Day 7 – Czestochowa (pronounced chestahova)

(We apologize in advance for the length of this and some other posts – there is so much to report on!)

HAPPY MOTHERS DAY TO ALL MOTHERS!

On leaving Plock, we cross the broad Vistula River. We wend our way through ‎small towns, yellow fields of canola and apple blossom lined roads. We soon find ourselves in Swinicach at St. Casimir’s Church where St. Faustina was baptized. Dave has time to find her parents’ grave site. There is half a dozen family members polishing the crypts of deceased family members. There are flowers on virtually every tomb and some have lighted candles.

We ‎move on to her house in Glocowiec where she was born in 1905. It is a small well maintained 3 room house the family of 8 lived in. Out back they have Stations of the Cross, a stone altar, a walking path and benches to meditate on. The green farm fields stretch out far beyond.

After a Polish lunch feast, we head for Czestochowa. The Black Madonna Icon – Mary Queen of Poland resides here. It is one of the most attended Marion shrines in the world – 4 to 5 million visitors each year. Stan says people will drive 500 km to pray one decade of the Rosary before Our Lady. Peter from Australia quips he would even stay for 5 decades.

After dinner we walk over to the Chapel and manage to squeeze into the front to get a good view. Ah, there she is with baby Jesus in all Her glory. You would not believe the number of people of all ages crowding in to pray the Rosary in front of the Black Madonna. We participate in Polish as best we can and then squeeze our way out.

In the morning we are given the honour of celebrating our Mass in the Chapel with Fr. John Fletcher, 99. Marie and I are seated in the front row not 20 feet from Our Lady. Pilgrims crawl continously round the perimeter of the chapel for special intentions. Fr. John says it is easy to be Catholic in Poland, but what are we personally going to do when we get home?

We tour a museum. We learn that the Black Madonna is a ‎634 year old painting from Byzantium. The story is told that Poles prayed so much to this icon of Mary and Jesus over the years, that the smoke and soot from candles blackened her image.

Much history of fighting over this and other icons occurred in Poland. Mary emerges as saving Poland through the window of Czestochowa. She is Queen of Poland. Many different “robes” have been created and used over the years to frame Mary and Jesus in the icon that we see today.

Mary is also seen as having saved John Paul II‎ by redirecting the bullets away from his heart and jamming the assassin’s gun. ‎Poland has 32000 priests and 30000 nuns out of 40 million population.

We are now off to Krakow for the week ahead.

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