reflections, updates and homilies from Deacon Mike Talbot inspired by the following words from my ordination: Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach...
Saturday, August 26, 2023
Today is also the Feast of Our Lady of Czestochowa
Poland: Thousands of pilgrims gather at Jasna Góra Shrine
Thousands of pilgrims from across Poland and other countries gathered at the Jasna Góra Shrine to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Częstochowa. The celebrations conclude the summer pilgrimage season as more than 85,000 people arrive at the shrine by foot, bicycle, motorbike, or even rollerblades. Over the past year alone over 2.5 million pilgrims have visited Jasna Góra.
By Paweł Rozwód and Fr. Paweł Rytel-Andrianik
The culmination of celebrations in Jasna Góra included Saturday’s Holy Mass at the shrine's ramparts bring together representatives of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, who also held a meeting of the Diocesan Council of Bishops the day before.
Signs of God's love
In his homily, the Primate of Poland, Metropolitan of Gniezno, Archbishop Wojciech Polak referred to today’s verses of the Gospel describing Jesus’ transformation of water into wine at the wedding in Cana. The archbishop said: “As Pope Francis pointed out to us here in Jasna Góra during his memorable pilgrimage, this is no extraordinary act performed in front of a large crowd (...) It is a simple miracle in a small village, cheering up the wedding celebration of a completely anonymous young family. Turning water into wine at a wedding is a wonderful sign because it reveals to us the bridal face of God, who sits at a table with us and longs for and complements communion with us.”
Archbishop Polak underscored that today, the hearts of many people are “hungry for love.” “This is not just any love that is superficial and elusive, but love that is genuine and profound, a love that only God can give. It is precisely the dream of Mary’s Heart: to fill the dried-up vessels of so many human hearts with the Holy Spirit and the fire of God’s love. This world craves love, sometimes via cries of despair and rebellion and other times via the indifferent silence of hopelessness and resignation. Indeed, love is indispensable in our personal and social lives. Love is necessary in the Church and the Homeland. Love is needed because it is matched by care, fidelity, responsibility, and respect. It is the source of moderation of the judgments and words we utter.”
Poland’s Primate likewise indicated that those guided by love do not hurt others but treat them as sisters and brothers: “Such a person does not offend, manipulate, and make false accusations. Whoever is mindful of love seeks concord, reconciliation, and good for all. We need love today, but we also need reason so that we can discern between what is truth and what is confusion-sowing falsehood. We need love so that in the ongoing disputes and feuds that continue to escalate, we do not mindlessly fling mud at one another and deny one another the right to care for the common good and responsibility for our common destiny.”
Following the Lord
Archbishop Polak observed that Mary’s urge epitomises the entire program of Christian life: “Do whatever he tells you.” “The Church, therefore, need not seek a new agenda. The Church is in no need to choose what it stands for. The Church has the program. Established by Christ, the Church is to follow Christ. Indeed, the Church must be mindful of the signs of the time, yet should respond to them in the light of Christ’s Gospel rather than relying on human wisdom. As Pope Francis implies, we must discern reality and live it without fear, without escaping it, and without succumbing to catastrophism,” said the archbishop.
Jasna Góra Shrine in Polish culture
In turn, President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, Metropolitan of Poznań, Archbishop Stanislaw Gądecki, described in an interview with Vatican Radio and Vatican News how the Icon of Mary from Jasna Góra has become part and parcel not only of Poles’ religion but also of the nation’s culture and tradition. “This is due to a tradition of more than six hundred years and the local Marian veneration, which existed before the partitions of Poland and developed during them. Some pilgrimages that come here yearly started as long as several hundred years ago. The Częstochowa Shrine is also strongly associated with the ministry of the sacrament of confession. During his first pilgrimage to this place as Pope, St. John Paul II spoke of “the mystery of the confessionals” here. The Eucharists, which are celebrated here daily, including in the chapel of the Miraculous Image of Our Lady, are also extremely important,” said Archbishop Gądecki, who highlighted the contribution of the ministry of the Pauline Fathers, who look after the Shrine.
Archbishop Gądecki pointed out that the Częstochowa Shrine is in the hearts of Poles, and the Icon from Jasna Góra is what unites them. “The message of Jasna Góra points first and foremost to Mary’s primary role in the journey to Jesus. St. John Paul II and the Primate of Poland, Blessed Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, proclaimed this in their teaching. Speaking of the veneration of Our Lady of Częstochowa in Poland, one must also mention the work of theologians and mariologists, which the bishops have always valued. Invoking Mary is also very common in everyday parish life. The Polish soul resonates more strongly in encountering the Mother of God than anyone else. It is the most significant expression of Marian worship in our religious culture,” the President of the Polish Episcopate noted.
Three Popes and a World Youth Day
The media office of the Jasna Góra Shrine says that since the start of this year’s pilgrimage season from 4 June up to 25 August that 85,548 people arrived at the shrine by foot, bicycle, motorbike, and even by rollerblade horseback! Over the past year, a total of 2.5 million pilgrims have made a visit to Jasna Góra.
Three popes have visited the Jasna Góra Shrine of Our Lady: John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis. In 1966, the communist regime prevented the arrival in Częstochowa of Pope Paul VI, who planned to participate in the celebrations of the Millennium of Poland’s Baptism. In 1991, the shrine hosted the World Youth Day. As of November 6, 1958, Holy Mass has been celebrated here daily in the intention of the Holy Father. John XXIII asked Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński to pray for and stay in ongoing contact with the Holy See: “Make many prayers for me before your Blessed Mother, adding that it should also be a plea for peace and prosperity for all nations.”
The Feast of Our Lady of Częstochowa was established in 1904 by Pope Pius X, who, in 1909 donated new crowns for the Jasna Góra Image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1953, Pope Pius XII agreed to establish a chapel of Our Lady of Częstochowa in St. Peter’s Basilica. John Paul II offered to the Jasna Góra Shrine his blood-stained stole from the assassination attempt on his life.