I apologize, again, for falling behind on these posts. It’s not what I intended, but I’ve just been exhausted. Also, the Internet connection here can be a little spotty. I’ll at least take you through Friday with this post, and if I have time, I’ll get to work detailing Saturday and Sunday tonight, too.
Friday presented a bit of a quandary for us, in that we didn’t want to face the prospect of another 11-mile day, but we wanted the day to still be meaningful. So we decided to skip the English catechesis in the city of Kraków and get out into the countryside a little bit. We chose to visit the Divine Mercy Shrine, where Saint Faustina received her visions.
Naturally, there was still some walking to be done after the bus dropped us off, but despite the fact that it was mainly uphill, it wasn’t too bad. Our first stop was the John Paul II Center, which is itself a relatively recent construction. It has a church, a museum, a conference center, and the inevitable bookshop. The doors to the church were really cool, I thought, because inscribed in the bronze is the name of every encyclical letter that JPII wrote. Then again, I am a theology nerd.
The saintly Holy Father’s mortal remains remain entombed in St. Peter’s Basilica, beneath one of the side altars, but that was not his original resting place. He had been buried in the grotto underneath the basilica initially. After he was moved to the main floor of the church, the headstone that was downstairs was given to this center and is on display. It was kind of neat to see it again – his body was transferred while I was living in Rome, so now I’ve seen it in both it’s homes. The other thing that they had on display that was just fascinating was the cassock he was wearing the day he got shot.The left side if the cassock, which I approached first, doesn’t look too bad – a little bit of blood, but no more than you might do if you cut yourself shaving. But when you pass by and see the other side…how did he even survive? How much must he have suffered? And how could he have forgiven the man who did this to him? He always claimed that the Blessed Mother guided the bullet that day, and that’s how it avoided hitting any major organs and how he survived – I have no reason to doubt that claim.
We took a little break at this point, found a shady spot on the grass, and sat down. Taylor, the youth minister at St. Richard, talked for a while on the life of Saint Faustina and her legacy, especially as regards mercy. Then I did the same on Saint John Paul II. Then we walked further in to the shrine grounds. We stopped in the chapel were St. Faustina prayed and received her visions of Jesus; basically, where the chap let of Diveine Mercy was born. We venerated one of her relics and prayed a bit. After we moved on, a number of us walked to the confessions zone and went to confession. Then we walked back up to the main church of the shrine for Mass in English. Bishop Zubik was again celebrant and homilist. The place was packed.
After Mass, we all kind of got seperated, so I decided to head back to the bus. Logically, I decided to retrace my route; foolishly, I never looked for a more direct way. Because there was one. That would have saved me a considerable amount of walking. Regardless, I eventually got back to the bus, and just in time, as another summer storm was rolling through.
We drove back to Kraków city center. The city was much busier than it had been even the day before. We picked out a meeting place in town square and set a deadline, then let the group disperse as they saw fit. A bunch of the kids wanted to go see the remains of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, so I led them back to that church and prayed a while with them. After we left there, we started to make our way back to the square. We passed a church goods store that I had wanted to see earlier in the week. It was closed then, but open now. I mentioned that you can get some really nice vestments for fairly cheap in Poland, and for whatever reason the kids thought this was awesome and wanted to go shopping with me. I had chilling visions of what my next credit card statement would look like. Alas, it was not to be. They were only allowing so many people in the store at a time, and the line was loooong. I can order stuff on the internet anyway, right?
Back to the meeting point, and then on to dinner. We had our tour guide hook us up with a place that was off the beaten trail and was authentic – we were the only non-Poles in the place. The food was, as it’s been all week, fantastic. We all ate more than we should have, and then set back off for the buses. Once we got the buses squared away – and that hasn’t been easy, because roads have been closed intermittently for security – we headed back to the hotel. Once we were here, the Bishop led us all in praying the Stations of the Cross, and then we called it a night.
9 miles walked. Certainly an easier day than the day before, right?
I wonder how far Jesus walked when he carried the cross for me…