Welcome back to this week’s Bishop’s Blog where I continue to reflect upon my recent pilgrimage to Poland.
As I look back on my recent short pilgrimage to Poland, apart from the unforgettable shrine of the Black Madonna at Jasna Gora, other sacred places of interest come to mind.
The pilgrimage to Wadowice, the birthplace of St John Paul II, would see the recently modernised museum with the most up-to-date technological presentation of his life’s story, which first began here in Wadowice, Silesia, and would ultimately take him to Rome as the successor of St. Peter.
The parish church of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary where St. John Paul was baptised occupies a prominent place in the city square, and just to stand beside the baptismal font where the saint first came to new life in Christ as an infant was a special moment. I had the privilege afterwards of saying Mass in the church and that too was, I felt, a experience of grace.
The pilgrim visitor will also see the house – now a wonderful museum – where St. John Paul lived and the area where he spent the first formative eighteen years of his life.
A full set of photos from my visit to the museum is available here.
The story is well known, but to realise that it was here in this perhaps somewhat distant city the young Karol Wotyla grew up, went to school and developed his intelligence and acting skills which were to stand him in such good stead in later years, makes one realise how God’s grace is ever active even in what appear to be ordinary, everyday circumstances.
There exists in the museum a fine portrait of John Paul as a handsome young man who could have taken many paths in life, but his decision to become a priest would have far reaching consequences for his country, the Church and indeed the world.
Krakow has much to offer the pilgrim, a fine city understandably replete nowadays with memories of its most distinguished Cardinal Archbishop, Karol Woytla.
The city has become extremely popular for visitors from Britain and has some lovely churches and squares.
Here in the photo above I look upon the window where once Pope and visiting Krakow again he would appear to greet the young people of the city late at night.
There is the Jagiellonian University and the future Pope’s own (Wawel) cathedral which he occupied during the very difficult and fraught communist era. Not far from Wadowice is a monastery, called Calvary, a holy place frequently visited by the young John Paul at important moments and turning points in his life. I was unable to go there, but it is clearly visible from the motorway.
My all too brief pilgrimage concluded with an overnight stay in the city of Poznan. I don’t recall any direct connections there with St. John Paul, but I won’t easily forget the cathedral in Poznan which has been rebuilt after having been almost totally destroyed during the Second World War II.
Apparently just a single wall remained. The Catholic faith and the history of Poland, both ancient and modern, are inseparable. The restored Poznan cathedral, a symbol of defiance, somehow symbolises the spirit and faith of the Polish people, oppression and defeat but then resurrection and a new beginning.
A pilgrimage to Poland is a worthwhile and deeply spiritual experience which I commend to any would-be pilgrim.
Until next week – let us pray for one another
As ever in Christ,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster