PHENOMENON CALLED LEDNICA
Somewhere in a dim landscape of the early spring, quite far from Gniezno, on side roads, narrow and village roads, on a kind of fork of roads we slow down at the inscription: ‘Attention, a sacral area’. We move on and behind a curve of the road we see a widely open gate. It is going to rain. On the flat area there are a few buildings – from brownish brick and glass….In a distance – a grey lake. Around it is quiet and empty – the only sound is wind. It is the place where for 18 years about 100 thousand young people have met at the Appeal of the Prayer of the Third Millennium. For half a day and the whole night they are constantly praying, singing and dancing. This is how Lednica functions in the social consciousness. Very few people know that today Lednica offers much more – it is the lifestyle.
An unruly place
Fr. Jan Góra OP, the creator of Lednica, is already waiting for us in the House of Meeting. From windows taking much part of walls, a space is looking towards us. The landscape is getting inside. Even now, in the early spring impresses with its majestic beauty.
Atmosphere of Lednica – colours of the land, natural materials, simplicity, space and light. Wooden floor creaks under feet. On the walls there are a lot of good modern paintings. Sacral painting, which it emotionally-touching. In the chapel – the altar made from millstones, on which grandmother of Fr. Jan had milled flour. A family relics. A stone and jaded wood. In touch it is soft and plain. Next to him – there is the copy of the cross, by which John Paul II was dying. The shape of the cross reflects in windows, in the fading landscape. I imagine how beautiful it must be in May here when old plum trees bloom and meadows gave off the fragrance of herbs in the air. Fr. Jan interrupts our reflection, and continues. And he points to the floor. It is parquet from Franciszkańska street 3 in Cracow. It is from oak and is over 130 years old – cardinal Dunajewski, cardinal Sapieha and, finally blessed Karol Wojtyła were walking on it. Fr. John says that only his habit of gentle intrusiveness towards cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz remained, so that he could give something to the Holy Father. – He, understanding my heart and guessing further fates of the object, with less or more resistance sometimes gives something…
There was enough parquet for the papal room in the House of John Paul II and for the whole room in the wing on the first floor where the papal evangelical room was created. In the evenings Fr. Jan and the young are sitting on the parquet. They are praying and talking about God and are reading ‘Mr. Tadeusz’. – Because it is music of the Polish soul – says Fr. Góra.
People, coming here, take off their shoes. Nobody suggests it to them. It is an impulse, as it is not suitable to make noise with high-heeled shoes on the parquet marked with the steps of the Saint.
Anchor, keys and a furnace
We are moving round the area, quite big of the size of 40 ha. The sun is already low over the dim land. We are passing by the famous Fish Gate. The road leads on a track – this is the Alley of John Paul II. On the right one can see a started building of the House of John Paul II, the future pilgrim’s house. The Alley runs straight to the lake.- We have built the church of the Baptism of Poland here. You feel how these fields resonate with the event from a thousand year before?.... – Fr. Jan freezes in half a gesture and we are listening to him.
At the bank of the lake – a big stony baptistery. Water is nearly licking its pedestals. On the left, in the mist of the early spring an island is delirious. This island. Small. It is the island, as history want, on which king Mieszko I got baptized. In the air the old mysterious history is lurking. Are we following the steps of Mieszko’s warriors? A two-meter anchor from the Polish ship, stuck in the ground nearby the forest, makes us stop on the spot. Who would expect it? It was brought here by a dean of the Navy prelate priest commander Bogusław Wrona – it is like a symbol of the relationship with the sea, and, maybe anchoring in faith, emotional relations. Because a ship throws an anchor in a chosen place, it is a sign that it wants to stay. On the right side there are stations of the road of the cross. Lost among bushes meadows and paths….We are reaching to a glade with a bread furnace in which bread is baked and we are talking about the Eucharist. Next – a larch forest of Katyń. There are a lot of crosses here which are stuck in the ground, and are ordinary, wooden, lopsided, whipped by wind and blackened. There are keys on them, whole bunches of keys – various kinds of them, as well as such big – for doors which do not exist any longer. Keys to Heaven – as if those who have passed the threshold, hang them on the crosses…..As if everyone had their own key in this thicket.
And above heads, in the high gray sky – buzzards. Hung on the horizon, vigilant and strained black shapes of birds, immediately bending into feather balls peaking towards the ground.
Incurable like love
Fr. Jan wrote one day that when he started having papal illness, he did not know that it was an incurable illness. More precisely speaking, the topography of the object is the following: kitchen downstairs and an open space used for meals and meetings. We are going up on narrow stairs. We are being accompanied by the landscape all the time – it is looking from big glass surfaces, as if we could not lose the sight of its beauty.
I recall a sentence of Fr. Jan from my memory: – Each meeting with the Holy Father ended with some gifts. And later I asked and received….a cassock, chasuble, pallium, shoes, signed book, a trifles….I have collected a lot of them for years, so after the death of the Holy Father I built a House of John Paul II near Lednica where I placed all these souvenirs in order to show them to others.
The museum closes us gently in a space which create the light and colour. The sun reflects in glass showcases in a matt way. Fr. Jan grabs the first object. – It is my antennae to Heaven – he says. We get to know the shape of the hand, hidden in the big hand of Fr. Jan. The cast of the papal hand. The noble male hand with a clear texture of the human skin.
Fr. Góra leads us through this circle of the light, telling us a story about each shown object. Trifles and objects of big sizes – the cassock of John Paul II, the crucifix, which John Paul II sent to Lednica. Another crucifix, also the papal gift – this time from Lithuanian oaks. Rosary from Benedict XVI. A small case for the Holy hosts. Surely from Jasna Góra Pauline Fathers because our Pope always received the Holy hosts from them. Oars with dedication written in an even hand-writing of the Blessed and cardinal’s wellingtons from the times in Cracow.
Now there are objects particularly important for Fr. Jan. The ones which he received from the Blessed personally – various trifles, emotionally moving in their ordinariness: shoes, towel, walking stick, leather case in which Fr. Dziwisz carried papal speeches, a fountain pen, pallium and scapular, breviary, holy hassock because John Paul II kneeled on it for years, a statuette in which a strand of gray hair of the Holy Father was closed, a gift from br. Marian who took the Metropolitan of Cracow to a barber. – And my letters to Pope, chasuble which I got from him. A guitar which he sanctified for me.
It happened that the Pope passed gifts to Fr. Góra which he had received. In this way they do not get dusty in Vatican treasury rooms, but they get new life, somewhere…for example, at Lednica. A big rosary from coconuts, a sculpture of woman’s hands protecting an olive lamp – a gift of Polish women, a snuff-box from the Kashubs, a saber from the defence minister, a papal armchair from the marshal Płażyński, a figure of Baby Jesus from the last Christmas. A monstrance with amber which John Paul II got from prelate priest Jankowski and gave to Lednica.
Here one can sit for hours – says Fr. Jan. Each thing, object, ether a work of art or a simple object, golden or wooden has its own story. It has a dimension of holiness.
A recipe of Fr. Jan
Wind is carrying rain drops from the lake. – My dream is that Lednica would have something from the Polish mansion. A widely-open gate, welcoming, like in ‘Mr. Tadeusz’. So that everyone would feel welcomed here – says Fr. Jan and leads us into the kitchen in order to cook dinner for us. By himself! – I love making meals for people and see how they eat – he says smiling.
We do not treat vegetables gently. We chop onions with large knives. Moreover a piece of a sausage. A lot of garlic which cannot be crushed. – It must be left in its coating – I hear – only then will it give its aroma and inside the pulp will remain, melting in the mouth like grilled cheese.
We pack all this chopped riches to a good pot with a thick bottom. And we do not regret spices: oregano, black pepper and red pepper. With handfuls. Let the surrounding smell with it, let the aroma get into food. We mix and talk.
– And it is surprising that it has already been 18 years. – says Fr. Jan – Lednica was God’s coercion….I was sitting on Jamna. Happy till a letter from the prior from Poznań came, who wrote: ‘It is necessary to introduce pastoral ministry in Poznań! You have failed to do it! – he fulminated. Immediately I returned and was looking for a form for the pastoral ministry. I was looking for a place. People were saying: ‘Father, please to not look for it, but pray for this intention’. They were saying wisely. We were offered 5 palaces, but all this had a character of the times of the Polish People’s Republic. I was looking for space, wind, sky over the head…something like that. Michał Wojtczak, a minister at that time, says to me: ‘There is a field at the shores of the lake of Lednica. Buy it. I do not like you, Father, but buy the field….’. I arrived, looked at those headlands of beet and I felt nothing. Zero of metaphysics. I recalled myself that in ‘Tertio Millennio Adveniente’ the Pope calls to build gates. And this field needed a gate. Intersections of the space -Fr. Jan Góra points to the wide landscape, to tangled thicket, fawning to a low shore of the lake. – A fish, because a different ‘sign will not be given to them than the sign of Jonah’ (see Luke 11.29). I insisted on this fish. John Paul II wrote to me that I was crazy but it was a good craziness.
Lednica does not sleep
Dinner ready. We sit at a wooden table on wooden stable benches. Under our feet there are panels, and they are not fake….We look at the immensity of Lednica. Fr. Jan says: – The community is the basis, fundament. It gives the beginning to everything…
It also gave the beginning to the phenomenon of Lednica. It is getting more and more powerful year by year. More and more young people arrive in Lednica on the first Saturday of June. About 100 thousand of them for many years. A throng of the young, whom nobody controls because there are not any riots, alcohol or any scandals…There is a thrilling mystery, there is music, dance, a new thought every year, but woven in the style of Lednica. – Lednica does not sleep in order to wake up at this one summer night – Fr. Góra wants Lednica not to be treated as a kind of action. Today it is an institution. For the whole year and multi-threaded. Certainly, the main event here is the night of Pentecost. But, besides that, we have senior Lednica, baby Lednica and even Lednica of motorcyclists. There is a movement of Lednica, there are ambassadors of Lednica. Finally, there are people who come here for retreats in the whole year. It is for them that the House of Meeting, Museum of John Paul II are growing on the fields of Lednica and there are plans for – the House of John Paul II. Lednica has always had a style and momentum – time did not deprive it of what is the most valuable – skills of attracting people.