Guide to the Papal Trails
Fr Jacek Urban
The guide written by Urszula Wlasiuk, published by the Library of ‘Niedziela’, contains great love for mountains, people and John Paul II.
We are looking forward to the publication of ‘Jestem synem tej ziemi. Szlaki papieskie’ [I am a son of this land. Papal Trails] by Urszula J. Wlasiuk. The editor is the Catholic Weekly ‘Niedziela’. The book is dedicated, so to say, to upland Poland. The uplands and highlands constitute only a slight percentage of Poland’s territory. They mark the southern border but have also been the subject of interest of several Polish generations for over 100 years.
is beautiful. As John Paul II confessed, ‘when I wander through Polish lands, from the Baltic Sea through Great Poland, the regions of Mazowsze, Warmia and Mazury, through the eastern lands from Bialystok to Zamosc, to the west and east of the San River, along the Bieszczady ranges towards the south, along river valleys, along the Vistula River towards the north, I contemplate the beauty of this homeland.’ The beauty of this land is its nature and people who have lived here. There are so many attractive tourist places, which are good for rest and holiday. Numerous people regard southern Poland, its mountain ranges and passes, as very attractive. Land and people. Before the war Rafal Malczewski wrote, ‘We would be sad if we climbed a rolling hill without any signs of human life. But we face these signs, full of dignity and simplicity, We can see roadside little chapels, cleverly bound wooden fences, little churches or Orthodox churches nestled in clumps of trees, villages located on hill slopes, abiding under the protection of ash trees, sycamores, larches. We are welcomed by barking white shepherd dogs, by people working in the fields or cutting trees. Our path is running up; more and more peaks can be seen. One can see shelters, footbridges over streams, small passion scenes tied to the trunks here and there. We feel no revolt against man’s presence, man that is so closely tied with the world we are getting to know. In our wandering we will rejoice at all that has blossomed and grown on the slopes and in the gorges, which is the bone and blood of this land, deeply connected with every plant and creature born here. Man who settled here ages ago belongs to them.’
means meeting their inhabitants, products of their minds and hands. Stove tiles, wooden stools, pictures painted on glass. Songs, music, dance, clothes, food. And work and religiousness, and which makes us overwhelmed – the authenticity of highlanders. Pope John Paul II became a special ornament of this land. Once he said, ‘Although my Homeland is whole Poland, all the places where Poland is, and all things that are Polish, I have been especially connected with this part of the Homeland … since I was born there, I spent almost all my life there, I was called to priesthood there, became a bishop there.’ This mountainous part of Poland was the place of work and rest of Karol Wojtyla, from his childhood in Wadowice, through Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, to Krakow. And after his return from Rome through his outings with students, the summer and winter camps. As a professor, then Bishop of Krakow, he set out from Krakow. His destination was mainly the mountains. During his pontificate there appeared an initiative to mark some places connected with his outings and stays. The Papal Trails have appeared.
The idea of the Papal Trails
has its authors. One of the most important creators is Urszula Wlasiuk. She is the Chairman of the Foundation ‘Papal Trails’, located in Krakow. We can associate the work of commemorating the places connected with Karol Wojtyla, priest, bishop, cardinal and Pope, with her to a considerable extent. She is a daughter of this part of Poland. She is a philologist by education and a photographer by profession. Love for little homeland, literary and artistic competence and a sense of organization are the characteristics that make her one of the most competent people to deal with this subject. She has revealed her talents by writing several books. Her last book is a guide entitled ‘«Ja tam u was bylem... – pilnujcie mi tych szlakow» O tym jak Ojciec Swiety w polskie gory powraca', Krakow 2003 [«I was with you there…– watch these trails for me» About the way the Holy Father returns to the Polish mountains]. The success of that book, its good reviews and the encouragements of her friends inclined Urszula Wlasiuk to prepare another publication, which seems to be very attractive.
A new guide –
prepared by Urszula J. Wlasiuk, published by ‘Niedziela’ will have eight volumes. The separate chapters describe Jura Krakowsko-Czestochowska, Pogorze Wielickie, Beskid Maly, Gorce, Beskid Makowski, Beskid Zywiecki, Plaskowyz Draboza, Pieniny, Orawa, Pasmo Podhalanskie, the Tatras, the Kocie Mountains, the Bieszczady Mountains and the Sudety Mountains. Each chapter is preceded by a geographic description of the range and it characterises its natural resources. Then the Author leads us through places, briefly describing their monuments, people and places, and then she poses the question about their relationships with Karol Wojtyla, John Paul II. The integral part of the description is photos and poetry. All parts form a whole and we can take the volume that concerns a given region when we follow the paths of John Paul II. The guide leads and educates. It has something that makes its unique. This is great love for mountains, for people and for John Paul II. The guide leads us to the mountains of John Paul II. And it leads us to meet God. I think that the Author would be happy if someone followed some trail and could repeat after John Paul II:
‘We returned from the mountains. It was wonderful.
The tents are dried in the sun.
The resin is flowing over branches, high grass,
a path goes in the middle,
trodden slightly, slightly.
and meditate. To discover the depth of other creatures and the depth of his own
existence – to discover, to reach. To reach with what is in me. To reach the One
– what is in you’.
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