriotic atmosphere. Motivated by a desire for unconditional service to God, the Church and humanity, he entered the Major Seminary in Vilnius. On June 15, 1914, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Franciszek Karewicz.
For four years (1914-1918) he worked as a parochial vicar in Taboryszki, where he opened two mission churches at Miedniki and at Onzadow, as well as various schools.
When informed by someone that the German authorities who checks that zone may arrest him, he left the parish and went to Warsaw. There he became a military chaplain for the Polish army. While dedicated to his ministry as chaplain, he enrolled as a student in the Faculty of Theology at the University of Warsaw from which he obtained a doctoral degree. At the same time, he graduated from the National Pedagogical Institute. In 1924, he became a coordinator of the regional military chaplaincies, based in Vilnius.
In 1927, Archbishop Romuald Jalbrzykowski entrusted to him the responsibility of being the Spiritual Director for the Major Seminary. During this same period he taught for the faculty of Theology at Stefan Batory University also in Vilnius. He eventually requested the Archbishop to release him from both the military pastoral care and from the seminary duties. His desire was to dedicate himself entirely to theological pursuits. In 1934, he received the title of `docent’ in pastoral theology. While teaching, he never forgot the importance of pastoral service. He was rector of St. Michael Church and also served as confessor for Religious Sisters.
One of the most significant events of Fr. Sopocko’s life occurred in 1933, when he became the Spiritual Director of Saint Faustina Kowalska of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mary Mother of Mercy. He continued to assist the Saint after his transfer to Lagiewniki, where she died on October 5, 1938. As her confessor, he undertook a thorough evaluation of Sr. Faustina’s mystical experiences concerning the devotion to the Divine Mercy. Following his advice, she wrote of these in her “Diary” To this day this remains a spiritual classic.
The Divine Mercy devotion became a life-giving inspiration for Fr. Sopocko. With his assistance, and under the direction of Sister Faustina, the artist Eugeniusz Kazimirowski painted the first portrait of Merciful Jesus. Fr. Sopocko wrote extensively on the subject of the Divine Mercy, and, in 1938 he established a committee charged with building the Divine Mercy Church in Vilnius. However, this attempt had to be delayed due to the onset of World War II. But despite the war and German occupation, Fr. Sopocko persisted in his efforts to promote the devotion to the Divine Mercy. Filled with zeal, he constantly helped those who were oppressed and threatened with extermination, for example, numerous Jewish people. Fortunately, he managed to avoid arrest and imprisonment. In 1942, along with his fellow seminary professors and students, he was forced to go into hiding near Vilnius. He remained concealed for two years. Yet it was during that very time when Fr. Sopocko played a major role in establishing a new Religious Congregation. According to the revelations of Saint Faustina, this Congregation was to promote love for the Divine Mercy. After the War, he wrote the Congregation’s constitution. And he became actively engaged in the growth and development of what we know as the Congregation of the Sisters of the Divine Mercy
In 1947, Archbishop Jalbrzykowski, who has been for two years in Bialystok with his diocesan Curia, sought for Fr. Sopocko come to the same city. He therefore accepted a position as professor in the Archdiocesan Major Seminary. There he taught pedagogy, catechetic, homiletics, pastoral theology and spirituality. Additionally he continued to further the apostolate of the Divine Mercy. He also made serious efforts to obtain official approval for the Divine Mercy devotion from the Church authorities. Fr. Sopocko worked tirelessly on the biblical, theological, and pastoral bases by which to explain the doctrinal truth concerning the Divine Mercy devotion. His publications were translated into numerous languages including: Latin, English, French, Italian, and Portuguese.
Fr. Michael Sopocko died on February 15, 1975, in his apartment on Poleska Street. He was popularly acclaimed for his sanctity. He was buried in the parish cemetery in Biatystok. Following the inauguration of the process for his Beatification, his body was moved to the Church of the Divine Mercy in November 30, 1988.
Sister Faustina wrote in her Diary: “One evening as I entered my cell, I saw the Lord Jesus exposed in the monstrance under the open sky, as it seemed. At the feet of Jesus I saw my confessor, and behind him a great number of the highest ranking ecclesiastics, clothed in vestments the like of which I had never seen except in this vision; behind them, groups of religious from various orders; and further still I saw enormous crowds of people, which extended far beyond my vision. I saw the two rays coming out from the host, as in the image, closely united but not intermingled; and they passed through the hands of my confessor, then through the hands of the clergy and from their hands to the people, and then they returned to the host… And at that moment I saw myself once again in the cell which I had just entered” (Diary 344).
This prophesies was fulfilled on Sept. 28, 2008, when he was declared Blessed Michael Sopocko at a special Mass at the Church of Divine Mercy in Bialystok, Poland.
Fr. George J. Bobowski, Saint Faustina and Blessed Michaeł Sopoćko