By Felix Carroll
The principal celebrant at the Solemn Liturgy on Divine Mercy Sunday came bearing a special gift for the Marians of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Most Rev. Edward Ozorowski, Archbishop of Bialystok, Poland, brought a relic of Blessed Michael Sopocko, who was St. Faustina’s confessor and spiritual director.
“It’s a finger from his right hand from which he often gave a blessing to St. Faustina,” explained Br. Andrew R. Maczynski, MIC, general promoter of the Association of Marian Helpers.
The relic, which came encased in a golden monstrance, is about 5 centimeters long. It will be placed in the National Shrine, which is administered by the Marians.
Bishop Ozorowski, in whose archdiocese Blessed Michael Sopocko was beatified Sept. 28, 2008, presented the gift during Holy Mass on Sunday.
“We express our sincere gratitude to His Excellency for making it possible that a relic of St. Faustina’s spiritual director will find its place here in the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy,” said Br. Chris Alar, MIC, during the presentation.
Blessed Michael Sopocko (1888-1975) played a pivotal role in the spread of the message of The Divine Mercy. Indeed, Jesus assured St. Faustina that he would be her “visible help … on earth. He will help you to carry out My will on earth” (Diary of Saint Faustina, 53).
Born in Nowosady, near Vilnius, Blessed Michael studied theology at the University of Vilnius, and then in Warsaw. He earned his doctorate in moral theology in 1926. Among his duties was serving as confessor to the Sister of Our Lady of Mercy, who had a house in Vilnius. It was there where he first met St. Faustina, who shared with him her startling revelations given to her by our Lord.
Brother Chris, in his remarks during the presentation, explained that following St. Faustina’s death, and at the outbreak of World War II, Fr. Sopocko took it upon himself to continue the task given to St. Faustina by our Lord — that is, to spread the message of The Divine Mercy. Blessed Michael gave Divine Mercy material to Fr. Joseph Jarzebowski, MIC, who was escaping the Nazis.
“He’s the one who gave the material to Fr. Joseph Jarzebowski as he was coming to the States,” Fr. Seraphim Michalenko explained in an interview. “And where Fr. Jarzebowski was doubting he would be able to get here to the United States, Fr. Sopocko didn’t say ‘If you get to the States spread this,’ he said ‘When you get to the States spread this.'”
Father Joseph eventually did make it to the U.S., where the Marians established a beachhead from which they have spread the message of The Divine Mercy around the world.
In the meantime, Fr. Sopocko suffered ridicule from spreading the devotion, as St. Faustina prophesized. But during the 20-year ban of the devotion (1959-1978, due to faulty translations of the Diary), Fr. Sopocko took comfort in St. Faustina’s prophecy that the devotion would only seem to be “utterly undone” (see Diary, 378).
The relic will join another relic in the Shrine — the “basal phalanx” of a great toe of St. Faustina, to be exact. A larger piece of her relic remains in a reliquary within the Shrine.
“With this relic,” said Fr. Seraphim, who served as the vice-postulator in North America for St. Faustina’s canonization cause, “it gives us a presence of those two — the saint and the blessed — at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, a place that, of course, was inspired as a result of their efforts.”
As to the role of relics in the Church, Fr. Seraphim explained.
“When a person is considered a saint, that means that they are in intimate union with God in heaven,” he said. “That means their whole being — spirit, mind, and body — is totally infused by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, any of their earthly remains, or even immediate objects that belong to them or they wore when they were buried, are considered as also filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.”
He added, “Many such mortal remains and relics — meaning things left behind — are instruments of healing and blessings.”
The Marians were not only recipients of a relic, but the givers of a relic. They presented Archbishop Ozorowski with a first-class relic of Blessed George Matulewicz-Matulaitis, known as the Marian Renovator.