God added: “This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come, of the Covenant between Me and you and every living creature with you: I set My bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the Covenant between Me and the Earth … as the bow appears in the clouds, I will see it and recall the everlasting Covenant that I have established between God and All Living Beings … all Mortal Creatures that are on Earth.”
— Genesis 9:12-16
It was tough getting up this morning, 5 AM came very early. A couple cups of coffee and we could at least find the shower and the cold water revived us. Today was special, were are going to mass at the Church of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist and our dear friend Fr. Tomasz is presiding. All the time we have known him, we have never been able to attend mass where he was the celebrant.
This 6:30 AM mass he does every day for the Sisters of the Presentation, and today they invited us, and they were treating us to breakfast after mass. This is where the second box of candy gets dropped off. We have been to mass with the Sisters at the Archbishop’s Palace last year at the chapel where St. John Paul II was ordained and Cardinal Dziwisz had invited us and presided. That was 6:30 AM too, they get going early here.
Walking the Old Town of Krakow at 6 AM is very peaceful and it took about 15 minutes to get to the church. This beautiful little church holds the treasure of the Miraculous Image of Our Lady of Grace. The first miracle was in 1633 when She freed a prisoner from his chains after he prayed to Her and numerous others have happened thru the years by Our Lady’s intercession, so we offered up mass for all the intentions we carry.
When we arrived the Sisters were praying and singing hymns and their morning prayers so we knelt and prayed and at the beginning of mass, Fr. Tomasz and a con-celebrant knelt before the altar and we all knelt as they led a series of prayers as the Madonna was slowly unveiled. It was very reverent and a beautiful way to begin your day with Mary, Our Mother.
Today at communion we were blessed with being able to receive the Precious Blood of Jesus as Fr. Tomasz tinctured the Host in to a small chalice and we all received. This is the first time in Poland and our entire trip that we have received Jesus in both species and we do miss it.
Breakfast was in a private dining and one of the Sisters took care of everything. They had a wide assortment of food so after Father said grace we all chowed down and talked and laughed as we caught up on many things. There will be no eating until tonight as we were pleasantly full and so happy to be together with our friend.
We walked back together to the Palace were Fr. Tomasz works in his new role as Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Krakow. We made plans for Wednesday’s night dinner and after lots of hugs and kisses he went to work and we talked about going back to bed.
We decided that today would be hamburger day and we would cook here and spend the day and night in doing laundry, catching up on trip reports and maybe even a nap, but that didn’t happen….we needed to go shopping in order to pull this off, so we did, and getting back into town was slow, so it took over an hour for the trip. We were now completely exhausted, but still managed to type, cook and do laundry… Susan was around somewhere.
We accomplished what we had to and even watched a little TV. I called the maintenance man because the TV in the bedroom wasn’t working and he came around 7:30. I half laid on the bed as he did something and got it working. I thanked him and went in to check it out so I laid down and that’s all I remember until the morning, almost 12 hours later.
May God Bless Each and Every One Of You!
Tom & Susan Melillo Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418 (USA)
Dear God, You are my source, my goal. I surrender all that transpires in my life to Your Loving Providence. Thank You for allowing Your Blessed Mother to take me by the hand into your Divine will. Remember me kindly when I stumble, for You are kindness. Place me, gently, into the caldron of incense that perfumes Your Divine Love. You, alone, are Holy. Blessed be God Forever.
Mary is called the Temple of the Lord and the Sacred Resting Place of the Holy Spirit: For by the operation of the Holy Spirit, She became the Mother of the Incarnate Word.
— St. Thomas Aquinas
Sunday morning 5 AM and I’m up, and the café wasn’t even ready, and Susan crawled out of bed. You can’t be late for a Nun or it could be arthritis on the other hand. We were early, so we stopped for a cappuccino and water for our guest.
We arrived at Sisters Maria’s sister’s house right on schedule and there were a lot of hugs and kisses as they welcomed us. All that were there were going to Nowy Sacz for the festivities. We loaded Sister and Joe into the car and now we had baggage in the back seat again. The Angels had to move a little.
We headed out at 7:30 and Sister Angela leads us in a short few prayers to protect us on our journey before Jag woke up and we made the 1 ¾ hour drive laughing, talking and getting to know each other in 1 ¼ hours. Sister Angela has been in Africa as a missionary sister for a loooong time and that is where she met Sister Maria and they have been friends ever since. Joe moved to Italy over 30 years ago and little did we know that the United Nations were going to be represented. Sister has family in Italy, Germany and Poland and friends coming from The USA, (the two of us and her friend Delores), Africa and somewhere else, that’s all we remember, we met so many people.
We were given a warm greeting when we arrived with lots of you know what. Sister Maria’s family was great and we felt right at home.
They had food and coffee for us and not having breakfast we indulged and it was great. (Meal 1) We met many of the family now and we all headed for the church that we could see from the house.
We met the pastor before mass and then we all went in to pray and they had a seat of honor ready for Sister for the mass. The celebration began before the mass when 7 young girls came out and honored Sister in Polish with a tribute and we forgot to ask what they said, but it was beautiful. They presented her with roses and the mass began with a full procession and a beautiful choir.
The church was packed and Sister was acknowledged all through the service, at the beginning, the homily and before the final blessing. Another group of the pastoral committee came out and they lovingly paid a tribute to her and gave her a large basket of roses and she placed on the altar and left them there. She did take the red roses.
The pastor invited Sister to speak and her speech was vibrant and we could tell from her heart and when she had finished and returned to her place of honor the pastor stood up and she stood ,”wait I forgot something”. She then proceeded to thank all of us in English that had traveled from abroad, just as she had in Polish, she received her second standing ovation, and it was really beautiful.
The pastor then as a special tribute and led a procession of the Eucharist as the churches all did on Thursday for Corpus Christi and had Sister follow the procession right behind Jesus as they processed around the church. Not a single soul left. After the final blessing we hung back and took a few photos and headed for the reception.
They had the reception at this lovely hotel and the banquet room was perfect for the size of the group of about 60-70 people. She had us at the head table, much to our embarrassment. Sister said she had the different languages sitting with each other so they would have a good time.
Then the feast began in Polish tradition. (Meal 2) Chicken soup was served and on the tables there 4 different salads and then they served platters of breaded pork cutlets, stuffed breast of chicken, pork tenderloin in a mushroom sauce and platters with 3 kinds of potatoes. There were 3 different juices and sodas and gas water. We all took what we wanted and if the platter got low more came, an insane amount of very good food.
After that was over they cut the cake made by her niece and served cappuccino, café and tea.We were full and enjoyed every bit of it. It was almost 2, and I thought it was a little early to begin to say goodbye, until Susan informed me Sister told her to have some desserts before the next course comes out. Oh boy, I was ready for a nap because we had just eaten a huge piece of this five layer cake that was delicious and I don’t eat dessert.
Meal 3 then arrived and there were new salads with beef and chicken and dressing, Greek salad, Caesar salad, tomato and mozzarella, platters of cold sliced stuffed roulades, five different kinds of hearing in sauces and an aspic of I think chicken and veggies and topped with vodka and since we arrived there were trays of pastries and fruit that they kept refilling.
It looked so good we had to try it. I almost OD’d on the herring…..it was terrific. Susan picked a little we were all so full. So it was time for a walk led by sister Maria and her niece, Katia, there were 6 of us and we visited the church where sister received her First Holy Communion, her childhood church, and then we went to the Basilica to see the famous statue depicting the Pieta. We walked maybe 1-2 kilometers and headed back to the reception. When we got back sister brought her nephew Wojtek over to our table and he sat with us until we left. His English was perfect and we had a great time with him. He invited us to stay with him the next time we come to Poland. His wife was lovely, although we didn’t get to talk to her very much; she organized the day for the family and was very busy for most of the day. We did accept his invitation.
Meal 4 came at 5 on the dot. This was the hot meal and remember they eat small at night so they served a very large croquette that we still don’t know what it was filled with but it was good. We did best we could.
Around 6 people started to leave and so did we, Joe and Sister Angela were both tired as were we. More hugs and kisses from everyone, including people we had not met. On the road it was little tedious getting back since it was the end of a long weekend but we finally got to Joe’s sister’s house and dropped him. We were taking Sister Angela to her Sister’s house not too far away. Finding it was a different story. Her sister lives in a complex that is so huge with 70 large buildings and one street name so navigating is difficult. After 10 minutes we asked for help and the woman Sister didn’t even understand all that she said but we got enough out of the hand language and 5 minutes later we were at her building.
Sister insisted we come up to meet her family and even though we were tired we parked and went with her. She is so sweet we couldn’t say no until we met her sister and she had just made pizza for us. Sister Angela called her after we had been gone an hour and the fresh pizza was made but as good as it smelled, we couldn’t pick up food…….let alone, eat it.
We made it a short visit and departed for home, exhausted and ready for a glass of wine and our jammies which we did as soon as we got in. Tomorrow we had to be up 5 again so we talked for awhile and I went into bed and that’s all I remember.
God bless you all
Susan & Tom
Prayer for the Sisters
My Spiritual Mother, please remain in their conscious awareness always. Inspire them when they are weak, gently speak to them when they are stressed, sing them lullabies of the wonders of God’s Providence when they fall into fear, graciously cover them in the warmth of Jesus’ Divine Love for you and for them forever. Spiritual Mother, please Pray for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit of Love upon them. Bring anew the Holy Spirit of Courage to their days and nights on Earth. Pray fervently that they may be made worthy of the Promises of Christ.
Only the person who renounces Self-Importance, who no longer struggles to defend or assert himself, can be large enough for God’s Boundless action.
— St. Edith Stein
Slept until 8 today (Susan 8:15) and realized that our plans had changed when we opened our e-mail. Our friend Fr. Pat, whom we were supposed to meet today in Krakow, had a family funeral today so we probably wouldn’t get to see him. We didn’t realize until Sunday that he and his sister didn’t go to the funeral, but his cousin who drove him had to go and they were held hostage because the family didn’t want them to take the train to Krakow. Maybe they aren’t old enough.
If we had known that we would have driven to them for lunch and long time coming reunion. We were supposed to go there anyway today for his nephew’s First Holy Communion, which is why he is in Poland, but when he got here they gave him the wrong day and it was on Thurs and we were 150 miles away.
We even thought we could go to the airport on Mon. morning to say hi and get a warm hug, but we have plans and don’t know if we will finish in time. We haven’t seen Fr. Pat in years and so we all decided now he has to come back to Palm Beach after such a valiant effort.
We lounged around and I took all the files out, all 3 of them…………we started with 36 and one of the 3 was just full of credit card receipts, lovely, we have to come home soon and then we have to pay for the trip. Totally depressed we decided to go back to the St. John Paul Center for noon mass. It was cold and rainy out and taking the car seemed like a better idea than walking. Afterwards we planned to come back to the Apartment and do some more lounging. Before we got out the door Susan had pulled out the holy water we had acquired. The holy water from Ludzmierz water a beautiful rust color and the legend of the well was suspect to begin with, needless to say it won’t be going into our mixture of healing spring waters from Our Blessed Mother from 7 countries and 23 shrines. We have had some of these waters for 11 years and they are all still crystal clear.
We realized it was almost 11:15 so we had to hurry and had time to spare for a cappuccino.
There was another First Holy Communion group coming in and we had to laugh, since we always handle and love this at the Cathedral every year and this year we couldn’t, because I was radioactive after the Y-90 treatment.
We made up for the miss by attending 20+ here in Poland.
Editor’s note: Click here to read about Tom’s battle with cancer and his successful treatment
After mass we went upstairs to pray the Rosary in front of the Our Lady of Fatima statue at the main altar. She has been present in every church we have been into in honor of the 100th anniversary. I’m sure we have one at the Cathedral???
We got thru the first decade and a large group came in for a presentation and we moved to Our Lady of Czestochowa chapel to finish, where we lit candles for all the intentions we carry. We actually lit 4 today, since we missed yesterday. We then went to the chapel of Our Lady of Piekary Salaskie and prayed our morning prayers.
After 2 hours we were on our way back to the apartment since the weather hadn’t changed and we were cold but first we needed a car wash since we were picking up Sister Angela and Joe, the brother of our friend Sister Maria from St. Vincent in Delray Beach, Fl. She was here to celebrate her 50 Anniversary with the Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception and invited us to the ceremony on Sunday. We were honored and offered to pick up guest or family in Krakow.
Washing the car in the rain is great because there is no one ahead of you and vacuuming after in the rain is really stupid, but Jag needed some attention and the rain had stopped, so she was beautiful and spotless when we got back to the garage. Susan ended up in the wash alone in the car and I’m sure I heard a couple of ooh’s and aah’s. Back now it was 3 PM and Divine Mercy hour so we prayed and then had a drink and relaxed until we forgot we had to go buy some chocolates at the best chocolate store in Krakow, so off we went and got 2 nice big boxes of assorted chocolate delights, one for tomorrow and one for Monday.
By time we got back our drink was warm so we threw it out and had a glass of wine before going to dinner. We were not venturing far from home, just across the street was a Sushi Place and it is meatless Saturday` so it was perfect…….well, almost perfect.
Getting fresh and a variety of sushi in any foreign country is hard, except for Japan, and Poland was no exception. What they had was very good but the favorite things Susan likes, forget it, octopus, giant clam, fresh squid, all the chewy stuff, they don’t carry. Look, we didn’t starve…..a nice order of shrimp and calamari teriyaki, some tuna rolls and I had an assortment of sushi, things Susan doesn’t eat. We had beer because they didn’t have saki….oops. Oh well, our waitress was very nice and we left her a big egg roll when we left.
Back to the apartment to layout our clothes and get set up for Sunday, since we will voluntarily begin ground hog day for the next 2 days. I set the alarm for 5 AM and that’s all I remember.
We were out of bed at 7, together (no coffee in the room) and went down for a cup of coffee. The waiter from the night before was on duty again and we laughed and asked what room he was in. He was a very educated young man in his early 20 and was studying chemistry with dreams of going to America.
Over coffee we made our plan for the day, check-in was 2 and we wanted to go to Mass so why not the St. John Paul II shrine in Krakow. I figured it was about 1 ½ hours away so went to shower and pack our 2 grocery bags we used for luggage. I think we are done lugging all these bags in and out. It actually worked out pretty good except we looked like homeless people.
We went back in for breakfast and forgot the camera again, I think it’s tired too. They made us eggs to go along with the nice buffet they had and refreshed and ready we paid the bill and got into Jag. Susan set the GPS and it said we would arrive at 12:10, late for the noon mass. Have no fear Jag is here, we arrived at 11:40 and time for a cup of coffee.
We went into Mass downstairs where it usually is and to our surprise we heard beautiful music from the main church upstairs. We were excited, for in the 3 times we have been here we never attended a Mass in the upper church.
Click here for more information about the John Paul II Center in Krakow, with some great photos from Tom & Sue’s previous trip.
Today they were celebrating a high Mass and there had to be 20 priest and 2 Deacons. Mass was beautiful and when the homily started I took a walk to the little boys room, the long way and slowly climbed the stairs back figuring it had to be close to the end. Wrong, it was another 20 minutes and we really get disappointed………we can’t understand, especially when the voice of the priest is so inviting.
After the Mass ended we got in the car and headed for our Apartment. There will be plenty of time at the shrine and I have to clean this stick I just changed in the camera because all the photos are from last year in Krakow and we have different clothes, well at least Susan does!
The apartment is only 10 minutes away with traffic and when we got there the girl meeting us hadn’t arrived so Susan got out and I went around the block. They we talking and she didn’t realize I booked parking and I passed the entrance so around the block I went again and we were finally in. This is the hardest part of booking apartments but we are used to it and it is worth it, as was with this place, pretty nice and big. For the next week we will be very comfortable and the Old Town is just around the block, trust me I know.
Susan unpacked, as usual, all the suitcases for the last time and I went to the market hopefully for the last time. We don’t know where the time went and every day has been a spiritual adventure like we have never had before. We didn’t know if it would be difficult traveling the country, especially into small villages and where we knew people hardly or ever see Americans but we made out fine. It has been truly a marvelous adventure we will never forget.
Krakow is like home and we know our way around the Old Town pretty well, so we have our favorite places to go and that’s what we did around 6 PM for dinner. We left the apartment and after 4 minutes when we got to 3 Franciszkanska, where we have met with Cardinal Dziwisz 3 times and where our friend Fr. Tomasz still lives, it started to rain and it was cold so I did the noble thing and bought an umbrella (like we needed one, we had 2 of our own in Jag and 3 in the apartment). It stopped raining right after I opened it. I tried to sell it for 1/3 of the price but I didn’t get any takers. Hopefully it will rain again before we get home so I don’t feel so stupid.
We got the last table at this Hungarian restaurant that has the best goulash we have ever had, plus a mixed sausage and kelbasa casserole full of wild mushrooms. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, so that’s what we ordered, the same as the last time we were here. The owner recognized us after we started laughing and joking with our waitresses. The owner said hello and waited on us the rest of the evening. We all laughed and laughed, as everyone else in the place was reserved and somber.
I tried to sell her the umbrella when the bill came and I was going to throw in the plastic handle wrap and sheath for free. More laughter and down right stupidity and then we all hugged and they were still laughing as we went out the door.
Still no rain so I lowered the price and as we passed the stand where I bought it I thought she might buy it back and sell it again for a tidy profit but Susan wouldn’t let me. We were home in less than 10 minutes and it started raining as soon as we got in the door. We had BBC on the TV and watched some news and checked e-mails, we had a bunch and it was great. One of our friends sister, whom he had been forwarding our reports to, sent him an e-mail to thank us so he forwarded this beautiful response to us and we thought we would share it with all of you. Things like this make these pilgrimages all worth while.
I got ready for bed and Susan wanted to watch TV so I laid down to say my prayers and that’s all I remember.
I don’t remember where I ended up with the last report so if I repeat myself, pardon me.
I woke up at 5:30 A.M. … Susan came around the corner at 6AM when the coffee was ready. I showered and shaved last night (in the bathtub) so that we could get an early start. I got into the tub okay … I almost couldn’t get out! This bathtub/shower combination is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen.
We had our coffee, our bags were packed and we were out the door before 7:00 A.M. Our plan was to try to miss the morning traffic in Zakopane. We did a good job with our planning. There was hardly anyone driving out of Zakopane today … but lots of people were driving in the opposite direction to the mountains.
We had decided to drive back to Ludzmierz because Susan had figured out on her Internet search where the Miraculous Water Font was. The day we had left there, we thought we had seen it but we never thought to stop to find out if that was the location. Once we saw the photo online last night, we realized that we should have stopped. We found it right away. I had to pump the water from the well and I pumped and pumped and pumped and finally some water came out. I filled the bottle, dumped it and filled it again to try to get some fresh miraculous water.
Mission accomplished, we got right back on the road. There was no one in front of us on the roads on the way out but, once again, the cars in the opposite direction were backed up for miles and miles with no one moving. We had to head to the outskirts of Krakow to pick up “A-4” … the “Super Highway” and Jag had a super time … as did I! The speed limit was 140 Kilometers per hour. If you were driving that speed, everyone would pass you. Well, only two cars passed Jag during our entire journey on A-4. We made the 150 KM trip in just about one hour. Before we exited and got back on to normal roads, it felt like we were crawling.
As we were traveling, we noticed that every Church we passed, there were large numbers of people standing outside on the terraces and there were cars parked everywhere. Susan was checking her emails on the cell phone and we received two … one from our friend Wojtek and the other from our new friend “John” (where we spent three wonderful nights at their apartment outside of Wadowice). Both informed us that today in Poland was “Corpus Christi” … both a Catholic and National Holiday here. They both told us that the locals only attend their Churches with large processions throughout the towns and then they stay home (as if Sunday) because all of the businesses, restaurants, shops, etc. are closed down for the day. So the two of us realized … THAT’S WHY TRAFFIC WAS SO LIGHT and we saw no real signs if life on the streets.
We stopped during our drive for a 2nd pit stop and had breakfast (or lunch … whatever you would consider it). I had prepared some sandwiches last night and they were GOOOOOOD! Having refreshed ourselves, we drove the last 15 miles to our destination … The Basilica of Our Lady of Lezajsk.
This Shrine’s history began in 1578 when the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph appeared to a woodcutter named “Tomasz/Thomas”. She told him that she had chosen this place to be “Where Her Son will be loved and respected and, whoever shall call on my Intercession here will receive my Blessing”. Thomas didn’t listen and report her requests at first … so click here to read the story for the rest of the story. It’s a bit confusing but you will understand.
We arrived and the Basilica was absolutely mobbed. As we pulled up, there was a very small parking lot right in front of the Church and another large parking lot on the opposite side of the street. Both were packed with cars as well as the street going up the hill. There were parked cars everywhere and people walking everywhere. I notice a car pulling out of the parking lot in front of the Basilica so I decided to “take a chance”. There, lo and behold, there was one parking place right there in front of the Church … Thank you Blessed Mother! I didn’t think I was going to find a place anywhere.
I parked and opened my car door to get out. All of a sudden this “large man” ran up to the car door and started speaking very, very quickly and excited to me IN POLISH! I thought he was trying to tell me to move but we had a language barrier. I finally said “AMERICAN” and he laughed, smiled and quickly walked away from the car (what was that all about?).
We hadn’t walked 50 feet from the car and we were directly in front of the Basilica. This guy walked up to me and, in English, he said “Where are you from?”. I said “Florida” (What? Do I have a big “T” on my forehead?). He told me (with a Polish accent) that he was from Philadelphia. He then introduced us to two of his other friends who were both also Polish but live in Philly as well. Then the man who had come running up to our car when I parked came into the group … he was a friend of the guy who was talking to us. That man was the POLICE CHIEF of the town. They were all childhood friends who had been born and lived here until leaving for the States around 10 years old.
The “police chief” had gone to tell the three Americans that we were there … he thought that we were all friends. They don’t get many Jags in Poland that have Warsaw license plates. We all shared a laugh and the police chief kept talking to me with great excitement … but in Polish.
There was a lot of activity as they began to form for the procession around the town with lots of Banners, statues, a band, altar servers and of course First holy Communion children. Mass had been celebrated at 9 and the procession was next. (See photos) We couldn’t believe the amount of people that poured out of the basilica to follow the priest with the Monstrance with Jesus. Our friends followed and we hung behind for this was a 2 hour walk. We planned to go to the 12 noon mass but I guess the schedule changed and as we entered the Basilica the 11 AM Mass began.
The Basilica is amazingly beautiful and the place was packed to the outside. We were wondering where they all came from for this Shrine is in the sticks in this small village. The priest gave a verrrrrrry looooooong sermon but he was so vibrant we had to laugh a few times almost knowing the point he was trying to get across. He looked like Fr. Della Russo, our new chancellor at the diocese. (We are going to have to have a chat about the length of his homilies).
Communion was very different here and you just went to the end of your pew if you had one and knelt on the stone floor and the priest walked back and forth up and down the aisle and gave you the Eucharist. Susan and I had a bench some family vacated and there was only one spot to kneel and I couldn’t turn around or move to let her go so I knelt and Susan climbed over two benches to get a spot, good thing for she was the last to receive and the priest were gone. When we knelt on the kneelers in front of us, they were so tilted that we had to hang on so we didn’t slide off. During the whole mass a small little girl was roaming on the large altar behind the priest and God didn’t seem to mind, so neither did anyone else. Even though we chuckled at times it was beautiful.
What I loved so much was after the priest gave the final blessing they started a song to Mary and everyone sang and no one left even after the priest did. Not a single person leaves a service early at every mass we have been to here in Poland. When the song was done some sat for a few minutes and the others left so Susan and I went to explore the Basilica and we found a Miraculous Cross of Christ behind the altar that you could venerate by touching the glass enclosure. Many people came in to do so and say a short prayer.
We then found the Miraculous Painting of Our Mother in a small chapel on the right and many people were on their knees praying for just a few seconds. When most had left we went into the chapel and sat with a few others whom quickly left and then it was just Susan and I here with this magnificent painting, it was magical. What better place than to pray our Rosary as it seemed Our Mother and Our Lord were here with us and blessing us as we did so.
We began to wonder when the procession would get back so we went out to the parking area we came in and I had a chance to move the car to a better spot so it would be easier to get out and as I did so it seemed that buses just dropped off 100’s of people. Susan and I sat on a bench and just watched as the kept coming and coming. We kept saying where is the procession and then I heard the music and excitedly said to Susan I hear them they are coming. She laughed and laughed for she had just re-player a phone camera video she had taken earlier and that’s what I heard. DUH!
We couldn’t take it anymore as a large van pulled in and backed into the outer entrance of the Basilica so we went up to see what was going on as people outside the walls stood and faced the Church. They had all the statues and banners and the Coppola in the truck and I said to Susan, where is Jesus? We still don’t know, since mass had started and people were standing outside and everywhere, a whole new group for this great day of celebration in Poland. We got out of the way and headed for our hotel.
About 40 minutes later we were checking into this very nice hotel and they had a restaurant so we wouldn’t go to bed hungry since everything else was closed. We met a lot of people there including some teen age kids that sat with us and we talked for a long time about the problems of Poland with the young. That’s another story.
Dinner was excellent and very elegant and we forgot the camera so I won’t bore you to death. We went to our room and typed part of this report but got tired so into bed we went and that’s all I remember.
God Bless you all
Susan & Tom
Stay with them, Dear Mother of God. Keep them in your Heart of Love, for You, alone, are the true daughter of God the Father, Eternal Mother of God the Son, and cherished spouse of God the Holy Spirit. Spiritual Mother, Most Powerful, keep them centered in God’s Plan for their life forever. Amen.
I had a marvelous sleep until 7:30, Susan 7:50, the coffee was ready. We were not in a hurry to leave our beautiful home as we called it and we enjoyed a casual breakfast around 10. John, our host didn’t want us to leave either…..and said we could stay until much later, and he would even give us drinks and feed us. It was tempting but we had a schedule to keep and said our goodbye’s around noon. We even said goodbye to Max since he created a new mound just for us.
Editor’s note: Just in case you did not read the previous post, the owner of the house they are staying in has a problem with groundhogs digging up his land. One of the, Tom & Sue named “Max”.
Our home, on wheels, was loaded and the back seat looked a little more organized. It was on to Zakopane, a very popular ski resort, in the Tatra Mountains with a stop on the way to Our Lady of Ludzmierz. Of course it is another miraculous statue of our Mother thought to be at least 600 years old. St. John Paul II had a special affection for this Sanctuary from 1963. (Click here to see the Story)
We didn’t know what to expect, but with all the stops we have made we were never disappointed and this Shrine was no exception. The Minor Basilica is out in the middle of nowhere, so to speak, and on the only major road in the area. We came in the back way and parked near the religious monastery and pilgrim center. It was a good thing since they were painting the parking lot and it was closed.
We couldn’t get a feel for the Shrine until we walked 100 ft and this expansive field with the way of the cross came into view. There weren’t many people around so we went to the Sanctuary of Our Mother to explore and pray. The Basilica was smaller than most but didn’t lessen the spirituality we have experienced in the sacred places we have been blessed to visit.
The statue of Our Lady is Beautiful and on the Scepter you can see the Papal ring of St. JPII and the relic that was placed there after his death given by our friend Cardinal Dziwisz.
We took some photos and sat and prayed our Rosary for all the intentions we have with us and then we lit candles and Susan wrote in the intention book.
We needed a cafe latte and a WC so we went to the cafeteria on the grounds next to the gift shop which we had to go into.(we are throwing out clothes, so we have room for all the mementos we have bought, it’s either that or another suitcase).
From there we went to the Rosary path and the place was more active than when we arrived. We prayed Divine Mercy in front of the statue of St. John Paul II amidst the chaos of all the families around, but we didn’t hear a thing.
We were looking for the holy water spring and walked the all the grounds but came up empty. There was a pond and we thought that was it but I saw a hose feeding the waterfall into the pond. No one could understand us, so we left disappointed but still elated from our visit and headed for Zakopane about 20 minutes away without traffic. (Do they have traffic?)
We pulled down our street and missed our hidden turn and came up to this large building and it didn’t look like the picture of our hotel so I asked Susan to go to reception and see if they had our room ready or get directions. I was laughing as she walked away because I saw the sign for sanatorium, maybe this was a sign.
We finally asked a woman for help and she explained how to go in Polish and I left shaking my head, I didn’t understand a thing but Susan knew exactly where to go and we found our resort and spa. This one was nothing like Hotel Bardo, but it would be fine for our 2-night stay.
Hungry, we went out for a bite and not far from the apartment we pulled into a nice looking restaurant and had dinner. Susan ordered a pork cutlet Milanese and we laughed so hard when it came out.(see photos) I have never seen one so big and never thought she could eat it all, but she did.(I helped a little) The food was great and we departed for the grocery store for milk for our morning coffee.
Back at the apt Susan worked on her e-mails and I tried to watch TV because I was too tired to do anything else. I went to bed at 9 and Susan some time later because that’s all I remember.
I slept until 7:30, except for one major cramp and a trip to the little boy’s room. Coffee was ready at 7:52 and so was Susan. We planned our day and dressed warm, so we thought. We wanted to take a cable car up the mountain (I brought an extra xanax for Susan) but our first stop was the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima in Zakopane, dedicated by St. John Paul II to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on June 7, 1997. We arrived 7 days late for the 20th Anniversary celebration.
Click here for background information about the Shrine.
This minor Basilica was another surprise as we pulled into the parking area full with tour buses. It was much bigger than we expected and the grounds went into the woods with the Way of Calvary. Mass was going on with another First Holy Communion group and this was the most organized one I had seen of the 20 others we attended. You could actually see the children receiving from the priest as everyone stayed seated. There was another one scheduled in 20 minutes so we went out to explore.
There are two foundation stones in the Basilica, one from St. Peters in Rome and one from Fatima. Also under each foundation stone in the Basilica there is a Miraculous Medal of Our Lady which originated from Shrine of Our Lady in Rue du Bac, Paris
We found the chapel of the Miraculous Statue of Our Lady where 50 people had just left. We were alone and decided to pray Our Rosary and go to the 12 noon Mass. It was so peaceful and spiritual praying in there together, especially for so many in need. The statue of Our Lady was beautiful and neither of us took our eyes off Her. When we finished the Rosary we decided to say our morning prayers and did so until some people came in so we left and finished later so we wouldn’t disturb them.
We got to Mass just before 12 and we sat in the front pew. These were the largest pews we have seen here and I was almost comfortable and I could actually kneel. The priest thru a couple curves at us since he started with some prayers we couldn’t figure out and he used Eucharistic prayer 4 instead of 1 which we have had the whole time we were here. We managed as always and had our readings to follow the lector and gospel.
When mass ended we took a few photos and went to the back and placed a copy in the box of all the intentions we have received and carried with us to be offered up, thru the intercession of St. JPII to Our Lady at Saturdays 7 PM Mass.
We left and headed for the shrine dedicated to St. John Paul (Ksiezowka) that our dear friend Fr. Tomasz(Little Tom) told us we must see. It was closed and locked down tight. No problem, this was on the way to the cable car that we had planned to go up the mountain on. On the way I took a picture that reminded me of Susan eating last night. (Ouch, I just got wacked) When we got there I realized I forgot to give Susan the Xanax, but she got out of the car anyway and we didn’t last long for it was still cold and this was a 3 shirt and jacket day so we decided not to go and take a chance of getting sick.
We passed this Italian Restaurant on the way and we were both starving so that’s where we headed. It was very lovely and warm inside and the food was outstanding, grilled octopus and baked gnocchi’s with porcini mushrooms and spinach.(I getting hungry again) Needless to say, we ate it all.
Before going back to the apartment we went to the market and picked up a few things to pick on tonight and to have for our long drive tomorrow to Lezjac. It took almost an hour there were so many people in line, it made Costco look good.
We took a wrong turn and ended up at another ski lift. The sun had come out finally but when Susan saw their feet dangling off the chairs there was no way I was going to get her on it. We are in for the night Susan has been packing and I have been typing for 2 hours so I quit for now because there is nothing else to remember.
Sunday (Day 13 of the Poland portion of our personal pilgrimage)
What a day! Even though we were up at 6 we didn’t care. We hung around the house having several cups of coffee and went to the 9 AM Sunday mass just down the street. It was a beautiful little church and the place was packed. Again we ended up standing in the back but at least we could see. Some people were even out the door for lack of room. During the service a young girl sitting next to where we were standing got up and offered Susan her seat. I wanted to laugh, because I knew what was going thru my honey’s mind……..do I look that old?
Mass was great and before the final blessing there were announcements and as I looked around the church not a single person had left early. We have found that to be the general case everywhere we go. There are no early bird specials here. After mass many of the people went to the cemetery behind the church with flowers for their loved ones. It was great to see.
We then went to the bank to get some ammo so we could pay for our stay in cash and then we stopped at the market and got some ribs for dinner, we were not going anywhere else today.
We spent a leisurely day at the house and had breakfast around noon and dinner at 7. We accomplished a few things today but mostly relaxed and did it feel goooooood!
We only saw our hosts, John and Dana, once today as we were leaving. We have spent a lot of time with John outside in the back since his English is very good.
Besides solving the problems in the world we discussed what he was going to do about his groundhog problem. It had created new mounds everyday and reminded me of the movie Caddy Shack, because that’s how I would have been. (I didn’t tell him about our groundhog problem) Susan suggested they name him, Dana did, and no we call him Max. There were 5 fresh new mounds today, oh boy! That’s all I remember.
Monday Day 14 Kalwaria & Sanctuary of the Weeping Madonna
This morning we slept till 7:30…….we had gone to bed at 8:30 last night, I guess we were tired. I didn’t make breakfast because neither of us was hungry. After the usual prep for the day we headed out around 10 for Kalwaria and the Sanctuary of the Weeping Madonna, Our Lady of Calvary. She shed tears of blood and veneration quickly became widespread and each year almost a million pilgrims come to pray and submit their petitions to Our Lady. Today we were two of them.
The Calvary extends for five miles and the walk of Mary goes high into the mountains. There was no way we could have done it today or maybe forever, as much as we had wanted to, since being here 2 years ago on a short stop to the airport.
We spent a lot of time on the grounds and in the church, including mass at 11 with a lot of First Holy Communion children. The sermon was so verrrry loooong that the next group was coming in before the final blessing. I think I even dozed off. Oop’s
We were hungry now so we went to the restaurant on the grounds and had lunch. It was very good and I am ashamed to tell you how much it cost, so if you want to know send me an e-mail. We had a 2 PM reservation in Wadowice at the birth place and child hood home of St. John Paul II thanks to our friend Fr Tomasz since we waited to the last minute.
He reserved for us an English speaking tour, and I much as I dislike this stuff, I had tears in my eyes most the way. What an experience to touch his sofa and bed and crosses and to see how he grew up in this modest apartment. It was so beautifully done and the hour flew by. His life was one of tragedy and joy and he gave up what he loved most, acting, to become a man of God. A Saint for our times and a great advocate he has become for us. (Lots of photos).
Editor’s note: Looking at some of these photos is a reminder of how young and vigorous (only 58 ) this Pope was when first elected.
The Basilica next door has a special chapel for his Baptismal font, another for Saints Pio, Stanislaus, Kolbe and Simon of Lipnica with relics for each. The St. John Paul II chapel also has a relic and the other chapel across from St JPII is the chapel of Miraculous painting of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The Basilica is named after the Presentation of Blessed Virgin Mary.
There is a side chapel in honor of Divine Mercy so what better place to pray the Chaplet, plus there were 2 chairs in front of the altar and a painting of Our Lord.
We Lit candles there for all of you.
Editors note: you can still add your name to their prayer intentions by emailing them at email@example.com.
This was again our 2nd visit to this village but this time we left with a much greater sense of the Saint and what it means to be holy.
We departed after we stopped for a piece of Pope cake, as they call it, since it was St. JPII’s favorite and renamed it after he became Pope.
It was back to Kalwaria, about 20 minutes away to spend a little more quite time at the shrine. We figured the buses would all be gone by now and we could pray our rosary in the Chapel of the Weeping Madonna. We started there but moved just outside in the main sanctuary to finish for some people we coming in to pray and we didn’t want to disturb them. The Basilica is where St. JPII’s father took him after his mother died, when he was 9 and here is where he developed a great love for Our Blessed Mother.
A few more photos and we left for home as we call it, for it is so comfortable. John was outside and we all talked for awhile, had a glass of wine together and then Susan & I noshed on some leftover ribs, cheese and pate and then it was to work, to begin repacking and preparing for tomorrows’ journey to Zakopane in the Tetra Mountains. YEAH!
Editor’s note: Tom loves to drive those winding mountain roads…..Sue, not so much.
John told us to stay as long as we like so we decided not to rush in the morning and maybe sleep in. Any way it’s 10 PM and I’m still typing, so I’m calling it a night after this truly magnificent day.
Another morning in bed until almost 8, how good is that! Susan slept in one bed and I in the other so we would have plenty of room and not wake each other during the night. I just combed my sleeping hair and we went for coffee and breakfast in our jammies, nice and relaxed.
Our Shrine for today was about 1 mile away so we took our time showering and packing our 1 small bag, thru on the same clothes from the day before and left. Our next stop after the Shrine would be in the first floor of a house that looked extremely nice when I booked it.
Mary has a long title here in Piekary Slaskie, Our Lady of Social Justice and Love, and is one of the largest Sanctuaries in the Silesia provence. It is primarily known for organizing May Pilgrimages for men and August ones for women, and each of them numbers around 100,000 people.
Click here to see the story of Our Lady of Social Justice and Love
We again parked right in front of the Basilica, we have been very blessed with parking our whole trip and today it was greatly appreciated since my back was still a problem. Not a pain in my knee since I put water on it at Mary’s well so when we get to the house I will find that bottle of holy water and rub my back with it. I don’t want to run out of favors, but Our Mother is wonderful and generous.
As we approach the Basilica from the back (no stairs), there were 50 or so kids all dressed up for their first Holy Communion with their parents. We got to talk to a couple of them and even prayed with one little girl in the small shrine to Our Lady of Fatima that was right there.
We went into the Basilica because we heard music and a funeral was in progress so we stayed since it was almost over and paid our respect and prayed for the family and soul of whomever died.
We had a little time after they left to explore and take photos of this basic but beautiful Basilica and the Miraculous Image of Our Lady. We knew mass would begin soon when hoards of people came in the Basilica taking all the seats and the kids had not come in yet. When they did some people moved and the rest sat on chairs around the altar. The church was packed. We again stood in the back.
This was the first place we had been to where they had an usher. Most places the clergy or a volunteer would take up the collection. It still took him until communion to finish. We Prayed for all of you during mass.
When mass ended, so did the weather…..it was sunny and warm when we arrived and now we needed our jackets and umbrellas. It became a 3 shirt day in a hurry, so we left after buying a small statue for home and a polish anniversary card for Sister Maria Liber as we will be attending her jubilee mass next Sunday outside of Krakow.
It was about an hour to our next apartment and it rained most of the way. We were a little early but the owner was outside and gave us a very warm welcome. He showed us the 2 bedroom apartment very nicely re-modeled and how to work everything. The radio in the shower was my favorite. It also had some other goodies in there which I will explore tomorrow. The house is great and the grounds beautiful and peaceful
Susan unpacked and I went to the market for supplies since we had 3 nights here. We are beat and can’t wait to sit back and relax. As a matter of fact tomorrow is Sunday and we decided to go to the local church and spend the rest of the day in this comfortable home.
SO WE ARE ALSO GIVING YOU THE DAY OFF AND WILL RESUME OUR REPORTS ON TUESDAY. HAVE A BLESSED SUNDAY.
We enjoyed a light non-meat pizza and snacks at the dining room table and tried to watch TV. But that didn’t last. 8:30 came and we went to bed. I hope groundhog day doesn’t rear it’s ugly head… That’s all I remember.
God bless all of you
Susan & Tom
Dear God, You are my source, my goal. I surrender all that transpires in my life to Your Loving Providence. Thank You for allowing Your Blessed Mother to take me by the hand into your Divine will. Remember me kindly when I stumble, for You are kindness. Place me, gently, into the caldron of incense that perfumes Your Divine Love. You, alone, are Holy. Blessed be God Forever.
Ground Hog Day “officially ended” this morning in this very, very tiny hotel room (with great black-out curtains). We actually slept in until 8:00 A.M. It was a great nights’ sleep, but both of us were still really sore and aching from yesterdays’ strenuous activities (who is complaining!).
We both got up around the same time and wanted to grab a cup of coffee. Just outside and down the hall from our room was the dining room. We grabbed a cup each and headed to the patio area … it was a beautiful, warm and quiet morning. We fueled up on a lot of coffee and had a very good breakfast … Polish Kielbasa included on the buffet, which Susan went for.
Returning to our room and packing up this very small hotel room was quite funny. We kept bumping into each other to try to be sure we packed everything. I finally decided that as soon as Susan had a bag packed, I immediately toted it off to the car to get it out of the room
Our only Sacred Shrine we had scheduled for today was Gora Swietej Anny – Saint Anne’s Mountain … a Shrine specifically dedicated to St. Anne, the Mother of Our Blessed Virgin Mary and the Grandmother of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. The Statue is considered “Miraculous”. It is claimed to be from the 1600″s.
It took us about 1-1/2 hours to drive from our hotel to this Shrine and the drive, for me, was typical … go fast … go slow … go fast, etc. When we arrived, there was a parking place right in front of the entrance to the Basilica so I took it. There were about 50-60 stairs ascending up to the Basilica so I told Susan that we would walk around and we found a roadway that took us up without the stairs. Starting to feel like I miscalculated my plans once again … I realized that I did. As soon as we walked up to the top of the roadway … there was a large parking lot right there almost in front of the doorway into the Shrine. Ugh!
We went into the Shrine as a Mass was ending. We weren’t sure if there would be another one. As soon as the Mass ended, the Basilica lights were immediately turned off. The Congregation left and no one was around to even ask about the possibility of another Mass. I took some photos, we Prayed and headed off to the Religious Gift Store. The batteries on the camera had gone dead and when I went into my stash … I had 3 … instead of 4 batteries in the case. So much for any more photos. The Gift Store did not sell batteries but Susan and I selected a beautiful memento of St. Anne for our Curio at home.
The Miraculous statue of Saint Anne
The sculpture shows three figures. In the middle in the standing position it is shown an elderly woman who holds in her arms two children. St. Anna, who on her left arm is holding her daughter – the Virgin Mary and on the right shoulder her grandson – the Lord Jesus.
Her hands are shown in a manner typical of the medieval conventions: to show the next degree of kinship. The figure of Mary is lower than the figure of Jesus. Sometimes it is often used to highlight the differences in the importance of the role of Jesus and His Mother.
Mary gives the Baby a golden apple – the symbol of procreation. Using expressions Biblical Mary is the “new Eve”, Christ – “new Adam”. As the apple was given by Eve to Adam in paradise, and the sin and death were born. The apple of the new Eve – Mary, is given to the new Adam – Jesus who brougth into the world grace and life.
This beautiful Shrine is on gorgeous large property. There were Stations of the Cross (Kalwaria/Calvary) and Chapels one can walk and Pray at for miles. Not today for the two of us … we did ourselves in on our last Calvary Walk and are still recuperating with aches and pains.
As we were getting ready to leave this Shrine and disappointed that we had not been able to attend Mass, I suggested to Susan that we return to the Basilica and at least Pray Our Rosary in front of the Miraculous Image. No one was in the Basilica when we returned so we took a spot in the front pew and began our Rosary. We were almost finished when a great amount of people began coming into the Church. We continued on and quietly completed our Rosary.
We were about to leave, figuring that it was another Pilgrim Group who would be receiving a presentation. Right about then, a young Priest began to walk by us and I asked him in “perfect English” when the next Mass was. He answered “At The First Hour”!!!!! HUH? I realized that he meant at 1:00 P.M. which was about 5 minutes from then.
I didn’t want to try to sit in that front pew throughout Mass for fear my back wouldn’t make it. So we moved to the rear of the Basilica and I chose a bench that we could sit on and I would be able to use the kneeler close by if my back cooperated with me.
It was a beautiful and reverent Mass, as usual and it was filled with the group of Pilgrims. After Mass, there was not much left that we would be able to do so we got into the car and began our way to our next destination … Piekary Salaskie where both our hotel for the night and our next Sacred Shrine are located.
After a drive of about 1 1/2 hours through the normal and beautiful Poland roadsides, we arrived at our overnight hotel. As we drove by the front of the hotel which looked very, very old, I realized there was no where to park. I drove down the street, around the corner and finally made our way to the rear of the hotel. I found a hotel parking space in the rear just as another vehicle was leaving … good luck, huh?
I had booked a “Deluxe Room” for tonight to give us more room to roam. As I checked in, I found that our “Deluxe Room” was on the Second Floor … with NO ELEVATOR. By the way … in these hotels, the Main Floor is “Ground Floor 0” … Then the First Floor followed by the Second, etc. I silently begged my back to cooperate with me on our ascent.
Editor’s note: for Europeans this is not a surprise, but for Americans and others, it might be: the ground floor is 0 and then the next floor is 1.
We decided to take the very bare minimum up to the room. No luggage/suitcases tonight. We were going to rough it. So we filled a large bag with grocery items we might need, our “jammies, toiletries, a bottle of vino (of course) and my computer bag … it still seemed to be a lot to carry up the flights of stairs but we got there.
The Deluxe Room was great … it had 2 separate rooms and 2 baths. The rooms had recently been completely renovated and were very nice. We had a full bedroom and a living room/den type of area with a sleeper sofa. Everything was very comfortable … AND THEY EVEN HAD BLACK OUT SHADES.
There wasn’t much for us to organize. Around 5:00 P.M., we went down to the hotel restaurant for a bite to eat. I left Susan outside while I went in to place our order … the staff had to call on the hotel check-in guy to come to help me with ordering our dinner since everything was in Polish and no one spoke English.
I managed to order a fantastic Cabbage Soup, a Mix of Salads, Goulash for Susan and a very tasty Chicken/Broccoli Dish (I thought I had ordered Pork … oh well!). The two of us shared everything, as usual, and it was all fantastic. The restaurant did not carry a wine selection so we accompanied our Polish Dinner with a couple of very good and cold Polish Beers.
I went to pay our tab for dinner and I almost fell over … our entire dinner bill was $10. Did I tell you how much we love Poland?
Back in our room, we did another update on the real estate closing we have been working on. It was not supposed to close until a couple of days after our return, but “In God’s Time”, all went well for our client and our dear friend, Johna, now has her new home as of this writing — 2-1/2 weeks early with plenty of time for her renovations to be completed before her final move into her new home. Congratulations, Johna!
We spent a little more time while I completed the day’s Trip Report and Susan answered some emails, Facebook & WhatsApp Chats. I tried to make a couple of MagicJack phone calls to some friends … it was 2:00 P.M. Florida time and no one was answering their phones … except Corinne and we woke her from a afternoon nap, since she was sick, but rallied and we laughed through most of the conversation. We then watched a small bit of TV before we retired.
Susan ended up sleeping on the fold out sofa bed in the living room. I slept in the “not quite a Queen” bed. We both needed a good night sleep with all of the aches and pains so having two beds tonight was a special treat for us.
We retired around 8:30 P.M. with nothing left to do and nothing …