Saturday morning – our first fall day and our first early start! We started at the place that Pope John Paul II started his impactful first Polish visit as Pope in 1979 – the site of that Mass, Victory Square. We had a time of morning prayer together, praying with our own Icon – the Lady of the Aborigines, which we have brought as a travelling icon. It was such a special start to the day and our pilgrimage.
Then to get to know this incredible capital city – a tour of the old town of Warsaw. The history to this country is amazing! The polish people are so proud of who they are and where they come from. The war had such an impact on these people and this country and today we only got a glance of this. The old town was incredible – the buildings looked like a scene from a movie. My favourite part of this tour was walking through this town with my new beautiful amazing friends. Our group is the most incredible bunch of people I have ever met and this is just day three of our time together. They are so un-judgemental and just willing to help each other in anyway and the best part of it is we are only beginning our new friendship together. I cannot wait to see how deep our friendship grows.
After the old town we hit the Warsaw Uprising Museum which gave us what I felt like was just a small insight into what things were like for the polish people during that time. It was so tragic that it is actually really hard to comprehend that it was not so long ago. Poland has a massive war history and I have a feeling we will get to see a lot more on our journey here.
So we said goodbye to Warsaw to make our way to Czestochowa, the home of the Jasna Gora Shrine – home to the Miraculous Icon of the Mother of God (Black Madonna), the Queen of Poland. This is a pilgrimage place for up to 4 million people every year.
I walked in and was completely struck by the beautiful images and architecture on the walls and ceiling. It is amazing! We arrived just in time for our scheduled private Mass in the Chapel of the Sacred Heart in the Basilica, next door to the Chapel where the icon is kept. It was just what I needed. What I realised today that I have great faith that God is going to do something incredible in our lives on this pilgrimage and that we have only just started this journey. We have another twenty days together and we have not even seen a glance of what God has in store for us. Which is kinda awesome if you think about it!
After Mass we made our way to our pilgrim house right around the corner, to be greeted by the most friendly, down to earth nuns who lovingly welcomed us into their home for the night. They cooked us a beautiful dinner – it was clear that they had put their heart into preparing that meal for us. They really are special I am glad we get to spend the night in their home.
After dinner we headed back to the Jasna Gora Shrine for the evening prayers, where Polish people sing the Icon to sleep. When we arrived, the place was packed and everyone was singing together in Polish. Fr Leo pointed out the walking sticks on the wall to me. They were pinned up like pictures. He said that they are left by the people who have been healed. They were a powerful unspoken testimony to the spirit of God in this place. At this point I realised I needed to be there and while the Polish people sang I sensed the love they have for God and his Mother Mary. Troy commented that he imagined Mother Mary smiling down on all present. Every night massive groups of people go to the Shrine to pray the Black Madonna to sleep and again, they get up early to be there as she is revealed in the morning with trumpet and sound. Now that is amazing faith and devotion.
Ladan Moraldi, St Mary’s Star of the Sea Cathedral Parish pilgrim