Dear Parishioners, +JMJ
I’m writing this letter on the last day of my pilgrimage-vacation in Poland. Thank you so much for all the prayers that were sent my way for the trip! My love for this country – especially the church in Poland – was renewed, and I know that the trip was super helpful for Margie (and Charlie) McDaniel, and her getting more established with her Catholic Faith Journeys pilgrimage company. We visited the sites that most pilgrims should see (in the foosteps of Pope Saint John Paul II and Saint Faustina), and we noted other sites that we did not visit this time – such as the sites in Warsaw of Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko, a young priest-martyr of the Solidarity movement, during the papacy of John Paul II. Probably the highlight for me was being able to concelebrate Mass at the altar of the Black Madonna in Częstochowa. That image of Our Lady is literally at the center of Polish spirituality. I was not even scheduled to celebrate Mass at that altar. We were scheduled to have Mass in another chapel – the German Chapel – but I asked at the information desk when we checked in to get tour tickets if it would be possible to concelebrate a Mass, even in Polish, at that altar. (That would actually save them the hassle of setting up a separate chapel.) And then, not only did I get permission to concelebrate, but I also was asked to read the gospel at that Mass!
Coming in as a very close second to that last experience was the privilege of being where Saint John Paul II and Saint Faustina actually lived and worked. Saint Faustina I have been getting to know a bit better in these last years. Pope Saint John Paul II has been a huge inspiration for me, ever since my first seminary days. In a time when things got quite crazy theologically (even in seminaries) with post-Vatican II confusion, it was the writings of this saint-pope that kept young seminarians and priests grounded in the Truth. Pope Saint John Paul II was also the main one responsible for giving priests trained by him a burning zeal for holy marriage and family life. His encyclicals on life and family, and his Theology of the Body taught us all that married couples and families have a definite mission in the world from God. That’s beautiful! Marriage and family are not callings that you accidentally fall into, because you don’t have a calling to the priesthood or religious life! You enter marriage because God has led you there, and you allow Him to keep forming you and using you as married couples and family!
One amusing incident from Mass this morning: We celebrated 9:30am Mass in the tiny chapel of Saint Wojciech, really an entire – but tiny – side church near the primary Church of St. Mary in the main square of Old Krakow. The sacristan, Adam, who appeared to be a man in his late 60’s, opened the church just for us. The Church otherwise has a couple afternoon Masses and some evening hours of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Adam had worked there as sacristan for six years now, and his daughter was the organist for that tiny church in times gone by. At the end of Mass, as I was signing the guest-priests’ book in the sacristy, Adam put a Polish lottery ticket in front of me and asked me to check off ten numbers. He explained to me that if he wins, he will look up my contact information and telephone me to share with me the winnings! I wished him luck, of course! (Powodzenia!) If the parish gets a ton of Polish lottery money, we will be very happy that my Polish was able to (barely) manage such an important conversation after Mass! It will have been worth all the effort!
Thanks again for all the prayers for my trip. I hope you were able to see some of the pictures at the facebook page of Catholic Faith Journeys. I am glad to be back home again in Paulding!
Have a blessed week!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,