AN INFANT FROM BETHLEHEM

AGNIESZKA BUGAŁA

When a baby is born in a family, the rumors are going quickly. Grandmas and grandpas want to see their grandchild, closer and further aunts are phoning to congratulate – there are loads of phone calls, the first photos are sent via mails and there are continuous delights. When the baby was being born in Bethlehem, it was very quiet and cold. Nobody announced this news to neighbours. A donkey in the stable bent down its head very low – it did not dare to look up at the Almighty. St. Joseph was stroking his wife on her cheek and was looking at the One whom God’s Mother was cuddling. The whole Heaven was shaking from emotions and fear: the Creator descended onto the land from Heaven and is sleeping in his Mother’s arms…. Isn’t it incredible?

We got used to Christmas – a Christmas tree, presents, wishes and the Holy Mass at midnight. We got used to the white wafer. Even a prayer before the Eve supper can be only a traditional gesture, the Gospel can appear on the same level as a traditional empty plate.

‘I became human by love…’

Hurrying because of Christmas, we may not hear crying Jesus in Mother’s arms…But in Bethlehem everything happened in real. And everything that happened is beyond the human understanding. God, the Creator, decides to take on the human body. And he is born naked, defenceless and unable to speak. Completely dependent on people. Dependent on them like every baby. ‘Jesus – a Baby from love, became unable to say what His heart is suffering. Sweetness and cheerfulness are reflected on His infant’s face. He let shepherds take Him in their arms, bestows the sages with a smile and is looking at them with love’ – Jesus says about himself to s. Leonia Nastał in 1935 in Poznań preparing her for discovery of the first stage of his presence on earth as a human.

Infancy of Jesus is not only a clay little figure under a straw thatch of a nativity scene. This is Divinity – the same as on Calvary, on the Cross and in the golden monstrance. The baby from Bethlehem can be adored in an identical way, with the same quietness of heart with which we kneel in front of Eucharistic Jesus on the altar. And with the same sensitive delicacy with which we are delighted by a little human baby. ‘Is there life on earth allegedly more passive than life of Jesus in Eucharist? However, this is the most essential life. If you enter the road of infancy, you will become similar to Jesus in the Host – to Divine Infancy in the small cradle’ – Jesus told s. Leonia.

Infancy of Jesus as a road for the soul

‘Go to baby Jesus… - God asked through s. Leonia. – I am for you all the time…He really wanted us to discover His Divinity in the body of the little baby whom he had decided to be, risking everything. ‘I want you to love my infancy in a particular way. Every stage of my life has got an infinite Divine value. The same Jesus is in the Father’s Glory eternally – the same who is wailing in the Bethlehem cradle as a baby, the same Jesus teaches, dies, rises from the dead and lives glorious and sacramental life.

My Servant, Theresa of Baby Jesus, came to perfection via a road of spiritual infancy. Take one step up or descend by one step down, to spiritual infancy – Jesus asked. – Leonio, spiritual infancy is not sleeping for more than 24 hours, like the human baby does it, but is gaining supernatural qualities through grace which are natural in an infant. On the face of an infant there are no features of dishonesty. And the soul – the spiritual infant is to be honest to God, others, to oneself. Whenever you are looking at my eyes, when I am looking at you as an infant, know, that I am looking at you with the same eyes with which I am looking at you from the cross. Adore crucified Jesus in the Infant, love the Infant in crucified Jesus. I will always accept you worships with love’.

On knees in a stable

In 1938 at Christmas Jesus invited s. Leonia Nasta to a stable the place of his birth. ‘It was neatly cleaned – Leonia wrote in her ‘Spiritual Diary’ – St. Joseph was sleeping and Mary was kneeling delighted by love’. Leonia was looking at Her with growing joy and thought: you are happy, happier than other mothers on earth, queens and princesses although they live in palaces, whereas you, in a stable, among the cattle. There appeared a question in her heart: ‘So, is the stable for Your Majesty at the moment of your birth? Oh, how much I would like to give you a gold cradle, the most beautiful place, the most comfortable cradle. Jesus cried….I saw that the Divine Baby was aware that he had deliberately chosen the stable for his birth. I moved closer on my knees to Jesus, kissed his feet and hands – beautiful, plump and extremely nice’.

It is a recording from the time when s. Leonia had already entered the road of mystical prayer. And what was earlier? And why did God invite just s. Leonia to the stable? Why did He reveal her the mystery of his infancy?

Family house in Stara Wieś

S. Leonia Maria Nastał was born on 8 November 1903 in Stara Wieś in Podkarpacie. Next day she was baptized in the parish church dedicated to the Assumption of Blessed Mary the Virgin. Her parents, Katarzyna and Franciszek moved to the house of the Nastał family after their wedding, and could not make the ends meet. Poverty was terrible, so soon after the birth of his daughter, Franciszek emigrated to the USA to find work and was abroad for 18 years. Katarzyna kept house and brought up their two little daughters on her own. The house was away from the church by 3 kilometres (when Franciszek returned, they moved to a house nearer to the church), but Katarzyna used to go to the Holy Mass quite frequently. She was very religious and brought up their daughters in this spirit. Maria had wanted to join convent since her early childhood. In an orphanage next to the church run by Sisters Servants, she was once asked what she wanted to be. ‘A nun’ – she answered.

I am waiting to be with you

But it was not simple. In 1919, when she finished the sixth year, she made her request to join to Convent of the Sisters the Servants in Stara Wieś and was accepted but her father definitely opposed to it. Maria was 16 then. She was a member of Sodality of Our Lady for Girls and took private lessons from a teacher in Brzozów. She wrote the first theatrical compositions which came out of her fountain pen nearly till the end of her life – nativity plays, sketches, speeches and little spectacles. She made the first chastity vow and in 1921 she scorched the name Jesus on her breasts with a red-hot nail. She prayed more and more and missed life in the convent more and more. But her father was adamant. He told her that if she wanted to live like a nun, she could – he would give her a separate room – but she was not allowed to join the convent.

‘Baby Jesus, being omniscience, knew about everything. He could – like God – give far wiser commands than St. Joseph or Mother the Immaculate but He was obedient to them’. Maria also succumbed to her father’s will. In the attic she made a small chapel where she used to pray. She used to kneel on a stone, avoiding comfort.

‘Your heart will not endure too much love…’

Maria was praying fervently, asking Jesus for a miracle of changing her father’s heart and was waiting. And here an incredible thing happened. In 1922 the fifth child was born in the Nastałowie family (two children died in their infancy) – Staś. Her father was so happy about his son’s birth that it was much easier for him to accept his daughter’s returning question about her joining the convent. Finally, unexpectedly, he agreed and on 31 December 1925 Maria joined the Convent of Sisters Servant of Blessed Mary the Virgin in Stara Wieś. In spring next year she took on the convent robe and the name Leona. Since then, till the year 1940, she was a sister the servant of Stara Wieś – full of prayer, hardworking, obedient, but, first of all, in love with Jesus. She was a nun for nearly 14 years (from 31 December 1925 to 10 January 1940), but already from the year 1935 from the order of Jesus and with permission of her confessor – Fr. Kazimierz Schmelzer, she was writing down her spiritual experiences and talks with God. ‘A spiritual diary’ was made out of her notes, which consisted of 8 notebooks, that is, even 702 pages of a manuscript in total. It is a manuscript of Jesus’ confidences, His hints, requests and tender nostalgia for a human full of love. Some investigators say that the ‘Spiritual Diary’ of s. Leonia is a dialogue similar to the one which s. Faustyna had had with Jesus. He revealed the image of his mercy to Faustyna, and he led Leonia to the mystery of infancy. ‘Leonia, I will reveal you a piece of Heaven, so that you would reconstruct it in your diary, and give many souls the image of happiness of the soul united with God in love and through love’ – said Jesus.

How did s. Leonia appear?

At home she was called Maria, in the convent she took on the name Leonia, but Jesus spoke to her: ‘My dear Leonia…’. In her ‘Spiritual Diary’ Jesus uses the form Leonia and hence, the members of the Cognitive Process Tribunal decided to introduce this change. So, Leonia is the name which Jesus chose for his bride himself.

‘I believed Love…’

In the first sentences of the ‘Spiritual Diary’ she wrote: ‘The fact that God loves me, was expressed to me by my beloved mother, who, returning from the church, used to give me her mother’s kiss on my mouth, saying that she had received the Holy Communion and Jesus wanted to tell me through her that he loves me. All kinds of creations told me that God loves me. The rising or setting sun; clouds full of secret darkness or starry nights were whispering my soul that I am loved by God who enlightens and dims the sun for me, and when I am sleeping, He guards me and is counting the pulse of my heart.

Stairs of the house of s. Leonia are low, one can sit down on them comfortably and look at a big meadow behind the fence. On the left one can see towers of the church, on the right – small houses of neighbours. Yellow spots of a stork on bent legs is wading on the grass. Years have passed but nothing has changed. Sitting on the stairs of her house, one can hear and see that God loves us. And believe Love…

Leonia tells souls who are fearful and unsure that it is easy to catch Jesus as he became a bond of love. However, souls should not treat me as a prisoner but as their king, because I am the King, indeed. I wish they let me live in them in the royal way.

Leonia was a saint

She died on 10 January 1940 but at once she was surrounded by the cult from other sisters and inhabitants of Stara Wieś. The request to begin the beatification process was submitted in 1969. On 1 December 2016 Pope Francis recommended the Congregation for Canonization to publish a decree about heroism of virtues of the God’s servant s. Leonia Nastał. Only the acknowledgment of a miracle through her intercession is needed for beatification. And there are more and more testimonies about her interventions. S. Elżbieta Korobij, the author of Positio, presents a story about a boy from Jabłonka who started suffering from kidney tumour in 2003. His treatment was carried out carefully but the boy was still in fever and needed blood transfusion. The situation did not look good. At the same time the boy’s grandma went to the indulgence of Assumption of Blessed Mary the Virgin in Stara Wieś. She ordered the Holy Mass for her grandson and was going to return home, but on the square near the church she met the sisters Servants.

It was the jubilee year of the 100th anniversary of the birth of s. Leonia, the sisters were giving away pictures and leaflets with information about her. The grandma got pictures with a photo of s. Leonia and a prayer through her intercession. Having returned home, she gave it to her daughter who, driven by an impulse, began praying for her son’s health, entrusting him to s. Leonia. She could not go to hospital at once – as 2 months earlier she had given birth to her second child, in hospital the sick boy was under care of his dad – on Sunday 17 August she took the picture to hospital and gave it to her husband.

Leonia, help us, please…

Sunday was another difficult day, the boy was still in fever. His despaired dad put the picture of s. Leonia on his dad’s forehead and asked: Leonia, help us, please…. Probably he fell asleep when looking after his son. At midnight he woke up terrified that his son was still in fever. He checked temperature – it was good. On Monday his son Michał was released home for a few days. At that time nobody associated the event with intervention of s. Leonia. After 4 cycles of chemotherapy turmoil got so small that it was possible to make an operation. Everything went properly but chemotherapy was to be renewed at once. The problem was the pain of the post-operation wound. The boy was suffering a lot, and medications did not help.

Turned into dust…

It is years since the ground from the grave of s. Leonia Nastał has been worshipped in Stara Wieś. Buried on the graveyard there after her death, on 15 March she was exhumed and the body was taken to the crypt of the general house of the sisters the servants. The ground from her grave is treated as a symbol of particular presence of s. Leonia. Sisters, taking care of the crypt, go out to the desires of pilgrims and prepare small amounts of the ground, putting it into small bags. Everyone who visits the house in Stara Wieś can take this bag with him.

‘She visited me…’

During the long illness of the boy Michał, his family visited the General House of the sisters, his parents were praying at the crypt of s. Leonia, took the bags with the ground and when pain was so strong after the operation, that Michał could not stand it, his father took out the bag with the ground and put it on the boys belly, saying: this is the ground from the grave of s. Leonia, Leonia will help you. Since then the boy had had the bag in his pyjamas pocket all the time. When he felt pain, he called: Ground! On the third day after the operation he started walking. What is interesting, during the chemic-therapy the boy did not lose his hair. The story about the boy’s treatment from kidney cancer is not typical to be acknowledged as a miracle, because this type of neoplasm is in 80 percent curable. In order to be able to talk about the miracle through the intercession of s. Leonia in the process, we must get to know the case of her intervention, when the illness is known in 100 per cent as incurable. The boy’s family believe, however, that it was s. Leonia, who brought recovery from cancer through her prayer. They are convinced by the fact that when Michał returned home and saw the picture of s. Leonia in a frame, he called: I know her! But how? – his parents asked. She visited me….When? It is not known. Maybe when his dad fell asleep from tiredness at the bed in hospital, while Michał was suffering from fever.

S. Leonia a patron of those who want a baby

At the crypt of s. Leonia a lot of couples were praying to have a baby. After some time they return to thank for the miracle of conception and birth. Infancy of Jesus, by which s. Leonia was delighted all her life, fruits in births of other babies.

‘I wish I did everything in such a way so that nobody would knew only You…’ she was whispering Jesus for years. And the baby from Bethlehem accepted her desire. And it may be so, that we will never hear about a miracle through her intercession unless God frees Leonia from this humble desire. Because only He will know it….and babies do not tell anyone anything, do they?

AA

„Niedziela” 52/2016

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Lidia Dudkiewicz • Translation: Aneta Amrozik • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl