The morning we left for Auschwitz was perfect divine providence, everything working in our favor. We had to make a mad dash to the bus stops and the train…barely making it in time too, but that was because thankfully Michael and I had been able to work pretty extensively with our new host family, the Gorkas, on coming up with a plan of action. Once we knew we were on the way to Auschwitz, we just walked in without registering or anything, and even were blessed with getting into those walls of testimony without anything more than an intense security detail on my pilgrim vest (Mary got a picture of the occasion!)–We just didn’t really think things through beyond that,. And we paid the price later that evening on the journey home to the nth degree.
After a long confusing walk to dinner in Oswietchm’s Old Town, followed by a short daily Mass together (I fell asleep from sheer exhaustion at this point!), we made the long trek back to the train station…all in hopes to get back to Krakow by 10pm so we could take a tram to our stop in Mogilany where our parish families would come get us for the night! Only, the tram didn’t go to Mogilany, and when we started to ask where our parish was located, we got some confusing answers.
Apparently, there are TWO St. Bartholomew the Apostle in the city of Krakow. One in the Mogilany region and one in Mogyla. Almost like if there was a St. Martin in Fairfield and a St. Martin in Fairdale (all confusing and terrifying), and worse in a foreign language! So, after a long deep reflection over Auschwitz on the way back to the tram station, we rushed off the train and began asking those directions that only ever seemed to lead us AWAY from our desired destination. After arriving back in Krakow at 9:45pm, the hours sure seemed to be passing us by, and it didn’t seem there was any hope of getting home!
Now perhaps you understand why I got so behind on this daily blog! We didn’t know about the essential $3.99 app on my iPhone that would save us for the rest of the week. We didn’t even know what bus stop our parish was even located! So, there was actually a point where we were in the right place and got directions across the entire city, putting us in NORTHERN Krakow when we had really only been about one or two miles from our parish in SOUHERN Krakow! Oh yes, and by now it was 2am, and when the poor volunteer woman from Poland found out where we were going, she offered us a place to stay for the night for the sheer insanity and exhaustion the experience had been on us!
Instead though, she was able to set us up with three taxes to get our 11-pilgrim contingency to our destination…all the way back to our host families! She even texted me upon arrival to make sure we had made it there safely, and around 3am (after staying up until 4am the night before preparing the credential), we were finally laying down to sleep.
It felt like my brain was melting it was so taxed and on fire. And in the late morning the following day (Day 9 early), it wasn’t much better. In fact, the frustration and drama from the night before hadn’t seemed to dissipate and we quickly fell into the same panicky mode from just a few hours before. Our poor host families could only watch in pity as we got adjusted to the dynamics of the travel plans and settle in. Only, we didn’t realize what was happening to us that would shape very much how we would see the rest of the trip!
Instead of relying on GOD to get us through the stress of Monday night, we relied on ourselves and the maps and apps that were in front of us to read. The various people throughout the city only exacerbated the problems, for the more we asked direction, the less directed we felt. In the smallest, most inadequate way, we felt a solidarity with those Holocaust victims of decades’ past. They too found themselves on a train, not knowing where they were going without any real explanation and all spoken in a different language! The exhaustion of walking and carrying our bags began to weigh us down and cut into our shoulders. Poor Kim’s knee surgery made it particularly difficult for this day as she estimated we walked about 15+ miles!
Yet, sometimes those poor souls would stand 12 hours in the hot sun or longer, just to check the roll of prisoners. Sometimes their backs or shoulders would hurt or bleed from the agony of the torturous conditions, and still so many of them remained hopeful and prayerful anyway. We all knew our complaints were nothing, and it made those sufferings on that difficult day well worth the effort. It was an honor to suffer in memory of our Polish brothers and sisters, though we still had to find our place on this pilgrimage, and Tuesday morning didn’t seem to be working out so well…all starting with our host-family Grandma (not sure of her name) welcoming us in the morning!
But that will have to wait until I get back to this wondrous reflection for our sacred pilgrimage to the Land of Mercy and World Youth Day.
In Christ, for Love and Life!
– John Sohl & the WYD 2016 Contingency
PS – Please pray strongly for Michael’s grandmother in Owensboro. She’s been placed on Hospice as of now, so pray for peace for the Schultz family during this difficult time! Also pray strongly for the Whitfill family as Mary’s grandpa Leroy passed away from a massive heart-attack on Monday night. God’s mercy is unfathomable, so please pray for the peace, love, and joy to enter our hearts for the sake of those entering the Eternal Gates of Heaven during this sacred week. AMEN!
PPS – Tomorrow our contingency is heading to the grand VIGIL with Pope Francis! Don’t worry, I WILL finish a complete blog post for each day of our trip. I just think it’s best to immerse myself in the moments and then come home and finish it up when I have a little bit more time and space to breathe! Until we meet again!
PRAY FOR US ALL THIS WEEKEND!