To Whom Shall We Go?

Fr. Stan recently informed me that August 26th is commemorated in Poland as the Feast of Our Lady of Czestochowa. The origin of this feast was to mark the end of the heavy summer pilgrimage season which draws hundreds of thousands from all around Poland and the across the globe. The visitors arrive largely by foot but no doubt they also make use of every imaginable mode of transportation. What draws waves of an average 14,000 pilgrims per day? An ancient, very weathered icon of the Mother of God known affectionately as the ‘Black Madonna’ that is traditionally said to have been discovered by St. Helena in the Holy Land and perhaps even painted by the hand of St. Luke the Evangelist as one of the earliest Marian portraits.

The beloved Marian Shrine of Jasna Góra (meaning bright hill) is the spiritual capital of the Polish nation and is home to the ancient icon which has a remarkable history that could be the substance of another article. Suffice it to say that the history of this icon has every bit as much drama as the life of Our Lady herself. The image and surrounding monastery has been the brunt of numerous attacks, sieges, and blasphemies including the image’s desecration in 1430 by Hussite marauders who literally slashed the face of Our Lady with a saber. But Our Lady continues to silently and mysteriously draw hearts to Czestochowa.

Closer to home, a hand-painted image of the Black Madonna adorns the rear wall of the church near the Sacred Heart side altar and confessional at Holy Cross. Her visage is also seen near the Baptismal Font on the huge banner accompanied by the Polish words taken from one of the earliest prayers to Our Lady, the Sub Tuum Presidium: “Under your protection we fly!” This beloved image of the Mother of God is also prominently displayed in the St. Hedwig sacristy.

Her somber gaze is a knowing one as she gestures away from herself to Jesus, as the source of salvation for a hurting humanity. Those who go to Our Lady go inevitably to her Son. She is the great mediatrix who mediates our encounter with Jesus and facilitates our approach to Him when we are fearful or ashamed. Those who go to the sorrowful mother beneath the Cross find the Man of Sorrows cradled in her arms. She knows well the ugly reality of sin which put her son upon the Cross and her desire is for the spiritual renewal and cleansing from sin which her sons and daughters stand so much in need of.

She intercedes and weeps for the deep purification and healing of the Church in our day and a renewal of longing after holiness. It is remarkable that every soul that is drawn to make the pilgrimage to Jasa Góra is in fact coming to a Eucharistic sanctuary where Holy Mass is offered and confessions are heard. This is the marvel of Marian Sanctuaries around the world—truly they are places where the Eucharistic Christ is honored, adored and received. Thus can we answer Christ’s soul searching question put to the Apostles in today’s Gospel, “Do you also want to leave?” Do we? Will we? Or can our presence at Mass today—and every Sunday and Feast Day—be our answer with Simon Peter, “To whom shall we go?” How is that for a fitting conclusion to our five-week reflection on John chapter 6?

With our recent commemorations of Mary’s Assumption (Aug 15) and her Queenship (Aug 22), we round out these great feasts which bring to a conclusion the ‘Marian cycle’ of mysteries of the Mother of God in her sharing in the work of redemption. Both the Assumption and the Coronation of Mary find their place in the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary. Let us never tire of going to her and to her Son! To the families of our Polish community and to all those of Polish descent, I wish you a very blessed Feast of Our Lady of Czestochowa. Under her mantle, she who is mother of us all, can help to gather us into deep unity as one family in faith.

Grace and peace,

Fr. Howe

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A couple of things to note:

+ The Polish community of our parish and from around the metro area is to be commended for yet another wonderful Twin Cities Polish Festival. I made two visits and was met by tremendous hospitality and delicious food. Even the Archbishop made an appearance! Thanks to the organizers and all of our parishioners who helped staff various booths. What a great warm up for SeptemberFest which will include delicious Polish fare!

+ We have received a number of inquiries about Raffle Tickets for SeptemberFest. If you have not been able to find your envelope or if you wish to buy additional tickets, contact the parish office. Thank you as well for being willing to consider signing up as a volunteer. There are still lots of ways to get involved. Most importantly come and bring your family, friends, coworkers and neighbors.

+ Plans are moving forward to begin the initial phase of the renovation of our St. Hedwig sanctuary and the building of a dedicated, private and handicap-accessible space for confessions. This will be an exciting step forward and a strong investment in the future of St. Hedwig campus. With the generosity of an anonymous lead donor, funding for phase one is set although we will invite the broader parish to share in the second phase of the project especially in the form of Memorial funds in honor of Fr. Don Schwalm and Fr. Ted Guminga. Stay tuned for more information on how we can work together to accomplish our goals. We have continued to get feedback from our architect, liturgical artist, musicians and parishioner groups and are looking forward to seeing the project get underway. Weekend Masses will not be impacted, but our daily Masses will be relocated as needed to the Garden Court area connected to River Village. Please watch for updates.

+ With the gym roof at Holy Cross school completed earlier this summer, we are also looking forward to begin some of the most pressing tuck-pointing work on the brick exteriors of all three campuses. This work is being made possible through the Brya Family Endowment. In our discussions, our parish Finance Council, Trustees and Executive Committee are strategizing and working from our all-campus Inspec Report to prudently care for our facilities to make sure they are safe and sound for years to come.

Perhaps we can make our own this prayer today:

O Mother of God and Queen of Poland!
I kneel before you, I cry out to you, I invoke your help... Plead with your Son, Jesus Christ, on my behalf, I beg you. Through your powerful intercession I pray for God’s mercy and salvation for myself, my family, my country and our Church. Preserve the gift of faith within me. Come to my rescue in my battle with the powers of darkness. The Almighty has chosen you to be for us a sure sign of victory over the evil enemy. O Mother of the wondrous transformation, we ask you to come to us, we beg you to intercede for us. O Mother who stood at the foot of the Cross of your dying Son, keep our faith alive. O Mother of fortitude and perseverance, pray for us. Our Lady of Czestochowa, pray for us!