For a few days, we lived as the world could be

by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

A highlight for my summer was attending World Youth Day with our pilgrims from the Archdiocese. A treasured moment for me was the opportunity to visit the Jasna Gora Monastery where I was able to pray and celebrate Mass before the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa, also sometimes referred to as the Black Madonna. This icon of our Blessed Mother and the Child Jesus is deeply entwined with the history of Poland.

The two scars on the face of Mary are attributed to Hussite marauders who stole the icon. When their horses refused to move, they attempted unsuccessfully to destroy the image. They are part of the reason that this icon is associated with Mary’s title of Our Lady of Sorrows. Mary, who chose to share in her son’s suffering by remaining with Jesus throughout the terrible ordeal of his passion and crucifixion, still today brings comfort and encouragement to those members of his body who are suffering.highlight for my summer was attending World Youth Day with our pilgrims from the Archdiocese. A treasured moment for me was the opportunity to visit the Jasna Gora Monastery where I was able to pray and celebrate Mass before the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa, also sometimes referred to as the Black Madonna. This icon of our Blessed Mother and the Child Jesus is deeply entwined with the history of Poland.

As I knelt before the image, I could not help but think of Jan Sobieski, who had prayed for four days before the Black Madonna in preparation for the Battle of Vienna, where, because of his leadership, not only Vienna, but Western civilization, was saved. I recalled that a young Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, having lost his own biological mother, prayed before this icon, asking Mary to be his mother and to draw him close to her son Jesus. I remembered the thousands of brave Polish Catholics, risking their lives during the Nazi and communist occupations, who made clandestine pilgrimages to Our Lady of Czestochowa asking for Mary to intercede with her Son to grant them wisdom, strength and courage.

Kneeling before this revered image of Mary, I asked her to intercede with her Son to give me wisdom and courage in fulfilling my responsibilities as archbishop. I entrusted all the members of the Archdiocese, especially the sick and those suffering in other ways, to her maternal comfort and care.

It was also a privilege to visit so many other places that were special to St. John Paul II. It was amazing to visit his hometown of Wadowice. The Wojtyla family’s apartment was in the shadow of the parish church, where John Paul was baptized, confirmed and received the Eucharist. I enjoyed also eating one of the creme cakes that are reputed to be John Paul’s favorite dessert. The future saint had good taste in everything.

From my hotel in Krakow, it was a short walk to the apartment in which John Paul as a young college student lived with his father. I visited the parish church, St. Stanislaus Kostka, they attended. I prayed at the humble shrine for Jan Tyranowski, the layman who introduced Karol Wojtyla to St. Louis de Montfort’s Marian consecration and the great Carmelite mystics — St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. It was amazing to visit the places that were so formative and special to the pope who had renewed the church and changed the course of world history, and who originated the very idea of World Youth Day.

Many times during the pilgrimage, I asked St. John Paul in my prayer to intercede for me that I might be open to the Holy Spirit animating my soul with the same courage, dedication and zeal that characterized his ministry as priest, bishop and pope.

However, what made this pilgrimage uniquely powerful was to be gathered with a couple million young people from 187 different nations, who were united in their love for Jesus and their desire to follow him. Pope Francis observed that in some cases they were shoulder to shoulder with youth from other countries with which their nation was at war. Yet at World Youth Day, we were all one family united by much deeper bonds than the divisions of the world. For a few days, we lived as the world could be.

Only the Successor of Peter could bring together such a large and diverse group. The pope challenged the young pilgrims, as well as we older ones, that following Jesus is not about being comfortable. The Holy Father reminded us that we are called to make a mark on the world.

We were all there because in some way Jesus had touched our hearts with his love. In turn, Pope Francis reminded us that each of us has the ability to transform the world by giving others the gift of mercy that we received. The mark we are to make on the world is the mark of merciful love.

Finally, the canonization of Mother Teresa this past Sunday reminded me of the homily Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, gave to the American pilgrims. Bishop Caggiano observed that physically there was nothing that made Mother Teresa stand out in a crowd.

“She was short in stature,” he said, “with no great physical beauty, not necessarily well spoken.”

Bishop Caggiano described a typical day for Mother Teresa: “Each day, she would rise early in the morning deep in prayer and make it her business to go out and walk into the shadows of the city that she had adopted as her own and reach out to those that the rest of society had cast aside. She literally walked the streets and the gutters, attending to those who were sick and those who were left simply to die. She tended them, cared for them, fed them and brought them to a bed and a home where they could have dignity in the dying moments of their life.”

Bishop Caggiano asked the question: “What allows ordinary people to do extraordinary things?” Then, he corrected himself, stating the question should not be “what” but “whom.” The answer is Jesus. It was Jesus who animated the mind, heart and body of Mother Teresa and took what was ordinary and made it great.

Bishop Caggiano concluded by asking all the Americans gathered in Krakow: “Are you ready to accept this calling to become a saint, to become remarkable in Christ, one day at a time?”

It is really striving to say “yes” to that question each and every day that is my main takeaway from World Youth Day. It is really the key question for all of us, young and old, as we make our pilgrimage through this world.

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