St Chrysostom’s gave Penny a leaving gift to pay for her pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, Poland.
“After a 3 hour bus journey from Kracow to Czestochowa, the home of the Black Madonna and following nuns, priests and signposts we eventually found the Jasna Gora monastery and the Chapel of Our Lady of Czestochowa, the destination of our pilgrimage.
Here the walls are covered with tokens left by pilgrims who have prayed for healing and guidance; rosaries, badges, photos of those for whom prayers have been offered and 2 walls full of the crutches of those who have been healed.
Arriving just before 12noon, we joined the queue to approach the painting, said to be by St Luke painted on a table top from the Holy Family’s house in Nazareth. As we stood right in front of the famous Black Madonna painting trumpets sounded, a drum roll began and a heavy, ornate silver screen slowly came down and veiled the picture from sight. It was a very moving moment, after the journey there and finally seeing the Black Madonna she was gone. The chapel was closed – for cleaning! 2 hours later pilgrims flocked back, the painting was joyfully unveiled, the anthem to Our Lady of Czestochowa was sung and Mass began.
Hundreds of pilgrims from across the world were gathered in the chapel, many walking on their knees around the Our Lady’s painting, from young students, to elderly people clearly in discomfort, families of parents and children, and a young father with his baby in his arms. It was an extraordinary sight.
The painting is the Virgin hodegetria, (who shows the way): she points to Jesus in her arms. Guidance was a theme we reflected on in Poland. Our journey following other pilgrims leading the way and Our Lady guiding our eyes to Christ in her arms. Then on our return to Kracow a Polish student guiding us to the station when the bus didn’t arrive and travelling with us and telling us about her country. We celebrated the friendship, joy and guidance we had experienced that day, perhaps through the prayers of Our Lady of Czestochowa.
During our stay we visited many places, including Wawel Hill (11th century Royal residence) and the Cathedral, the beautiful Mariacka Basilica with the Altarpiece of Veit Stoss, the largest Gothic altarpiece in the world, and Auschwitz-Birkenau, the remains of the horrific Nazi concentration camp.
It was a brilliant trip, full of inspiring and thought provoking sights and experiences – thank you. Next stop: College of the Resurrection, Mirfield! Penny x
p.s You can see more about the history of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa here.”