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Divine Mercy: Lithuanian-originated Christian tradition

In many (if not most) Roman Catholic churches all over the world you may see one type a certain painting of a standing Jesus Christ with colored rays shining from His heart and (frequently) words "Jesus, I trust in you" inscribed under His feet (in the local language).

These are paintings of the Divine mercy and all of them (from Cuba to Marshall Islands, from London to Manilla) are copies of a single painting hanging in Vilnius Old Town shrine of Divine Mercy (address: Dominikonų 12). This is undoubtedly the shard of Lithuania that has spread the furthest all over the world.

Left: the original picture of Divine Mercy in Vilnius. Right: Its copy in a church in Camagüey, Cuba. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

It all began with a Vilnius nun Faustina Kowalska who received visions. The painting is based on these visions, carefullly painted by Kazimierowski on the descriptions by sister F. Kowalska in 1934. F. Kowalska who was declared a saint in 2000 asked to celebrate Divine Mercy in other ways as well giving the birth to this Catholic movement. It grew in spectacular rate. Already during World War 2 soldiers used to have photocopies of the painting together with them. Today some 100 million Catholics worldwide celebrate Divine Mercy and the cult is also recognized by the Anglicans. The key elements are to ask God for His mecy, be merciful yourself and completely trust in Jesus.

In addition to the aforementioned paintings in churches the Divine Mercy inspired many more works. El Salvador city in Midanao, the Phillipines has Divine Mercy hills where a 15 m tall statue of Jesus with rays inspired by the Divine Mercy painting has been built in 2008.

Multiple churches have been purposefully built for the Divine Mercy devotion with a Divine Mercy painting behind altar. Such churches are in the Phillippines (adr. Brgy. Sta.Rosa 1, Marilao, Bulacan, 1994), USA (National shrine in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1960), Poland (chapel in Plock and a basilica in Cracow where F. Kowalska herself has been buried). In addition to the churches there are numerous other Catholic organizations devoted to the Divine Mercy.

The original painting in Vilnius now is also in its own church but it also has spent time outside Lithuania. Soviets attempted to destroy the following of Divine Mercy and closed down multiple churches where the painting was located. In 1956 it was moved to a Belarusian village near Hrodna. That church was however also closed down in 1970, its properties confiscated and only the Divine Mercy painting miraculously survived. In 1986 the painting has been brought back to Vilnius and a previously closed church has been restored for it in 2004 where it is now the main altair painting.

The original Divine Mercy painting in its own church in Vilnius. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Article by ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

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  1. My brother and I are trying to find a meat market that sells authentic skilandi . If you can help we would be so grateful. Would make my Dad’s day….he is 93 years old!


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