Is it really that simple?! Just a quick question everyone as we delve into the depths of the joyful encounter of the evening’s festivities.
“Would you like to trade? Change? Exchange?”
Heh heh, Jacob Martin from our pilgrimage to Rio de Janeiro would understand most fully, but we too met and traded with many pilgrims throughout the world. Everyone brings things from their cultures and countries back home, from rosaries to flags to hats, and even cheap keychains. Sometimes you can come away with something amazing and memorable; other times, you might just feel cheated–but it’s best to bring to mind the deeper meaning behind the exchange, and I think our little contingency channeled the spirit of giving as it was always meant to be channeled!
Instead of trading for something good, we constantly felt an openness of simply giving freely of what we brought. I gave Marek my WKU hoodie, we gave all our host families American flags, they gave us books and pictures and other beautiful memories as well. But none of it was seen as an exchange, and though we DID make some trades here and there–Mary Whitfill came away with a Polish AND Spanish flag–our “tradeables” became something more entirely. Bespeaking the simplicity of asking that question, the gifts we brought really became conduits by which we proposed our own works of mercy toward all our new friends and Polish family members!
What I mean quite simply is this. We weren’t asking them for anything other than a place to sleep, and all we had to give them was our joy and excitement for being with them. All we really had for them was ourselves, and for the Body of Christ, that was enough! We weren’t just given a dwelling place, we were given a HOME, for the hospitality and reception was overwhelming! The persecution and rejection they had encountered at the hands of Nazi and Communist occupation, including the years before where they weren’t even recognized as a sovereign nation were simply egregious–and yet God brought them to the Joy of Resurrection so thoroughly that our presence only amplified their ecstasy toward such a Victory!
It made Pope Francis’ dramatic entrance all the more spectacular, not just for the cool footage I received, but because the barrier broke against our weight as we pressed up to see the Vicar of Christ! Yes, Hope and I fell on top of the barrier as it crashed to the ground and the thousand people behind us regained their balance so as to avoid crushing us!
“Well, that was a bad idea.”
Yes, Hope, I think it was!
Luckily, the security guards recognized we weren’t trying to tackle the Holy Father, and it helped that there was still a second barrier and a ditch between us and him, but we were still only about 20-30 feet away! It was enough to feel his blessing and all his successors to Christ Himself descend upon our hopes, dreams, and sacred resolutions. And then, that evening, we were graced to watch our Polish brethren among other pilgrims share their testimony and cultural outpouring of artistic expression with the world! Indeed, this was a moment that parallels the great moment when St. John Paul the Great first visited Poland all those years ago in 1979, as his mere PRESENCE in his native homeland quite literally changed the world forever.
“It is right to understand the history of the nation through man, each human being of this nation. At the same time man cannot be understood apart from this community that is constituted by the nation. Of course it is not the only community, but it is a special community, perhaps that most intimately linked with the family, the most important for the spiritual history of man. It is therefore impossible without Christ to understand the history of the Polish nation—this great thousand-year-old community—that is so profoundly decisive for me and each one of us. If we reject this key to understanding our nation, we lay ourselves open to a substantial misunderstanding. We no longer understand ourselves. It is impossible without Christ to understand this nation with its past so full of splendour and also of terrible difficulties. It is impossible to understand this city, Warsaw, the capital of Poland, that undertook in 1944 an unequal battle against the aggressor, a battle in which it was abandoned by the allied powers, a battle in which it was buried under its own ruins—if it is not remembered that under those same ruins there was also the statue of Christ the Saviour with his cross that is in front of the church at Krakowskie Przedmiescie. It is impossible to understand the history of Poland from Stanislaus in Skalka to Maximilian Kolbe at Oswiecim unless we apply to them that same single fundamental criterion that is called Jesus Christ.”
– Victory Square in Warsaw, June 2, 1979
When our great Mercy Pope arrived in Poland less than a year after he became Pope, he brought out with him the spark that would prepare the world for Christ’s Final Coming! When he instituted Divine Mercy Sunday in 2000, he called this spark the “Fire of Mercy”, and we were witnessing the beautiful dancers and singers demonstrating this history with excellence. A young woman played the part of St. Faustina, and she silently stood by watching the world and the great moments throughout the 20th century take place. Even the moments that occurred after her death, she was there on stage watching with intercessory resolve etched upon her face. When they re-enacted the assassination attempt on John Paul II and his merciful encounter with his “enemy”, the Field of Mercy exploded with enthusiasm! Over two and a half MILLION young people from all over the world were there to celebrate this Heavenly moment, and suddenly…it was time for Pope Francis to speak.
“But in life there is another, even more dangerous, kind of paralysis. It is not easy to put our finger on it. I like to describe it as the paralysis that comes from confusing happiness with a sofa. In other words, to think that in order to be happy all we need is a good sofa. A sofa that makes us feel comfortable, calm, safe…“Sofa-happiness”! That is probably the most harmful and insidious form of paralysis, since little by little, without even realizing it, we start to nod off, to grow drowsy and dull while others – perhaps more alert than we are, but not necessarily better – decide our future for us.”
Read the full text HERE!
He called us to prayer during this time of intensity. Prayer for the world and all its empty promises of comfort and convenience. Prayer for mercy and courage for our generation to rise up and MOVE. He called us to lace up our boots and prepare for the road ahead, and we felt the surge to do exactly that. In short, we knew our days of “binge-watching Netflix” were over, for Pope Francis’ words would never leave our subconscious. “Stop being a couch-potatoe John!”
Spending time in Eucharistic Adoration, singing the Divine Mercy Chaplet in a dozen different languages it seemed, gazing into the glory of the Host in the massive Tabernacle prepared for our Mountaintop experience–all of this was too good to be true! The tabernacle was best described as two golden doors in the center of the stage directly over the Sacred HEART of Jesus Christ in the Divine Mercy image, taken from the torso up! Yes, I thought the Gates of Mercy in Warsaw would be the largest image of Divine Mercy I would ever see, but I was wrong. This image of Christ’s most glorious gaze stood at least 50 feet tall, and perhaps as much as 60-70 feet wide, and it was only half the image!
The tabernacle had a golden outline of Our Lady of Guadalupe enshrined in the center, and the circlular Host carefully placed within her womb. I simply could not get enough of God’s love and mercy. I LOVE IT SO MUCH!
This everyone is when our Hearts became most fully ablaze! St. Catherine of Siena would be proud, for we knew without a shadow of a doubt that we were exactly where we were supposed to be being exactly who we are! This is what it feels like to be most fully alive with the call to go forth and spread the message of Divine Mercy!
“Blessed are the Merciful, for it is mercy they shall receive.”
That is our greatest hope everyone, to be forgiven for our imperfect motives and sinful actions, so that we can LOVE God and each other forever in Heaven! Not as equals concerning our closeness to God (others in Heaven are clearly closer to God than other souls in Heaven…simply for the amount of responsibility God asks of certain saints!) but rather as a Communion of Saints, without the stain of jealousy, envy, or malice infecting the Kingdom! Authentic love celebrates diversity and excellence, and those highly exalted individuals like JPII, Faustina, Kolbe, and Teresa among so many others are worth our greatest veneration and respect!
Thus, we ended the Vigil with a candlelight moment that took the entire night to finally reach us. There were so many pilgrims, we didn’t receive our special candles until long after the evening had concluded and Pope Francis had gone home for the night! Ah, but God’s mercy was burning in our hearts like hot embers already, for though we were exhausted and well spent, we knew we were listening intently to the voice of God that was whispering so strongly within us!
This is the key of silence that beckoned us to slumber–if only our French pilgrims directly behind us would have realized we were trying to sleep and stopped talking before 2am!
Oh well, while it made for a difficult slumber, it certainly beat lazing about on a couch where these exciting, true, or beautiful moments would only ever be lost amidst the slumber of “sofa-happiness”!
Divine Intimacy had drawn us thoroughly outside of ourselves, and we knew we were farther away from our comfort zones than ANY of us had ever been before.
God is good! All the time!
In Christ, for Love & Life!
– John Sohl & the WYD 2016 Contingency