Monday, May 28, 2012

Pilgrimage To Poland

10 Day pilgrimage to Poland along with my wife and another deacon couple. We arrived in Krakow, Poland mid-afternoon Saturday, checked into our first hotel - changed clothes & hit the ground running. We visited the Divine Mercy Basilica in Krakow, the Convent home of Saint Faustina, attended Mass there at the convent, saw her relic and visited the St. Faustina's original grave site and ended up at the Batory hotel for dinner. Sunday we went to Wieliczka for a 3 hour tour of the salt mine then drove to Wadowice, the birth home of Blessed John Paul II, we visited the Basilica next to his childhood home, listened to a concert there and viewed the temporary museum for him. We then drove back to Krakow went to the Sukiennice (cloth hall) to view the merchants wares, did evening prayer at St Mary's in the Rynek Glowny square and ate dinner there. Monday we went to Auschwitz for a 3 hour tour there and ended up at Birkenau one of the largest Nazi death camps and then to Balice airport in Krakow to pick up our friend Dona who was joining us to help translate with Arlene's cousins, then back to Batory hotel for dinner. Tuesday the five of us - Arlene & I, Dona and Jerry & Dee - who were traveling with us - drove to Wola Wielka to visit Arlene's cousins. They were disappointed that we could only visit for 3 hours but it was about 4 hours traveling time to & from their home to Krakow. We visited their church in Straszecin and saw the family graves for great grandparents then headed back to Krakow for our last night there. We had to take Dona back to the airport in Krakow so we dropped Jerry & Dee off at Wawel Castle since Arlene and I had seen it before, then took Dona to Balice airport. We rejoined Jerry & Dee after they had stopped to attend a concert by Wawel Castle so we ended up at Rynek Glowny square for dinner. Wednesday we headed to Czestochowa to see the Black Madonna shrine at the Jasna Gora Monastery. We hooked up with an English speaking group from Ireland and did a tour there. Because we were with them we also attended Mass in the restricted shrine area in front of the famous icon of Mary & Jesus. Jerry and I almost were able to vest and serve as deacons but the space was very limited and they had a half dozen priests and a bishop so we didn't get to do that. After Mass we stayed with the Ireland group and did Stations of the Cross from the roof top of the Shrine. We then headed to Warsaw - stopped on the way for dinner and arrived in Warsaw late that evening - just enough time to check in and go out for a late night tea & Polish nachos. Thursday we stayed in Warsaw and visited Holy Cross church where Frederic Chopin's heart is entombed in one of the pillars there. Then we walked along that street known as the Royal Route and visited the Warsaw University, the Presidential Palace where a protest was going on, the church of St Anne and the church of St Joseph the Guardian which is filled with relics of saints. At the end of the Royal Route is the Royal Castle which we toured. Then we went into the Stare Miasto (the old town) to walk the square and browse through crystal & amber shops. We stopped for a snack then left for dinner. Friday we left Warsaw and headed north towards Gdansk. We stopped on the way to tour Malbork Castle which is suppose to be the largest brick castle in the world. We ate lunch at Malbork Castle restuarant before our tour and after completeing the tour we headed to our hotel in the marina area of Gdansk.  Dona drove to the hotel & we did a walking tour with her of her hometown. Saturday we met up with Dona again and returned to the marina area to see a boat show and ride on an old galleon ship. We spent the day shopping for amber jewelry and attended Pentecost Mass at St John's in Gdansk. We ended our final day at the Pierogie "palace" as Jerry called it.  Sunday morning to the Gdansk airport and back
home for a back to normal routine. Thus - in a nutshell - was our pilgrimage to Poland. In future posts - I will discuss in more detail the churches we visited and prayed in. We were very blessed by God on this journey - being privileged to pray Vespers with a group of Sisters in Warsaw and some monks in Gdansk. All God's people that we met and talked with proved to us how all of us have so much more in common than we realize. Everywhere we went we saw Jesus - in the structures - shrines - people. A true pilgrimage - what a blessing!

Deacon Dale