Editor’s Note: Tom and Sue Melillo traveled extensively to Catholic shrines and have graciously shared their experiences with us via their daily “trip reports”. Sadly, Tom is no longer with us, but his trip reports live on…and so do the memories of this faith-filled man.
Here is one of their trip reports from their pilgrimage to Poland in 2017.
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 ten. 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 one hundred feet 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 Saint John Paul II 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). Editor’s note: this is a good idea…take some old clothes along with you on pilgrimage, throw them out after you wear them, and then have more room in your suitcase to bring back items that you pick up along the way.
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 seven 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 number four instead of number one, 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 Saint John Paul II to Our Lady at Saturdays 7:00 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 three shirts 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 am 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 two hours so I quit for now because there is nothing else to remember.
God Bless you all
Susan & Tom