Tom & Sue in Poland Day 17: From Zakopane to Our Lady of Lezajsk

Dzien Dobry:

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.

Filling up at the well
Filling up at the well

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.

Close-up view of the image of Our Lady of
Close-up view of the image of Our Lady of Lezajak

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.

Praying before the image
Praying before the image

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

Love

Susan & Tom

Prayer

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.

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