Every year, the Catholic Church observes Divine Mercy Sunday on the Second Sunday of Easter. The day celebrates the message of mercy that Jesus shared when he appeared to St. Faustina Kowalska in 1931, clothed in a white robe and emanating two large rays from his side. Jesus asked St. Faustina to paint this image of himself along with the phrase, “Jesus, I trust in You.”
That message was spread all around the world, but how much do you know about the details of the story? An engaging new docudrama Love and Mercy: Faustina presents previously unknown facts, recently discovered documents, and scientific analysis that reveal the full story of Faustina. The film will be in theaters for two days only: Oct. 28 and Dec. 2.
Catholic Digest spoke to the film’s director Michal Kondrat about his film, which features dramatically recreated scenes between St. Faustina and her confessor Bl. Michał Sopoćko. Kondrat revealed what drew him to St. Faustina’s story, why he chose to make the film, and why the film focuses on the events after Faustina’s death.
Q: What drew you to St. Faustina?
A: Eighteen years ago, I found the Diary of Sr. Faustina thanks to my sister. This book, which has been translated into dozens of languages, continues to change the lives of people around the world. It also had a huge impact on my life. It helped me understand how great God’s love is for each of us, and how important it is for me to share that love with others.
Q: What motivated you to make this documentary?
A: Knowing how many people do not read books today and will never read the Diary of Sr. Faustina, I decided to make a film that contains the essence of what is in this book. I know today that it was a good decision. I have received many testimonies from people who watched the film in Poland. Some of them shared that it was the most important movie in their life, and others wrote that it helped them a lot in making important life decisions.
Q: What kind of archives and sources did you use for the documentary? Where did you start in such a big undertaking?
A: I worked with archivists who helped me search for pertinent documents in the archives of the Archdioceses of Bialystok and Vilnius. We also looked for information on Faustina at the Bialystok Cemetery Archives and the University of Vilnius. It was at the University of Vilnius that we found a copy of the missing letter of Sr. Faustina’s confessor, Fr. Michal Sopoćko, that he took to the Vatican. The content of this letter is featured in the film.
Q: What about the story surprised you most?
A: I was most surprised by the story of Eugeniusz Kazimirowski, the artist who painted the image of Merciful Jesus according to the instructions of Sr. Faustina. Everyone thought he was a religious person, but he wasn’t when he painted the painting. Later his life changed very dramatically, which is shown in the film.
Q: Why did you choose to focus on the events after St. Faustina’s death?
A: Because, in addition to her life, I wanted to show the importance of the Divine Mercy message for the whole world. This message, according to her prophecy, was to be fulfilled after her and her confessor’s death. This is exactly what happened. This message of mercy is especially important in our current times. Maybe that’s why God inspired me to make this movie.
Q: How do you see God’s hand in the spread of the Divine Mercy, particularly because of the turbulent political climate?
A: I see how God protected this message. During the most difficult times under the Nazi regime, as well as under communism, the message spread quickly by word of mouth.
People shared with one another this hope-filled message of God’s great love and care for them. They found consolation in the great promises of Christ given to those who place their trust in him, who recite the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, or are mindful of the Hour of Mercy — the 3 o’clock hour when Christ died on the cross out of love for them.
During these most difficult and tragic moments, the message of God’s mercy was not contained, but it continued to spread far and wide and reached every human heart that longed to receive its healing grace.
Q: Did you see God’s hand in the filming of your documentary?
A: Yes, I saw his hand. Without God’s help, this movie would never have been made. Already during the filming, three people from our team converted. I am sure it was God’s hand, and I know that God is working through this movie.
Q: Why did you choose to go in-depth into the restoration of the painting?
A: Because hardly anyone knows that the original image painted by Kazimirowski was hidden for a long time and then repainted twice. It was not until the reconstruction in early 2000 that it was restored to its original state. It was Jesus’ will for this to be publicly displayed and, interestingly, it did not happen until 2003. Currently, the image is venerated in the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy in Vilnius.
Q: Can you talk about the relationship between the Kazimirowski’s image and the Shroud of Turin?
A: The film displays a comparative scientific analysis of both images by professor Zbigniew Treppa. The results of this analysis confirm the convergence of eight main facial features on both objects. From a scientific point of view, any randomness was excluded. This confirms that Faustina must have seen Jesus.
Q: Why do you think the message of Divine Mercy is important for our time?
A: The world today needs God’s mercy like never before. Today we are witnessing a huge war between the civilization of death and the civilization of life. Only by accepting and spreading the message of God’s mercy and placing our complete confidence in Jesus and in his mercy, we and the world can be saved. Jesus made this truth known to St. Faustina.
TO WATCH THE FILM:
Love and Mercy: Faustina will be in theaters only on Oct. 28 and Dec. 2. Buy tickets here.