It was time for our group to part ways and for the Green Group to make an early getaway to Poland. It was a touch sad, farewelling Italy; however, we were taking with us many fabulous memories of the stories of the saints and experiences of a country filled with quaint towns, beautiful churches and delicious food. There was much anticipation arriving in Poland. Warsaw, the capital of Poland, is a city of contrasts between old and new. Our first experience of Polish cuisine was amazing! A traditional three course meal was perfect after a day of travel.
After an early start and a couple of hours travel we arrived in Częstochowa at the Jasna Góra Monastery. This shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary is a pilgrimage site for Polish people dating back to the 14th century. Today it was definitely filled to the brim with pilgrims!
Fr Greg joined a large group of priests as we first celebrated Mass in the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Founding of the Holy Cross. It was our first taste of big crowds! During the homily, on the Feast of St James, we were challenged to accept our calling to true greatness and to have the heart of the merciful servant. The priest shared that we have a lot to learn from the faith of the Polish people. The image of Our Lady of Jasna Góra depicts Mary and Jesus gazing at each other. Mary leads us to Jesus. The closer we are to Mary, the closer we are to Jesus.
From a pilgrim priest on his sixth WYD, some very useful tips were shared for the week;
- We are encouraged to have a heart open to others and to share God's love.
- We need to be prepared to let God surprise us. He wants to bless us in unexpected ways. We need to listen.
- Try to find quiet time to pray amongst the noise. Nothing can happen without prayer. Make time to meet the Lord so that he can bless us so we can then bless others.
After Mass we had an opportunity to explore the monastery and visit the sacred icon. Even amongst the noise and the busy crowd there was a deep sense of the Polish spirituality. I guess that is just a taste of the events to come in the week ahead...
Photographs courtesy of Jessica Laczkowski.