The autumn wind is blowing and from the darkening clouds a cold autumn rain begins to fall. This time last year I remembered I was at Janiszki* (Joniškio) strolling on the banks of a large lake, gazing into its vast depths and contemplating my future. I stopped by the mouth of a stream where it entered the huge lake and as my mind took in the scene, I compared it to myself and my future life as I enter the priesthood.
Where the stream entered the lake it disappeared into a huge expanse of water and could just be seen swirling on the surface for a short time, then it became part of the immensity of the lake. A slow gentle flowing stream, losing its identity as it became a part of this enormous body of water. I wondered was this an omen of what was going to happen in my life – am I to lose my identity, going slowly like a gentle stream into a large organisation that is another immense body, that is the Kingdom of God on earth.
As I stood by the lake I remembered another occasion, a spectacular eclipse of the sun that I witnessed with my friends on this same lake. The sun, at first strong and dazzling, began to fade and weaken as it slowly disappeared out of sight. I peered through a piece of darkened glass my friend gave me, and saw a crescent of shadow creeping over the right edge of the bright sun, the shadow growing bigger and bigger and in the end the sunlight was so weak you could gaze directly at the whole scene with the naked eye, and then the sun got lost in the shadow of the moon.
It was a wondrous, unforgettable natural phenomenon, something that I also compared at the time to my forthcoming journey to the priesthood. I will probably never see it again in my life time, it was indeed a wondrous sight. Youth and innocence is such a joyous part of life. I was in a boat with my boyhood friends on that day, it was a blissful part of life that lasts only a short time but a scene I will have fond memories of all my life. Late in the evening we pulled in our oars and glided into the shore.
We spent that night camping out in the open. It was a memorable evening, as day faded into twilight it was still bright in the west, however the darkness accompanied by a cool breeze was closing in from the east. Everything became grey as our clothes lost their colour. A flock of crows took off from the neighbouring trees and went westwards at some speed, screeching with their loud cawing sound, as if they were hastily pursuing the fading light. This was followed by many of nature’s other rural evening sounds, cattle in the meadow at the edge of the lake, making their lowing sound, a cock crowing in the distance.
This was how nature was saying goodbye to the light of day. In the evening breeze the last rays of the sun broke through the swaying branches of the trees like a bright light being switched on and off for a time. When the light finally disappeared, we were left under a heavenly sky with smaller twinkling lights as the stars came out.
As I stared up at that sky, a thought crossed my mind, without the sun, the earth would be in total darkness, a dead frozen planet unable to sustain life. In reality the darkness lasted only a short time, yet it seemed so long and despite nature’s beauty at night, I was longing for daylight and the warm sun again. I did not sleep much that night.
I welcomed the dawn with joy, as it came back from the east, the sun growing bigger and bigger, until finally it covered the whole landscape. The dawn of a new day brings expectation and a certain calmness back to nature. The crows were coming slowly back from the west, cawing happily this time it seemed with the new dawn. The cattle made a soft sound as they were chewing their cud and moving slowly from one tuft of grass to the next. As I rose, the cock in the farm nearby stopped crowing.
I felt good, the rays of the sun were giving me such a warm feeling of wellbeing like maybe this beautiful dawn would remain forever. The morning sun shining brightly dispersing the darkness of the night, can be known to sooth the sorrows of the day past. You have time again to study the beauty of God’s nature, it can do so much for the soul. As the morning went on, the light seemed to grow a hundred times brighter and the sun became even warmer than the day before, and we all got into a discussion on how important the sun is to life.
I compared the sun to God’s grace – when it is not there we feel cheerless and we miss it, so that we low with the cattle and caw with the crows as we await to find His grace again. But unlike the cattle and the crows, if we lose God’s grace, it is our own doing, it is not seasonable like the sun, we only need to ask and with contrition, God’s warmth and grace will return regardless of the season, it will enlighten and cheer us once again, and like the new dawn when the sun comes out again, God’s grace will shine and fill us with such bliss that we get to realise its value more each day, and we learn that, like the sun, we cannot live without the grace of God in our lives.
There is a lot of His diary devoted to the war years where he was involved in getting persecuted Jews to a safe sanctuary. He was chased by the Gestapo and was jailed in the infamous jail in Vilnius. But he escaped after only two weeks. Again his dwelling place was surrounded by Gestapo when he was saying mass one morning, but an astute neighbour went to the church and warned him. He escaped to the black forest under a wagon load of hay. Divine Mercy seemed to protect him throughout his life.
Another extract from the Diary of Blessed Fr.Michael Sopocko:
There have been ‘Truths’ known, heard and talked about, but do we really understand them? This was my position as far as Divine Mercy was concerned. I mentioned it in preaching, I prayed it in church, but did not grasp the real meaning of that Truth. I did not really study its essence which says it is the greatest attribute of God. To meet and get to know that humble nun Sr. Faustina from the convent of the Mother of God (the Magdalene Sisters*) was so necessary for me then. It was Sr. Faustina who revealed that Truth to me. She repeated it often, which made me feel eager to research what she spoke about, it led me to study and think about that Truth.
I cannot cite here the details of our talks but I can mention that at the beginning, I did not understand what it was all about – I listened, doubted, wondered, did research and asked others for advice – until sometime passed and then I grasped the significance of the greatness attribute of God and I convinced myself of the effectiveness of that neglected Truth, which needed to be renewed in our time, as an important constant devotion on life’s journey to mankind’s salvation.
Trust in the Divine Mercy, spreading the devotion among others and the entire message, my thoughts, words and deeds concerning the Divine Mercy will be the main driving force for the rest of my life, hopefully without looking for myself in it all, and supported by the endless Mercy of God”. (Journal, n. 2, p. 50, 54)
Saint Faustina said that in the beginning she struggled very much with the message that Jesus gave her because she did not have a confessor who truly understood her soul. But then she states in her diary:
"The goodness of Jesus is infinite; He had promised me visible help on earth, and a little while later I received it in Vilnius in the person of Fr. Sopocko. I had already known him before coming to Vilnius, thanks to an interior vision. One day I saw him in our chapel between the altar and the confessional and suddenly heard a voice in my soul say: "This is the visible help for you on earth. He will help you carry out My will on earth." (Diary of Saint Faustina, Parg 53).