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.
After a two hour trip through several villages in the countryside of Poland, we arrived. A little history here. Before the arrival of the icon of Our Blessed Mother at Jasna Gora, Czestochowa was a small insignificant town. Our Lady arrived here around 1382 by wagon. Prince Wladyslaw left Ruthenia taking the image with him, knowing the miracles surrounding it. It was however not so easy a task for him. First, the horses would not move the wagon. The prince brought more horses for a total of six, and still the wagon would not move. Prince Wladyslaw went to prayer and promised to build Our Lady a monastery if she should would let him move her. He also pointed out that she would be well protected in this monastery since enemy forces were always a threat in the current area. After having made his promise, the wagons moved and the Prince made his way. Silesia was the desired destination of the prince. As Our Lady would have it, Silesia was not where she wanted her final destination to be. While stopping in the tiny town of Czestochowa, the wagons again refused to move. No matter what the prince did, the horses would not go any further. So, up on the Bright Hill, Jasna Gora as it is now called, the prince decided to make her home, and build a monastery. Over 600 years later there I stood before the same miraculous image.
|Approaching Jasna Gora|
|On my knees I snapped a quick picture moving around Our Lady|
|A corner of the votive wall behind the altar|
|During Mass outside the altar area|
Finally, it was somehow fitting that she then said goodbye as the trumpets played and the cover came down over her. I was sad to see her go behind the cover, knowing that I may not ever see this magnificent icon again. Even more so I was very grateful to her for all she had done for me, not only on this special pilgrimage to Poland, but throughout my entire life. I know that she is always near me ready to interceded for me whenever I ask, icon or no icon. It is true there is no high enough praise for Our Lady! "It is becoming for you, O Mary, to be mindful of us, as you stand near Him who bestowed upon you all graces, for you are the Mother of God and our Queen." (St. Athanasius)
|In the main altar area|
|Up close with Our Lady|
|Saying goodbye. Notice the cover dropping down from above, the trumpets play|
After having experienced this, I knew that the rest of the day was going to pale in comparison. I took a quick walk through town looking for icons before getting back in the van. I was able to find a couple of beautiful gems in one of the gift shops! On the way back we stopped at Pieskowa Skala Castle, built in the 1500s, that has been turned into a museum. There were some beautiful old statues and paintings as you will see below. I didn't find out until after I made it through a couple of rooms that pictures were not allowed inside. Enjoy the few that I managed to get!
I got back to Krakow around 4:30PM after another fantastic day. One of the guides recommended that I try Pod Wawelem, a restaurant near my hotel. I had some sort of meat potato pancake dish with cabbage which was very good.
I'll end the day by posting the consecration to Our Lady written by St. Maximilian Kolbe so anyone reading can also make it!
O Immaculata, Queen of Heaven and earth, refuge of sinners and our most loving Mother, God has willed to entrust the entire order of mercy to you. I, (name), a repentant sinner, cast myself at your feet humbly imploring you to take me with all that I am and have, wholly to yourself as your possession and property. Please make of me, of all my powers of soul and body, of my whole life, death and eternity, whatever most pleases you.If it pleases you, use all that I am and have without reserve, wholly to accomplish what was said of you: "She will crush your head," and, "You alone have destroyed all heresies in the world." Let me be a fit instrument in your immaculate and merciful hands for introducing and increasing your glory to the maximum in all the many strayed and indifferent souls, and thus help extend as far as possible the blessed kingdom of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For wherever you enter, you obtain the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through your hands that all graces come to us from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.V. Allow me to praise you, O sacred Virgin.R. Give me strength against your enemies.