Today we visited the monastery of Jasna Gora, in a town called Czestochowa. This monastery is home to the shrine of the Black Madonna. You’ve undoubtedly seen images of this famous icon before – all I can say is it is far more powerful to see it – to see Our Blessed Mother – up close. At noon there was a Mass celebrated in English; Bishop Zubik was the main celebrant and homilist. The Gospel we used was the wedding feast at Cana from John. It’s a well-known scene for sure, and it’s an important one because it’s the last time in Scriptures the Blessed Mother says anything. (A good rule of thumb when studying Scripture – always pay attention to the first and last things someone says. If it’s Jesus, pay attention to everything he says.). Anyway, what the Bishop reflected on was that the surest way to demonstrate our love for God is by being obedient to what God is calling us to do with or in our lives.
Speaking of after Mass, we then left to head back to Kraków. We stopped along the way to get some lunch, which turned out to be a bigger endeavor than it should…but we had a bus full of people to feed, and we were descending on a place that just saw two bus loads leave. And as we were leaving, another bus load was pulling in. Kraków is home to about 900,000 people on a regular day…and this week, they are expecting a little over 1,000,000 pilgrims to visit. It’s not easy to double the size of your city overnight.
Once we got to Kraków, our bus parked as close to Blonia Park as it could, and we walked from there to our designated area for our next Mass, and also for the welcoming ceremony and official kick-off for World Youth Day. The cardinal arch-bishop of Kraków presided over this one. His homily – this time drawn on the Gospel account of Jesus asking Peter “do you love me?” Three times following the Resurrection, also focused on obedience. His point, which is well made, is that so often we go about the spiritual life with certain presumptions or expectations. We think if we do this, we get that. I go on this pilgrimage, and I will receive this specific grace. Or I can discern this specific question. We ought to be less about telling God what He’s going to do for us and just let Him be God…that generally works out in the end.
Some other random notes:
*Weather is ok. Kind of rainy today, but it really only rained when we were on the bus, so that was a stroke of luck. Temperature never really went above 80, but it was very humid. I’m worried we’re not hydrating enough.
*Polish is HARD. Father Nick and I had this conversation earlier: “Mike, look! This word doesn’t even have any vowels!” “Yeah, and I think 2 of these letters are silent, but I don’t know which.”
*Lots of countries represented here. And not just European, either. I’m most impressed, I think, by the ones that came really great distances or came from parts of the world that just aren’t as wealthy as the USA. So, most of the South American countries; Angola; Tanzania; Cape Verde; New Caledonia; Armenia; South Africa; Australia; New Zealand… It took us probably 20 hours of travel to get here; how long did it take some of them?
*There are groups here from Iraq. The West might be turning it’s back on the plight of Christians in that country, but they’re still alive. And they very much want us to know they’re still part of the family.
*Yes, we know about what happened in France today. All the more reason to be here.
Tomorrow should be another powerful day. Among other places, we’ll be visiting Auschwitz.