Day 3 – Mercy is Family

Welcome back everyone! Today has been full and blessed in ways we could have never prepared to receive. And that’s what it has been about, receiving these beautiful people and their hospitality. Tonight’s reflection then calls to mind all the many moments we encountered along the way. 

First, the sun comes up so early in Poland during the summer! Rolling out of bed because of the bright sky is not fun when you find out it’s only 4:15am! But it did make for an excellent first sleep to recover from the crazy change in the time zones. A big breakfast with our host families then (Mark scrambled eggs with fried sausage interspersed for me!) began our day before our 9am appointment with the whole group. Then, it was off to the metro and beyond.

It’s still hard to believe that we’ve already made it to Poland and are well under way through this pilgrimage, and for Sr. Caryn Crush, her Fiat to come with us was only last Friday! Clearly, the floodgates of God’s grace have poured out upon us, and what better way to begin than to encounter one of Poland’s famous martyrs? For truly, “The Blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the Church”, and we were set to encounter that in the heroism of Blessed Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko.

Born in 1947, he became a priest in May of 1972 and found his calling in “The Priesthood of the Men of Labour” fighting against the communist laws of martial law. Because of his outspoken charity initiatives, he was threatened, interrogated, falsely accused and eventually tortured and murdered in the fall of 1984. His body was dumped in the Vistula River, leading to a widespread religious-patriotic renewal throughout Poland. Pope John Paul II visited his grave just three years later, and the rest is history as Poland continued to work to gain its independence.

Oh, the heroism of such a life well spent in the midst of the great solidarity movement, and all for Christ nonetheless! Many people came forward shortly after his death with letters to witness the many spiritual and corporal healings that came about through his intercession. Suddenly, it all became clear with those testimonials. Surely, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy are the very means by which we are called to live out the Gospel!

Yet, such works cannot be accomplished purely by strong will and well organized social programs. Fr. Jerzy knew that much! You simply must submerge yourself within the spiritual depths of your interior life so as to live a life of mercy in line with the beatitudes!  Prayer is critical, and who better to exemplify in this glorious endeavor than that of St. Faustina Kowalska?!

We were graced with a meeting with the Sisters of St. Faustina’s order, The Sisters of Mercy quite soon after that. Of course, our pastor for the week, Fr. Stanislaus took us to a wonderful pizzeria and ice cream shop FIRST so we steadily worked our way through this first day. The distance between everything prepared us for the onslaught of activity that would await us in Kraków, but God’s grace made the walk easy and joyful to bear, especially when we met the sisters in their sacred chapel where St. Faustina herself lived and prayed!

One of the older sisters came to greet us and walk us through the simple museum about the Sisters of Mercy. Our young 16-year old translator “Agada” kept up with the tour quite well I might add, and after watching a short film on Faustina’s life, we took the short walk back to the chapel for the 3 o’clock hour, the Hour of Mercy! Yes, and they even prayed the Chaplet of Divine MERCY with us in community with us sitting in the same pews as the sisters! It was truly a supernatural experience, including the way they allowed us to lead two of the decades in English! A great many graces flowed out during this beautiful and sacred time in Eucharistic Adoration, again coming from the wisdom of Divine Intimacy:

“It is not in our power to feel love but it is always in our power to make voluntary acts of love; it is always in our power to wish good to God, striving with all our strength to live for Him and to please Him.” (255)

Love calls us to desire and choose the good for another, but this is not some ambiguous government social program bent on solving all the world’s problem by establishing utopia. No! This is about seeing each other as a GIFT individually and one at a time, through our willful hospitality toward one another! We have felt that greatly with our host families and parish just in the last two days, for the transportation, much of the food, and our lodging are all covered through their good graces!

And that’s what we communicated with them tonight. Each one of us spoke in front of the entire Corpus Christi community tonight after our great opening Mass, sharing a little bit about ourselves and saying thank you as best as we could! I know the word sounds a lot like “Jing-kooh-yeough” but they all told us to just say “jingky” for thanks and that would do. We were thus met with roaring applause and a heavenly banquet feast for supper!

All kinds of sausage, fruit, cheese, amazing chicken and broccoli, and a combination of cheesecake, chocolate cheesecake, caramel, and almond shavings all wrapped into one for dessert! We truly felt like royalty, and our reflection together afterward brought out that reality over and over! They even handed us scarves with “POLSKA” inscribed all over them, for their soccer or “futbol” games, bright red and dazzling white!

Almost like wearing a gold sash like the Prodigal Son; and moreover, the prodigal nature of our families weren’t coming from their personal interests or self-fulfilling agendas to help us feel welcome. Rather, our collective inheritance rests in Christ Jesus Our Lord, fully present in the EUCHARIST–Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity! He unites us together as brothers and sisters (even through the silly bantering over which religious order is more authentic, I’m not even going to try to explain!) even though we were mere strangers a few days ago. So, the red and white colors of our newly discovered Polish culture in “the motherland” bring us back to the blood and water which gushed forth from the heart of Jesus, as a fount of mercy for us!

It is this family life that many of us may not encounter in our own families back home, the kind of merciful love that is absolutely required in our daily lives! Pope Francis told us in America how simple and important saying “please, thank you, and I’m sorry” is for families to master. For those other vital words of “I love you” will come that much more sincerely as we virtuously integrate the depths of hospitality, gratitude, and confident humility. Now, as our Holy Father prepares to meet us in Kraków next week, we cannot help but wonder what pure joy and redemptive suffering he will call us to endure, all for the merciful love of Christ!

The past two hours with our host families have been peaceful to say the least, and it looks like things are falling into place quite beautifully!! Keep praying for the graces to flow and goodness to reign in our hearts as we awake even earlier tomorrow!

In Christ, for Love and Life!

– John Sohl & the WYD 2016 Contingency

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