TROT, SOMETIMES SLIGHT RUNNING
After 90 days of a pilgrimage, the painting of Merciful Jesus got from Łódź to Rome. It was taken there with a special cart by Pilgrims of Mercifulness, most of whom are former prisoners, supported by a monk from Łódź
When they set off in April – with an intention of a prayer for persecuted Christians, for peace in the world and faithfulness to the Gospel – they knew that it would not be easy, but hard. They were fighting their own weaknesses and also with the 300-kilo cart on which they were transporting the big painting.
And the last Italian part of their road, when they might think it would be easier, brought them a lot of difficulty. – It was the most difficult. They ran out of strength, thought it would be the end soon, would take rest, it would be easier, but it was not so. – We were still to overcome the mountains, sweltering heat and defects of the cart – says Roman Zięba, one of the Pilgrims of Divine Mercifulness – this is the name of their group.
At the grave of a poor man
They were reaching Assisi when the temperature was 35 degrees in a shadow. They were shown round the monastery and given accommodation by Fr. Ryszard. ‘We take off shoes going to the chapel with the grave of St. Francis. Tomorrow is the Holy Mass for us with the painting of Jesus at the grave of Poverello ( A poor man). Grace has much power, although it is very gentle – they reported on the website: www.idzieclowiek.pl
After Assisi there was the most dangerous part of their road: three tunnels. They went through them with much fear and prayers. They had omitted such places before; once they were hauled through technical tunnels by workers of a quarry. Here it was not possible. Terrible bang, honking trucks, nobody wants to drive behind them, and they move forward, not knowing what is ahead.
- I have never said so many ‘Hail Mary’ in my life, and one of my colleagues thought he would not come back to his children. We managed to do it, feeling that we are being led and protected – said Roman Zięba. Our accommodation was at churches, sometimes in the open air. Once they were driven away from a deserted barn. At night they had to wake up and went to sleep in their sleeping bags somewhere else.
A prayer with legs
One does not walk with a cart like in a pilgrimage. It was a trot, sometimes jogging. One moment of lack of attention, loosened shoe laces, and one had to run after the cart. – The pace was very quick and was forced out by the cart – says Fr. Grzegorz Piórkowski, a Franciscan from Łódź accompanying the pilgrims. He was pushing the cart on the whole Italian part of the road, and also in Poland, Slovakia and Croatia. These were retreats on the road for him. – God shows that it is not enough to pray only with one’s heart or mouth – one also needs a form of penance and fasting. Pilgrimage is a prayer with legs – he says. – I have got a lot to thank and ask God for. I have been a priest for 20 years, but I still experience my conversion.
He also had a difficult past, and experienced his conversion before joining the religious order. – My purpose and idea of the pilgrimage were similar. We created a pilgrimage family - says the Franciscan. – The group of determined men with strong, various character, supporting one another in the name of Jesus. This is simply a phenomenon – this is how he describes the family.
Like in a sheepskin coat
Fr. Grzegorz felt as if he was wearing a sheepskin coat. Despite the heat, he was wearing a cassock. – I felt such a need, thanking God that I am a priest, I also wanted to give a testimony. I knew that it strengthened my colleagues – he says. When passers-by saw the monk, they knew that these are not eccentric tourists with their idea fixe but that there is also the Church in it.
People who helped them, gave them accommodation, food, and also received a lot from them – says Leszek Podolecki, the founder of the Charity Institute named St. Brother Albert, a mentor of pilgrims. – Pilgrimage brings blessed fruit, not only to pilgrims but also the whole Church. After all, they were walking in important intentions – he says. People were crying, praying, and the pilgrims were making evangelization.
Tiredness is devotion to God, and goes to the great treasury of the Church and what they do is given to the whole Church. – They had pilgrimage and individual experiences. In a group, in which there are various kinds of character, the scale of difficulty is still growing – says Podolecki. – When they had to fight against their character, weaknesses, etc. they were making evangelization among one another. These were them who got changed the most and they took a lot advantage of it, but also the Church took advantage of it.
How to treat sinners
There were some strained situations during the pilgrimages. When one walks with five people, one confronts with new situations and it is necessary to elaborate harmony. As Roman Zięba says, each of them had a moment when he wanted to give up the pilgrimage, was fed up with it – physically and psychically. – We have various kinds of character and in tiredness, tension, differences appear in a double way – he says. – In the end of the day we forgave one another. And then we woke up next morning and our road opened anew.
They were walking to Rome along the route of Franciscans’ churches. Assisi, Spoleto and Rieti, Fonte Colombo. In the last one, where St. Francis wrote a Rule, they had Holy Mass and discovered the thought of the poor man anew. – In one of texts which we received there is a teaching how to treat our brothers sinners. We referred it to the life history of each of us – says Zięba.
When technical problems appeared near Rome – one of cart wheels broke down – they sat down frustrated. But when Fr. Grzegorz took the guitar, played it and sang, they felt that Jesus, present in the painting, was with them. They felt that everything was fine, and even if there are technical problems, the pilgrimage is reaching its destination.
‘ We are looking for a tire. Heat. 3 days to get to Rome: today, with the tied tire we got to the monastery of the Capuchins. Two Franciscans – Poles – helped us – they reported on Internet. – We placed the picture outside a supermarket in order to take rest in a shadow. People started bringing us water and food, so we played the guitar and sang them: ‘Today Jesus has come to me…’
Pilgrims under care
They did not go to Rome immediately, but stopped on the peripheries, in the monastery of the Polish Pauline Fathers. They explained them how to get to the Square of St. Peter. And they led them to Vatican. – without a special consent, we would not have been able to get there with the cart. The Pauline Fathers led us, explaining that the cart is the part of their mission and that the pilgrims were under their care – says Zięba.
It was how they got to the grave of St. John Paul II in the Basilica of St. Peter. The picture was placed there (it was not easy, and the Pauline Fathers and the Carmelites helped them in it) and there was a prayer. From there the painting was taken to the basilica of St. Pankracy built on tombs of martyrs of the first centuries of Christianity – Zofia and her daughters, the central place of celebrations of White Sunday in Rome – the first Sunday after Easter.
There was not the awaited meeting with pope Francis during which they were to give the painting to the pope. The painting is under care of Polish Carmelites at St. Pancracy basilica. – The Carmelites will try to give the painting to the Pope. But maybe it will remain there for ever – says Podolecki who went to the pilgrims in Rome.