Sister Faustina shared this request of Jesus with Fr. Sopocko after they met in Vilnius. Vilnius Archbishop Romuald Jalbzykovsky, who took a cautious view of Sr. Faustina’s visions, did not give approval for the public veneration of the image or the Feast of Divine Mercy. Nonetheless, in 1935 permission was given to use the Divine Mercy image on the Sunday after Easter to illustrate a homily by Fr. Sopocko about God’s Mercy. The image – decorated by St. Faustina the evening before with crowns of flowers – was hung in a window of the stairway gallery at the Gate of Dawn. That was the first public veneration of the image of Divine Mercy and the first Sunday celebrated as the yet unknown Feast of Divine Mercy. During the service, Sr. Faustina had a vision: “When the image was displayed, I saw a sudden movement of the hand of Jesus, as He made a large sign of the cross. In the evening of the same day, when I had gone to bed, I saw the image going over the town, and the town was covered with what appeared to be a mesh and nets. As Jesus passed, He cut through all the nets and finally made a large sign of the cross and disappeared.” (Diary, 416)
In 1946, Vilnius Archbishop Mecislovas Reinys allowed the first official celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday at the Church of Sts. Johns. In 2000, Pope Saint John Paul II declared the first Sunday after Easter “Divine Mercy Sunday”. The choice of the first Sunday after Easter shows that the Easter Mystery of Redemption is closed linked to the Mystery of Divine Mercy. This connection is also emphasized by the prayers of the Novena to the Divine Mercy which starts on Good Friday.
“I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners.” (Diary, 699) “Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion. I am giving them the last hope of salvation; that is, the Feast of My Mercy. If they will not adore My mercy, they will perish for all eternity.” (Diary, 965)
“On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the Fount of My Mercy; […] Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet.” (Diary, 699)
In order to experience the grace of God’s Mercy, one must fulfill the conditions of devotion to the Divine Mercy (trust in God and showing of mercy to one’s neighbor in deed, word and prayer), go to Confession or be in a state of grace, and receive Holy Communion.
During Divine Mercy Week today, pilgrims from Lithuania and all over the world come to pray at the Shrine of Divine Mercy. Holy Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday is celebrated in English and broadcast to 80 countries on EWTN. The evening before Divine Mercy Sunday, many people take part in an ecumenical Way of Light from the chapel at the Gate of Dawn to the Shrine of Divine Mercy. This procession is a reminder that, despite the differences which have arisen in the course of the history of Christianity, we’re all united by God’s Mercy and by desire to experience it.