Our pilgrimage to the CITY OF SAINTS – POLSKA inspired and impressed us deeply.
Dehonian Fathers, Brothers, Sisters, Lay and Youth had gathered together as one bringing stories and experiences to tell and to share during the World Youth Day 2016! This encounter brought lot of conversion in our lives as pilgrims and rekindle the fire of our faith. It was indeed a one , big, happy, healthy Christ- centered family.
… Their generosity is so visible, they open their houses to let us in, their hearts and life to us.
Young people (not just the Dehonians) from all over the world of different culture and languages and with different family backgrounds were united. It is a clear manifestation that only through and with Jesus that made us one . (As what the spirituality and charism of Fr. Dehon “ Sint Unum” is about). We are one because we have one heart – the Heart of Jesus.
Every place we visited marks the memorable history of our life – to name them: the Majdanek Concentration Camp, the Sanctuary of our Lady of Płaszów, the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy in Kraków – Łagiewniki, the Sanctuary of St. Faustina, the Bishop’s House, the Catholic University of Lublin. In Niegowić (first parish of John Paul II). Among all those places we visited, the story behind AMAZING POLAND, the Majdanek Concentration Camp touched us the most. Polish, Jewish, young and old people, and even churches experienced lots of extraordinary tortures, deprivation of freedom and life (80,000 or more people have been killed in one day).
With those historical places we visited, and from the story of life and faith they kept, it was obvious how steadfast their love and faith to God which made them surmount in the midst of so much difficulties and tortures. As a result, numerous saints are from Poland. A BLESSED and AMAZING POLSKA!
The journey continues even after the World Youth days.
This time the encounter never ends. As Pope Francis said “the World Youth Day ends today but it continues tomorrow at home because it where God wants to meet you.” and YES! It is! with our extended home in Poland.
Bishop Vilsom Basso, scj from Maranhao, Fr. Andrzej Sudol, Fr. Piotr Chmielecki and Fr. Szymon Bendowski came and spent time with us. We met their families and friends and a warm welcome we received from them and they provided many things more than we deserve and imagine.
Bishop Vilsom serves us our Dehonian Holy Father. A father who guides and never leaves us. The new community (from Kielce, Mielec, Gorki, etc.), friends of the scj fathers are again became our family too.
Travelling…Visiting familes, communities, places… Sightseeing? Its knowing more about Poland and the people around.
Visiting Kraków the Old Town, Salt Mine in Wieliczka, Tatra Mountains in Zakopane, Antique Polish Village in Kolbuszowa, Baranow Castel Monastery at Swiety Krzyz, Holy Cross Shrine, and the Shrine of Jasna Góra (Black Madonna) in Częstochowa it is indeed an additional reward, witnessing how people pay respect to those sanctuaries and shrines, how they treasured and preserved and even the nature itself.
In Salt Mine in Wieliczka, hardwork were very obvious with those details and structures inside in 135 feet below the ground. We witnessed how amazing it was preserved and it proved how ordinary people who are working hard with firm faith, dedication and love bring out extraordinary works.
Upon our journey we did not just visit this historical – religious places but also those people who helped us a lot through monetary and spiritually. Again, this marks another history in our life.
Being together with the priests in all the events of the DYM and WYD and the continuation of our pilgrimage after WYD which some of us feel uncomfortable of being with them for almost a month, was a great opportunity to know them better .The virtue of humility is transparent to Bishop and other SCJ priests who were with us in our Poland journey. Bishop Vilsom Basso, is a man of service. He served us coffee, washing the dishes that we used after our meal, Jesus’ words are alive in the life of Bishop Basso: “He came to serve and not to be served.” Dehonians as we are, will continue our mission of reaching out and serving others especially those who needed most the love and mercy of God.
The 31st World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland is over. In the Final Mass on July 31, 2016, at the Campus Misericordiae (Field of Mercy) in Brzegi, near Wieliczka salt mine, presided by Pope Francis participated more than 2.5 million people from 187 countries. They were accompanied by 47 cardinals, 800 bishops and 20,000 priests. The main celebration was preceded by a PrayerVigil and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on July 30, 2016. Over a million young people camped out here overnight. Many spent the whole night in prayer.
The final liturgy included a reflection on a reading from the Gospel of Luke on Zacchaeus’ conversion: the short and wealthy publican who was hated by everyone in the city of Jericho, climbs up onto a tree to watch Jesus passing by and to his surprise, is invited by the Nazarene to come down. Jesus invites himself to the publican’s house, which gets everyone talking, shocked as they are at his decision to visit the home of a sinner.
In his homily, Francis spoke of three obstacles Zacchaeus had to face. The first was his smallness of stature. “Even today we can risk not getting close to Jesus because we don’t feel big enough, because we don’t think ourselves worthy. This is a great temptation; it has to do not only with self-esteem, but with faith itself.” Because, the Pope recalled, “we have been created in God’s own image; Jesus has taken upon himself our humanity and his heart will never be separated from us”. “Not to accept ourselves, to live glumly, to be negative, means not to recognize our deepest identity. It is like walking away when God wants to look at me, trying to spoil his dream for me. God loves us the way we are, and no sin, fault or mistake of ours makes him change his mind.” As far as Jesus is concerned, “no one is unworthy of, or far from, his thoughts. No one is insignificant. He loves all of us with a special love; for him all of us are important” and “God counts on you for what you are, not for what you possess. In his eyes the clothes you wear or the kind of cell phone you use are of absolutely no concern. He doesn’t care whether you are stylish or not; he cares about you! In his eyes, you are precious, and your value is inestimable”.
Francis explained to young people that “God remains faithful, even obstinate, in his love for us. The fact is, he loves us even more than we love ourselves. He believes in us even more than we believe in ourselves. He is always ‘cheering us on’; he is our biggest fan. He is there for us, waiting with patience and hope, even when we turn in on ourselves and brood over our troubles and past injuries.”
We must not grow fond of sadness, the Pope stressed. “It will do us good to pray every morning: ‘Lord, I thank you for loving me; help me to be in love with my own life!’ Not with my faults, that need to be corrected, but with life itself, which is a great gift, for it is a time to love and to be loved.”The second obstacle Zacchaeus faces is “the paralysis of shame”. “He mastered his shame, because the attraction of Jesus was more powerful. You know what happens when someone is so attractive that we fall in love with them: we end up ready to do things we would never have even thought of doing.” This too, Francis said, “is the secret of joy: not to stifle a healthy curiosity, but to take a risk, because life is not meant to be tucked away. When it comes to Jesus, we cannot sit around waiting with arms folded; he offers us life – we can’t respond by thinking about it or ‘texting’ a few words!”
“Don’t be ashamed to bring everything to the Lord in confession,” the Pope urged young people, “especially your weaknesses, your struggles and your sins. He will surprise you with his forgiveness and his peace. Don’t be afraid to say “yes” to him with all your heart, to respond generously and to follow him! Don’t let your soul grow numb, but aim for the goal of a beautiful love which also demands sacrifice. Say a firm “no” to the narcotic of success at any cost and the sedative of worrying only about yourself and your own comfort.”
The third obstacle Zacchaeus had to overcome was the grumbling of the crowd, who first blocked him and then criticised him. “How truly hard it is to welcome Jesus, how hard it is to accept a ‘God who is rich in mercy’! People will try to block you, to make you think that God is distant, rigid and insensitive, good to the good and bad to the bad. Instead, our heavenly Father demands of us real courage: the courage to be more powerful than evil by loving everyone, even our enemies.”
“People may laugh at you because you believe in the gentle and unassuming power of mercy. People may judge you to be dreamers, because you believe in a new humanity, one that rejects hatred between peoples, one that refuses to see borders as barriers and can cherish its own traditions without being self-centred or small-minded. Don’t be discouraged: with a smile and open arms, you proclaim hope and you are a blessing for our one human family, which here you represent so beautifully!”
The Pope encouraged young people not to give up in the face of “closed-mindedness” but to “seek goodness for its own sake, content to maintain a pure heart and to fight peaceably for honesty and justice. Don’t stop at the surface of things; distrust the worldly cult of appearances, cosmetic attempts to improve our looks. Instead, “download” the best “link” of all, that of a heart which sees and transmits goodness without growing weary.” And he asked that “in all the “contacts” and “chats” of each day, pride of place be given to the golden thread of prayer,” using the Gospel as a “compass”.
God’s memory is not a “‘hard disk’ that ‘saves’ and ‘archives’ all our data, but a heart filled with tender compassion, one that finds joy in “erasing” in us every trace of evil. May we too now try to imitate the faithful memory of God and treasure the good things we have received in these days.”
On July 29, 2016, the SCJ pilgrims as usual started the day with morning prayers and the Eucharist, which was followed by visit of the Shrine at Skałka, sharing of experiences, youth festival and Way of the Cross with the Holy Father in the afternoon.
Skałka, which means “a small rock” in Polish, is a small outcrop in Kraków where the Bishop of Kraków Saint Stanislaus of Szczepanów was slain by order of Polish king Bolesław II the Bold in 1079. This action resulted in the king’s exile and the eventual canonization of the slain bishop.
Originally, a Romanesque church was built there. King Casimir III raised a new Gothic church in its place and since 1472 this shrine has been in the possession of a monastic community of Pauline Fathers. In 1733-1751 the church received a baroque decor. It is one of the most famous Polish sanctuaries.
The crypt underneath the church serves as a “National Pantheon”, a burial place for some of the most distinguished Poles, particularly those who lived in Kraków.
Address to the young people of World Youth Day, after praying a presentation of the Way of the Cross linked to the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
I was naked and you gave me clothing,
I was sick and you took care of me,
I was in prison and you visited me (Mt 25:35-36).
These words of Jesus answer the question that arises so often in our minds and hearts: “Where is God?” Where is God, if evil is present in our world, if there are men and women who are hungry and thirsty, homeless, exiles and refugees? Where is God, when innocent persons die as a result of violence, terrorism and war? Where is God, when cruel diseases break the bonds of life and affection? Or when children are exploited and demeaned, and they too suffer from grave illness? Where is God, amid the anguish of those who doubt and are troubled in spirit? These are questions that humanly speaking have no answer. We can only look to Jesus and ask him. And Jesus’ answer is this: “God is in them”. Jesus is in them; he suffers in them and deeply identifies with each of them. He is so closely united to them as to form with them, as it were, “one body”.
Jesus himself chose to identify with these our brothers and sisters enduring pain and anguish by agreeing to tread the “way of sorrows” that led to Calvary. By dying on the cross, he surrendered himself into to the hands of the Father, taking upon himself and in himself, with self- sacrificing love, the physical, moral and spiritual wounds of all humanity. By embracing the wood of the cross, Jesus embraced the nakedness, the hunger and thirst, the loneliness, pain and death of men and women of all times. Tonight Jesus, and we with him, embrace with particular love our brothers and sisters from Syria who have fled from the war. We greet them and we welcome them with fraternal affection and friendship.
By following Jesus along the Way of the Cross, we have once again realized the importance of imitating him through the fourteen works of mercy. These help us to be open to God’s mercy, to implore the grace to appreciate that without mercy we can do nothing; without mercy, neither I nor you nor any of us can do a thing. Let us first consider the seven corporal works of mercy: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick and those in prison, and burying the dead. Freely we have received, so freely let us give. We are called to serve the crucified Jesus in all those who are marginalized, to touch his sacred flesh in those who are disadvantaged, in those who hunger and thirst, in the naked and imprisoned, the sick and unemployed, in those who are persecuted, refugees and migrants. There we find our God; there we touch the Lord. Jesus himself told us this when he explained the criterion on which we will be judged: whenever we do these things to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do them to him (cf. Mt 25:31-46).
After the corporal works of mercy come the spiritual works: counseling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, admonishing sinners, consoling the afflicted, pardoning offences, bearing wrongs patiently, praying for the living and the dead. In welcoming the outcast who suffer physically and welcoming sinners who suffer spiritually, our credibility as Christians is at stake.
Humanity today needs men and women, and especially young people like yourselves, who do not wish to live their lives “halfway”, young people ready to spend their lives freely in service to those of their brothers and sisters who are poorest and most vulnerable, in imitation of Christ who gave himself completely for our salvation. In the face of evil, suffering and sin, the only response possible for a disciple of Jesus is the gift of self, even of one’s own life, in imitation of Christ; it is the attitude of service. Unless those who call themselves Christians live to serve, their lives serve no good purpose. By their lives, they deny Jesus Christ.
This evening, dear friends, the Lord once more asks you to be in the forefront of serving others. He wants to make of you a concrete response to the needs and sufferings of humanity. He wants you to be signs of his merciful love for our time! To enable you to carry out this mission, he shows you the way of personal commitment and self-sacrifice. It is the Way of the Cross. The Way of the Cross is the way of fidelity in following Jesus to the end, in the often dramatic situations of everyday life. It is a way that fears no lack of success, ostracism or solitude, because it fills ours hearts with the fullness of Jesus. The Way of the Cross is the way of God’s own life, his “style”, which Jesus brings even to the pathways of a society at times divided, unjust and corrupt.
The Way of the Cross alone defeats sin, evil and death, for it leads to the radiant light of Christ’s resurrection and opens the horizons of a new and fuller life. It is the way of hope, the way of the future. Those who take up this way with generosity and faith give hope and a future to humanity.
Dear young people, on that Good Friday many disciples went back crestfallen to their homes. Others chose to go out to the country to forget the cross. I ask you: How do you want to go back this evening to your own homes, to the places where you are staying? How do you want to go back this evening to be alone with your thoughts? Each of you has to answer the challenge that this question sets before you.
On July 28, 2016, the Philippine delegation visited the “Have No Fear!” Centre of John Paul II and Divine Mercy Shrine in Łagiewniki, Kraków.
The long time private secretary of Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, put forward a proposal to build a center to commemorate the Holy Father. The idea was to create a place of prayer, education and voluntary service, a place for meetings and exchanging views.
As its motto, the Centre has the words of Pope John Paul II, spoken during the inauguration of his pontificate: “Have no fear! Open wide the door for Jesus Christ.”
The construction started in 2008 and has included: Saint John Paull II Sanctuary, John Paul II Institute, a volunteer center, a hotel and a pilgrim’s guest house, a retreat center, an amphitheater, outdoor Stations of the Cross, a rehabilitation center, a meditation and recreation park and other facilities.
The Sanctuary is a truly unique place. It is located on two levels. The upper part is formed by the main church, while the lower part houses by the Relic Church, surrounded by numerous thematic chapels. Among the relics and mementos of Saint John Paul II there are e.g.: an ampule with the Pope’s blood placed in a marble altar, a papal pastoral cross, papal chasuble and the cross in front of which Saint John Paul II prayed during his last Way of the Cross in the Roman Colosseum.
Among the many symbols, it is worth paying attention to the Sacredotal Chapel, modelled on Saint Leonard’s Crypt at the Wawel Royal Castle. There, one can find the slab from the first tomb of Saint John Paul II in the Vatican Grottoes.
It is worth noting that the Centre is located in Krakow (Cracow), between Łagiewniki and Borek Fałęcki, in the place of the old Solvay plants, in which Karol Wojtyła used to work during World War II as a factory worker.
The Sanctuary of Divine Mercy is situated in buildings of monastery of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, which was founded in 1891 as A. Lubomirski’s Foundation for girls and women in need of moral renewal.
In period between world wars in this Monastery lived and died Saint M. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), through Saint Faustina Lord Christ gave the message of the Divine Mercy to the Church and to the whole world. It sheds light on the mystery of the Divine Mercy, calls to put trust in God and have merciful attitude towards neighbors and also to proclaim and pray for Divine Mercy for whole world through practicing new forms of worship of the Divine Mercy (the Divine Mercy Image, the Divine Mercy Sunday, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and the Hour of Mercy).
In 1943 Father J. Andrasz SI the Cracow confessor of Faustina blessed the first Divine Mercy Image painted by A. Hyła, offered as ex-voto, thanksgiving to God for saving his family during war, and initiated solemn masses honoring the Divine Mercy.
The image quickly became well-know for many graces, the number of pilgrims has grown each year, considering also the pilgrims visiting the Sister Faustina’s tomb.
Very dynamic expansion of worship of the Divine Mercy was launched by the beatification of Sister’s Faustina (18th of April 1993) and her canonisation (30th of April 2000), and also thanks to pilgrimages of John Paul II to Łagiewniki (1997 and 2002). It caused the extension of the Sanctuary i.a. building a new church – basilica, that was consecrated on 17th of August 2002 by Pope John Paul II in 2002. In this place Pope solemnly entrusted the world to the Divine Mercy.
In the afternoon, the Dehonian group from the Philippines, together with other pilgrims, joined the first official encounter with the Holy Father, at a ceremony in Błonia, Kraków.
Below is the English translation of Pope Francis’ prepared address, given in Italian, following a welcome from the archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz:
Dear Young Friends, good evening!
At last we are together! Thank you for your warm welcome! I thank Cardinal Dziwisz, the bishops, priests, men and women religious, the seminarians and those who have accompanied you. I am also grateful to all those who made it possible for us to be here today, who “went the extra mile” so that we could celebrate our faith.
In this, the land of his birth, I especially want to thank Saint John Paul II, who first came up with the idea of these meetings and gave them such momentum. From his place in heaven, he is with us and he sees all of you: so many young people from such a variety of nations, cultures and languages but with one aim, that of rejoicing that Jesus is living in our midst. To say that Jesus is alive means to rekindle our enthusiasm in following him, to renew our passionate desire to be his disciples. What better opportunity to renew our friendship with Jesus than by building friendships among yourselves! What better way to build our friendship with Jesus than by sharing him with others! What better way to experience the contagious joy of the Gospel than by striving to bring the Good News to all kinds of painful and difficult situations!
Jesus called us to this Thirty-first World Youth Day. Jesus tells us: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall find mercy (Mt 5:7). Blessed indeed are they who can forgive, who show heartfelt compassion, who are capable of offering the very best of themselves to others.
Dear young people, in these days Poland is in a festive mood; in these days Poland wants to be the ever-youthful face of mercy. From this land, with you and all those young people who cannot be present today yet join us through the various communications media, we are going to make this World Youth Day an authentic Jubilee celebration.
In my years as a bishop, I have learned one thing. Nothing is more beautiful than seeing the enthusiasm, dedication, zeal and energy with which so many young people live their lives. When Jesus touches a young person’s heart, he or she becomes capable of truly great things. It is exciting to listen to you share your dreams, your questions and your impatience with those who say that things cannot change. For me, it is a gift of God to see so many of you, with all your questions, trying to make a difference. It is beautiful and heartwarming to see all that restlessness! Today the Church looks to you and wants to learn from you, to be reassured that the Father’s Mercy has an ever-youthful face, and constantly invites us to be part of his Kingdom.
Knowing your enthusiasm for mission, I repeat: mercy always has a youthful face! Because a merciful heart is motivated to move beyond its comfort zone. A merciful heart can go out and meet others; it is ready to embrace everyone. A merciful heart is able to be a place of refuge for those who are without a home or have lost their home; it is able to build a home and a family for those forced to emigrate; it knows the meaning of tenderness and compassion. A merciful heart can share its bread with the hungry and welcome refugees and migrants. To say the word “mercy” along with you is to speak of opportunity, future, commitment, trust, openness, hospitality, compassion and dreams.
Let me tell you another thing I have learned over these years. It pains me to meet young people who seem to have opted for “early retirement”. I worry when I see young people who have “thrown in the towel” before the game has even begun, who are defeated even before they begin to play, who walk around glumly as if life has no meaning. Deep down, young people like this are bored… and boring! But it is also hard, and troubling, to see young people who waste their lives looking for thrills or a feeling of being alive by taking dark paths and in the end having to pay for it… and pay dearly. It is disturbing to see young people squandering some of the best years of their lives, wasting their energies running after peddlers of fond illusions (where I come from, we call them “vendors of smoke”), who rob you of what is best in you.
We are gathered here to help one another other, because we do not want to be robbed of the best of ourselves. We don’t to be robbed of our energy, our joy, our dreams by fond illusions.
So I ask you: Are you looking for empty thrills in life, or do you want to feel a power that can give you a lasting sense of life and fulfilment? Empty thrills or the power of grace? To find fulfilment, to gain new strength, there is a way. It is not a thing or an object, but a person, and he is alive. His name is Jesus Christ.
Jesus can give you true passion for life. Jesus can inspire us not to settle for less, but to give the very best of ourselves. Jesus challenges us, spurs us on and helps us keep trying whenever we are tempted to give up. Jesus pushes us to keep our sights high and to dream of great things.
In the Gospel, we heard how Jesus, on his way to Jerusalem, stopped at a home – the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus – and was welcomed. He stopped, went in and spent time with them. The two women welcomed him because they knew he was open and attentive. Our many jobs and responsibilities can make us a bit like Martha: busy, scattered, constantly running from place to place… but we can also be like Mary: whenever we see a beautiful landscape, or look at a video from a friend on our cellphone, we can stop and think, stop and listen… In these days, Jesus wants to stop and enter our home. He will look at us hurrying about with all our concerns, as he did with Martha… and he will wait for us to listen to him, like Mary, to make space for him amid the bustle. May these be days given over to Jesus and to listening to one another. May they help us welcome Jesus in all those with whom we share our homes, our neighborhoods, our groups and our schools.
Whoever welcomes Jesus, learns to love as Jesus does. So he asks us if we want a full life: Do you want a complete life? Start by letting yourself be open and attentive! Because happiness is sown and blossoms in mercy. That is his answer, his offer, his challenge, his adventure: mercy. Mercy always has a youthful face. Like that of Mary of Bethany, who sat as a disciple at the feet of Jesus and joyfully listened to his words, since she knew that there she would find peace. Like that of Mary of Nazareth, whose daring “Yes” launched her on the adventure of mercy. All generations would call her blessed; to all of us she is the “Mother of Mercy”.
All together, then, we ask the Lord: “Launch us on the adventure of mercy! Launch us on the adventure of building bridges and tearing down walls, barriers and barbed wire. Launch us on the adventure of helping the poor, those who feel lonely and abandoned, or no longer find meaning in their lives. Send us, like Mary of Bethany, to listen attentively to those we do not understand, those of other cultures and peoples, even those we are afraid of because we consider them a threat. Make us attentive to our elders, as Mary of Nazareth was to Elizabeth, in order to learn from their wisdom.
Here we are, Lord! Send us to share your merciful love. We want to welcome you in our midst during this World Youth Day. We want to affirm that our lives are fulfilled when they are shaped by mercy, for that is the better part, and it will never be taken from us.