The cross of victory
Fr Ireneusz Skubis
Stanislaw Trafalski from the village of Stefkowa in the Bieszczady Mountains offered this cross to his wife after she was wheelchair ridden (she fell down from the window). Trafalski, a sculptor, made this cross for his wife so that she could adore it and ask God for patience. It happened so that their parish group was going to Rome, to the Holy Father. People had little time to find a worthy present for John Paul II. Then Janina decided that her husband should give her cross to the Holy Father. Receiving the cross the Pope, as the witnesses said, looked at it for a long time – undoubtedly, the cross must have had some special expression.
In 2005 the Way of the Cross was celebrated at the Coliseum. Tired by his disease the Holy Father wanted to participate in this service, holding a crucifix in his hands. His chaplain, Fr Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, following the request of Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz took the crucifix from the wall of his apartment (since it was placed there later) and brought it for the Pope. The Holy Father embraced this cross with great love, which was photographed by Arturo Mari. Archbishop Mokrzycki told me, ‘The crucifix was given to the Holy Father during the Sunday audience, during the meetings with the groups from Poland. It was in his private library. John Paul II used to give away all his presents. Then I had no crucifix in my apartment so I asked the Holy Father to give me the crucifix that was presented to him. It was a very simple crucifix but very valuable since it was brought from Poland. I hung it above the bed in my bedroom and it has been in my apartment for many years. When the Holy Father decided to celebrate the Way of the Cross in his private chapel on Good Friday in 2005 he indicated that he would like to hold a crucifix in his hands. Then Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz told me, «Mieciu, bring the crucifix from your bedroom.» I ran to my bedroom and brought the crucifix.
Nowadays this crucifix has been adored and venerated by many people in Poland. Especially priests take it for adoration during meetings with young people. It is a great symbol – sign of suffering and unity with our Holy Father, the Servant of God John Paul II. It reminds all people of his personality immersed in prayer and suffering, embracing this crucifix with great love on Good Friday as if identifying himself with Christ carrying the cross, praying for the whole Church that was entrusted to him as St Peter’s successor.
The crucifix is placed in St Nicholas’ parish in Krzaczkowa (the Archdiocese of Przemysl), the parish priest being Fr Mieczyslaw Pizior. He co-ordinates the dates of the priests’ requests. I rejoice that this crucifix still draws people to Christ. I trust that accompanied by so many prayers it will strengthen the faith of young people and other believers in our metropolitan in Ukraine.’
We call it the Cross of Victory. It was victory for the Holy Father who – as we can see on his photos from that memorable Way of the Cross – embraced it showing the highest worship and love, and the Holy Father who holding this crucifix conquered his human powerlessness, helplessness and physical absence. And it also meant victory for Janina Trafalska, who experienced great suffering. Thanks to it she could understand her situation, accept God’s will and use her suffering as best as she could. This crucifix is exceptional and certainly, it will pass through various hands, bringing people victory. Since only the cross of Lord Jesus has such power.
One should get to know the symbolism of the cross. One must learn the language of the cross. During his stay in Krakow the Holy Father often meditated on the mysteries of the suffering Christ in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska. He was a great worshipper and admirer of the cross. That’s why the cross in his hands was a big and meaningful sign for all of us. However, we know that Christ’s cross evokes controversies and protests today. There are environments that fight against the cross. But we know that the cross is a picture of the greatest love and protests occur because it is demanding and consistent love. But it is also promising love as the old Lenten song says, ‘the one that discovers the meaning of the cross will not fall.’
No wonder that people defend this holy sign of Christianity so much. We can see numerous places in the world where Christians defend the cross, facing repressions, persecutions and even death. Since paradoxically, the cross of Christ shows death and at the same time it shows man’s victory – victory over human weakness and sin, over what kills human being in us. And one cannot understand man without the cross.
During Lent, when we devoted so much time to the worship of the cross in our lives, we would like to ask our Readers to look at the crucifixes in our homes. Perhaps we should clean them, put in some worthier places, show more respect and love…
On this occasion it may be worth asking about the signs of our religious adherence – about a small crucifix or neck-worn medal, about other signs of that type that we have on us. We need them because they remind us of God’s presence and direct our attention to the commandment, ‘You will love your God…’
Thinking about it let us accept the medal of St Benedict, which we insert into ‘Niedziela’ next week. May it be a sign that we are faithful to the Crucified and Resurrected Christ.