Sunday, April 29, 2018

Pittsburgh: Another Example of the Failed "New Evangelization"

Get ready for more church closings, this time its Pittsburgh. We keep hearing the US bishops telling us how we need higher doses of their "New Evangelization" that was supposedly unveiled at Vatican II. Yet we see that again the proof is in the pudding when it comes to the number of Catholics practicing the faith today compared to the pre-Vatican II church in the US. We hear ad-nauseum about how the rigid US Church before the Council was lacking in so many things, yet where are we now? The rigid Church had nearly a 75% Mass attendance rate, we are now somewhere around 30%.

The modern US Church loves to brag about all the converts we are making, all the while ignoring the many who leaving the Church on the bottom end. Its like an upside down funnel. What a great achievement! For every convert we make we lose six! How much more of this "New Evangelization" can we stand before there is nothing left? If you notice, they failed to keep families involved in the Church by watering down the faith so bad, no one sees a need to come anymore. There are also those who have left for Protestant denominations where they "feel" their needs are being met. The list of course goes on and on.

For those of us who are still trying to live by the Catholic faith that has been passed on to us for 2000 years, we reject the failed idea of this "New Evangelization" we keep hearing about here in the US. We despise these new barren churches and watered down blasphemous liturgies that don't inspire but rather tear down those trying to practice the faith.  I am convinced that this is not the evangelization program that is being practiced in other countries like Poland. In my recent trip to Poland, I saw proof that that Church everywhere has not followed the "New Evangelization" program that we hear about here in the US. They did not tear down their churches or wreckovate them like we did here in the US. They did not water down their teachings like we did here in the US. They do not chat it up before Mass like we do here in the average US parish. There is not only a 30 minute or 1 hour time slot for confessions once a week like we have here in the US. Hence they are not closing down churches like we are doing here in the US.

What is to be learned by looking at the Church in Poland? Without getting into the liturgy war, of which I am a firm proponent of the Tridentine Mass: if we quit screwing around with the faith and retain our catechesis, and have a reverent Mass in a beautiful inspiring church, we can make converts and retain those who are already Catholic. We need not get with the times, we don't need an updating of our churches and we certainly do not need the new theology that is being crammed down our throats every place we go. While Poland is not a utopia, it is at this point one of the only beacons of hope that proves we can retain our tradition despite the so called "spirit of Vatican II" and its "New Evangelization". In my opinion if the rest of the western world has its way, it would have them follow in the same footsteps that the rest of the declining western Church has sadly followed. Pittsburgh can now boast about one of their churches now being used as a brewery. While being a fan of craft beer, this is simply something that should never happen. Isn't it amazing that we cannot get people to come to the greatest event on earth, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but we can get them to church for a pint of beer? How much more of this "New Evangelization" can we stand? Pittsburgh is just another example of the failed Catholic Church in the US, and it seems that if we do not change course we are going to see more closings in the future.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Krakow Pilgrimage- Day Thirteen- Last Day Reflection

Miraculous image of Our Lady of Sorrows in Franciscan Church

I started thinking about this pilgrimage to Krakow over four months ago when it came to me out of the blue. I had not given any prior thought to going to Poland for a pilgrimage. As I stated before, I believe it was Our Lady and the Rosary that led me here to Krakow. That being said, the Saints have also had a role to play here, and of course it all leads back to Our Lord. Seeing the many miraculous images of Our Lady, visiting the relics of the Saints, seeing these historic churches have been an immense spiritual gift. There have been many special lessons along the way as I have spoken about in my previous 12 posts. There was even another wonderful miraculous gift from Saint Dominic yesterday when I visited the Dominican Church!

St. Maximilian Kolbe, Saint Edith Stein, Saint Dominic, Saint Jacek, Saint Jadwiga, Saint Faustina, Blessed Salomea and others have been my companions. As I walked the streets today after going to Mass once again at St. Mary's, I stopped in some of the churches and took some photos which I will post here on my last day. This pilgrimage to Krakow will always be remembered as a gift from God, His Blessed Mother and His Saints. I hope they will lead me back again someday! Tomorrow morning I will hit the early Mass and then head off to the airport.

List of posts for each day of the pilgrimage.

Krakow Day 1
Krakow Day 2
Krakow Day 3
Krakow Day 4
Krakow Day 5
Krakow Day 6
Krakow Day 7
Krakow Day 8
Krakow Day 9
Krakow Day 10
Krakow Day 11
Krakow Day 12

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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Krakow Pilgrimage- Day Twelve- The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass

"You come to me and unite Yourself intimately to me under the form of nourishment. Your Blood now runs in mine, Your Soul, Incarnate God, compenetrates mine, giving courage and support. What miracles! Who would have ever imagined such!"                                (St. Maximilian Kolbe)
St. Thomas the Apostle

Today was a unique day for me. I attended three different Masses and was able to spend time in Eucharistic adoration. This being the second from my last day in Krakow, and also being Sunday, I wanted to make it a prayerful day. I started the day at St. Mary's for Mass. The nice thing about St. Mary's is they have a ton of Masses everyday so no matter what time you come in the morning, there is a Mass. St. Mary's is the Basilica in the Main Square. I then walked over to Wawel Cathedral to attend the Latin Mass at 9AM. That was a huge disappointment since they moved the Mass from its usual spot where there is plenty of room, to a tiny chapel in the back that was packed with people and there was no room. I left and went over to see the Dominican fathers and went to Mass there instead.
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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Krakow Pilgrimage- Day Eleven- Mogila and Christ Crucified

For both the Jews require signs, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness: But unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Cor 22-25)

Devotion at Mogila
Last evening I was reading through one of my books on polish churches and realized there was one of Poland's largest pilgrimage sites at the Cistercian monastery located about 10 kilometers on the east side of the city. The name of the monastery is known as Mogila, (the name of the village it is located which stems from the grave of Wanda -the legendary daughter of Count Krak). This morning I got up early, took Tram #10 to the monastery, and got there in perfect time for Mass. First a little history. The church was consecrated in 1266. Many pilgrims were attracted to Mogiła (Source) to the feet of the Miraculous Christ, among them bishops, cardinals, kings and sovereigns such as Kazimir the Great (Kazimierz Wielki), Vladyslav Jagiello (Władysław Jagiełło) and St. Queen Jadwiga, but above all, the pious country folk, who came by the thousand throughout the years. The figure of the Miraculous Christ is just over 6 feet tall and is covered with polychromy. It has natural hair which, according to the legend, has been cut and grown back.

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Friday, April 13, 2018

Krakow Pilgrimage- Day Ten- Churches, Our Lady and Prayer

Our Lady of Piasek
This morning I decided to go to Mass at Sacred Heart Church just outside the Old Town. Although not quite as stunning as many of the other churches, Mass was very reverent and there were some special miraculous images inside. The image of Our Lady had many votive offerings around her attesting to answered prayers and miracles. The one beautiful thing about the Krakow churches is that each one of them usually has at least one miraculous image. Most of them are of Our Lady. Much as she was on my pilgrimage to Quito, Our Blessed Mother has been very good to me on this pilgrimage and she has brought me many graces. Today I was able to venerate her and thank here before several miraculous images.

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Krakow Pilgrimage- Day Nine- Tyniec

I went to Mass this morning again over at St. Mary's. After Mass I grabbed a bite to eat on the Market Square and then made my way over to the Vistula River to see about getting a boat ride to Tyniec. Tyniec is the oldest established monastery in Poland, supposedly founded around the turn of the millennium. So its historic importance to Catholicism in Poland is important. I found out unfortunately the boats only run occasionally on Saturday's this time of year and they do not run regularly until May. So I quickly decided to make this trip the old fashioned way, by foot. The lady at the boat dock kind of smirked when I said I was going to walk it. I thought no problem its only like 10 kilometers, no worries here. I love to walk. My first mistake was not taking any water. Today was a warm sunny day, I felt like I was on a forced endless march. I decided to offer it up as penance. So I prayed the Rosary interspersed with the Divine Mercy chaplet all the way to the monastery.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Krakow Pilgrimage- Day Eight- Outside the Old Town

Today was a more leisurely day. I spent it doing a ton of walking beyond the Old Town. By my map estimate I walked at least 12 miles. After going to Mass at St. Mary's I stopped at Cafe Camelot once again for breakfast. After that I poked around town checking out some of the bookstores. I did find a good book on the history of Krakow. Most of the bookstores here have a limited selection of books in English. The Bona bookstore near Wawel probably has the most in English for history books. I also found the one theology book they had at the Dominican Monastery on Aquinas from a Polish publishing company. Very cool!

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Krakow Pilgrimage- Day Seven- Jasna Gora, Consecration to Our Lady of Czestochowa

Let us give ourselves to the Immaculata [Mary]. Let her prepare us, let her receive Him [Jesus] in Holy Communion. This is the manner most perfect and pleasing to the Lord Jesus and brings great fruit to us." Because "the Immaculata knows the secret, how to unite ourselves totally with the heart of the Lord Jesus... We do not limit ourselves in love. We want to love the Lord Jesus with her heart, or rather that she would love the Lord with our heart. (Saint Maximilian Kolbe)

Jasna Gora, Czestochowa

Today was a special day for me on my pilgrimage in Poland. The focal point of my trip was to see Jasna Gora, the monastery where Our Lady of Czestochowa resides. I had been contemplating seeing her for four months now, since booking my trip. The Blessed Mother has been an important part of my spiritual journey, and she has brought me closer to Christ over the years. In truth, I don't know where I would be without her. So today, the mid-point of my pilgrimage I also reach the pinnacle of my pilgrimage, Czestochowa. Before boarding the van to see Our Lady, I prayed the Rosary while walking the wonderful park surrounding Wawel Hill, seen below.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Krakow Pilgrimage- Day Six- Salt, Light and the Dominicans

I began the day going to Mass at St. Mary's. I then caught a nice breakfast over at Cafe Camelot. After my healthy start I went over to the Dominican Monastery Church again to get a closer look of what I missed the first time. The Dominicans arrived in Krakow from Bologna in 1222. The first church started in the middle of the 13th century and was finished in the 15th century. Unfortunately it burned down in 1850 and had to be rebuilt. This Church is under monumental restoration. They are restoring the main altar and some of the side altars. This means you cannot see some of the treasures here. I did however make it over to the south side chapel, the Rosary Chapel. There is a replica of the image in St Mary Major, Rome at the entrance. In 1688 the image was moved from Khotyn where the image was revered for giving victory in 1621 over the Turks. It was moved because the bishop brought it with him when he came to Krakow. I also went into the hall of the courtyard that contains many pictures of the Dominicans. I still need to try and see the other chapel on the north side sometime this week. I am not sure who many of the Saints are in the pictures. I wonder who the one is who is chasing everyone with a whip? I had to take two of pictures of the one! The Dominicans are my favorite order and Saint Dominic has been so good to me!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Krakow Pilgrimage- Day Five- Auschwitz and a Lesson in Divine Mercy

Entrance to Birkenau where most were put to death.

Auschwitz and Divine Mercy, two opposing images, two polar opposites. Today I experienced both, unexpectedly, since I thought my trip to Auschwitz was tomorrow. As I was getting dressed this morning my phone rang, and the voice on the phone said, "your tour shuttle is here for Auschwitz." I intended to make it for Monday and had planned to go the Latin Mass at Wawel Cathedral today. This was not to be the case and just after 7AM I found myself on the shuttle to Auschwitz.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Krakow Pilgrimage- Day Four- Absorbing the Faith

No matter where you walk in the Old Town here in Krakow you cannot help but be reminded of the Catholic faith. That is not to say that everyone here is a practicing Catholic. However, with the miraculous churches on every corner, you can stop in and pray in the most precious jewels of our faith. This morning I was able to start the day off praying the Rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet in front of the miraculous solid stone crucifix in St. Mary's. This crucifix from the early 1700's is said to feel like real flesh at times. Many have been healed in its presence. The person who restored it once said, "it felt not as stone but as warm flesh." I then attended Mass at the Czestochowa side altar which houses a replica from the 1600's.

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Friday, April 6, 2018

Krakow Pilgrimage- Day Three- St Faustina and Miraculous Churches

Its day three! I started the day by getting a taxi to the Divine Mercy Shrine south of the city. The bus would have been cheaper but the taxi is much faster and cost about 10 Us dollars each way. I got to the shrine and went straight to the old Divine Mercy chapel where you are able to visit the tomb of St. Faustina and see the original Divine Mercy icon. I really enjoyed the visit and went back two more times after visiting the new Divine Mercy Shrine and the JP II Center located across from the new Shrine. I found the new Shrine to be uninspiring. Given my dislike for modern architecture, this was no surprise and I didn't expect anything more. I went to daily Mass and then made my way over to the JP II sanctuary and museum. The museum was also disappointing. The sanctuary itself was not bad and I appreciated the mosaic iconography inside despite being a bit more modernistic than others.

After praying the Rosary on my hike back over to the Divine Mercy I went back to the old chapel and said the Divine Mercy chaplet. I went over to the sister's gift shop and purchased an icon of the Divine Mercy and went back over and touched it to the relics of St. Faustina. This was definitely the highlight of the trip over to this area. For those visiting I would recommend going to the old chapel and if you are strapped for time the new shrine and the JP II sanctuary/center would not in my opinion be "must sees." I was able to sneak in a couple of pictures of the inside of the old chapel.

The old chapel

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

Krakow Pilgrimage- Day Two- St Mary's and Icons!

After hitting the splendid breakfast bar this morning at the hotel, I made my way towards Saint Mary's basilica for Mass. On my way I came across the Church of St Andrew the Apostle. It is a convent church so you can only see the main altar through a gate. They have some awesome holy cards inside for a donation. I picked up a few. St Peter and Paul next door was still closed so I made my way up to St Mary's.

St Peter and Paul left, St Andrew's right. 

Before getting to Saint Mary's I came across the Dominican Church, which was under renovation, so I could not see the altar. They had a picture cover over it. I took a few pictures there and moved on.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Krakow Pilgrimage- Day One, The Lay of the Land

I was sitting at my computer one evening and a thought popped into my head out of nowhere. "You need to go to Poland." Its something that up until this time I had not really considered. There were several other places of pilgrimage that were on my list such as Spain, Portugal and France. I had always given more attention to my Italian side and have been to Italy a couple of times. It just so happens that my mother's side is Polish. I've have a love for Our Blessed Mother and my last pilgrimage to Quito was a miraculous one concerning Our Lady. I have always been drawn to the icon of Czestochowa, so I immediately started looking things up on the internet. After a little time I discovered that Krakow looked like a great place for a pilgrimage, and it was affordable. There are tons of churches, devotions, miraculous icons and crucifixes, and its also not far from Czestochowa. My fate was sealed. In a couple of days I booked my two week trip on Expedia. That was four months ago.

Today marks the first official day of my pilgrimage to Krakow! I left early on Tuesday morning. With a stop in Frankfurt and a seven hour time difference, I arrived in Krakow around 10:30 AM Krakow time Wednesday. By the time I got my luggage and found the train it was about 11:00 AM. The trains run around every half hour from the airport to the Krakow city center train station. This gave me time to buy my train ticket, 3 bucks, and the train pulled in around 11:25. I left the station at 11:50 and arrived at the Krakow, Glowny train station maybe 12:10 or so. The train ride was uneventful and not a very scenic ride. The train station is massive and it took me a little time to navigate to the correct exit to the Old Town. Once I arrived on the street I was able to easily find my bearings with my map app on my phone. I decided to walk to my hotel, Legend Hotel, which was just over a mile away. Krakow immediately caught my attention and has a medieval charm to it with its architecture and layout. After a pretty easy walk I checked in just after 1:00 PM.

An hour later I hit the street to get a layout of the Old Town city center. Krakow is a charming city and there is a church on nearly every corner in the historic center. It reminds me of Rome in some ways, yet the historic center here is well organized being surrounded by the Planty, a walking park. I decided to get a layout of the old town and headed south from my hotel which is right along the Planty park on the east side of the Old Town. The weather is nice, although overcast and perfect for a light jacket. Heading south from the hotel I got a glimpse of the back side of the famous Wawel castle and cathedral which stands on a limestone hill overlooking the city. I would see more of it later on as I came back around the Old Town.

I decided to go up Groudzka street which is the main street from the south up the middle of the Old Town. I passed several churches, snapped some pictures along the way and ended up in one of Europe's largest and most famous squares, the Krakow Market Square. Upon entering the square the ancient little church of St. Adalbert's greets you. To the right you can see the massive St. Mary's Basilica  from which the bugler plays from every hour overlooking the square and directly across from it is the famous clock tower. I went into St Mary's to say a prayer and I snuck a couple of pictures. A beautiful replica of Our Lady of Czestochowa greeted me! I will go back tomorrow for the Latin Mass and get a tour. Below are some of the pictures I took along the way.

St Mary's Basilica

I continued north and hit St. Florian's gate. I made my way around the west side of the Old Town and ended up running into St. Anna's church. I went in and prayed the rosary. This appears to be a neighborhood church with a few locals praying, and does not charge any fees to enter as some of the others. This baroque church is inviting and I spent some time visiting the side altars. Here are some pictures. Check out the ambo with the angel on the bottom!

After spending some time in St Anna's I headed south to Wawel Hill. This large complex is seen looming over the horizon as you walk the Planty south. There is a large walkway that leads up to the top where there are several things to see including museums, the castle and the cathedral. You can walk through much of the cathedral for free but there are several things you can't get to without a pass. I decided to wait until later to get the pass and see everything. Unfortunately, they closely monitor to make sure you can't take any pictures inside, and even my stealth camera techniques are unable to avoid the many guards inside. This is a shame, its stunning. There are also the bodies of famous Polish Saints inside such as Saint Jadwiga. I was blessed to find that there is Eucharistic adoration in the back in a beautiful chapel. I spent some time in prayer there. I was also able to get some pictures from up top overlooking the Vistula River.

After enjoying a piece of creme cake at the Wawel cafe, I decided to head back to the hotel and rest up for the night. It looks like there is going to be plenty to see here over the next 13 days. Our Lord and the Blessed Mother have greeted me well here in Krakow on my first day.