Wow, I have not been very good about blogging this semester! It has been over a month now since my last post… But that doesn’t mean things have been less crazy over here in Austria, because things have been so busy! Let’s see, I have visited Vienna, Rome, Prague, and Poland. And next week I will be heading back to Italy and then Rome and Assisi! Time just flies.
I would however, like to share in a little bit more detail about the pilgrimage to Poland that I just returned from and what I learned while I was there.
First things first. I went on this trip as a pilgrim. Rather than see Poland as a tourist, I carried intentions with me on this journey and so when I ran into uncomfortable situations I was able to offer my small sufferings up for those intentions. I carried those intentions with me every step of our journey. But I didn’t carry them alone. I had three companions to help me on my journey. Pay attention, I will mention them! J
Our journey included visiting the shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, Auschwitz and Birkenau, the city of Krakow, the shrine of Divine Mercy, and Wadowice.
Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa: so unbelievably beautiful. We were able to arrive in time for the unveiling of the image of the Black Madonna, and this was a sight to behold. Mary was so beautiful, as was the entire shrine. It only seemed fitting to me that our beautiful Mother would have such a beautiful shrine!
Auschwitz/Birkenau: To say that these places were difficult to walk through would be a complete understatement. Words do not describe. It was unbelievably numbing to walk through a place where so much death and horror had taken place, less than 100 years ago. But the thing is, God’s mercy is endless. Right in the heart of Auschwitz, right when it was getting to be way too much to handle, we were hit in the face with God’s hope and mercy. That is when we arrived at the cell of St. Maximilian Kolbe. (If you are unfamiliar with him, he was a priest who gave up his life for another prisoner in Auschwitz, but there is so much more to his story, so look him up!) To have such a witness to hope, right in the middle of all that horror, just screamed to the world that love is SO much stronger than death. Love always conquers.
Shrine of Divine Mercy: How incredible it was to go from such a place of death to the complete source of life: God’s mercy. I felt like my soul was refreshed in the mercy of God. While we there, we were able to venerate the relics of and to ask for the intercession of St. Faustina (again, look her up if you haven’t heard of her!), who was such a witness to the power of God’s mercy! Death and destruction are present in this life, but God’s mercy can conquer all! It truly is endless!
Krakow/Wadowice: The best part about these two places was being able to walk in the footsteps of Blessed John Paul II
. Wadowice is his hometown and he was the bishop of Krakow for part of his life. He lived through the horror of the Holocaust. He knew how bad this world can get, how much it can seem that evil has won. But as he went through his ministry and his life, his proclamation to the world was clear: Be not afraid! This didn’t come from his being naive about the world and what’s going on. This came from seeing what the world is offering and recognizing that we are meant for so much more.
God’s mercy is endless.
Love conquers all.
Jesus, I trust in You.
St. Maximilian Kolbe,
Blessed John Paul II,
PRAY FOR US.