THEY KNOW WHY THEY ARE GOING
Nowhere else do people make pilgrimages so willingly and numerously, like in Poland. Professors and workers, farmers and employees of corporations, the young and the old, children under their mothers’ hearts and multi-generation families make pilgrimages. Therefore it is said that pilgrimages are Polish special, national phenomenon
Every year Jasna Góra experiences a real siege. Millions of pilgrims come to Mary here, who want to stay here, at home of Jasna Góra Mother, for at least a while. In the sea of human hearts surrounding Our Lady of Częstochowa, pilgrims have a particular place, who arrive here on foot from all over Poland. According to the Press Office of Jasna Góra, every year about 125 thousand people participate in foot pilgrimages. Pilgrims from Szczecin or Hel, places the most distanced from Częstochowa, go over 600 km on foot.
Church on the way
The documented tradition of pilgrimages at Jasna Góra is over 400 years old. According to the notes in chronicles, the oldest pilgrimage set off in September 1626 from Gliwice. Pilgrims went to Częstochowa to thank Our Lady for saving the city from Dutch armies during the 30-year-old war. 11 years later pilgrims from Kalisz set off and they got famous for going on foot both ways: to Jasna Góra and when returning their home. In the mid of the 17th century believers from Łowicz set off on a pilgrimage and a half century later – in 1711 – inhabitants of Warsaw. Although the difficult history of our homeland, with partitions, wars and communist captivity did not favour pilgrimages, Poles never stopped making pilgrimages to Mother, in whose arms they have always found conciliation and strengthening. A real development of foot pilgrimages was at the end of the 70s and the beginning of the 80s of the 20th century. The election of John Paul II for the Holy See helped Poles break the barrier of fear and gave a thousand of people courage of public testifying their faith. The Pope who trusted Mary infinitely, indicated his compatriots the most certain way to Christ: with Mary and through Mary. Since that time pilgrims from Przemyśl and Wrocław, Nowy Targ and Koszalin have been making pilgrimages on the roads which lead to the spiritual capital of Poland where – as St. John Paul II used to say – ‘in the Heart of Mother the heart of Church and the heart of Homeland is beating’.
On the route like at home
Retreats experienced on the way, full of prayer and meetings with lots of sisters and brothers being in an alive relation with God, allow pilgrims ‘to charge spiritual batteries’, give them strength to walk on the way of God’s commandments among complicated paths of everyday life, are an occasion to receive many graces for oneself and one’s relatives through a prayer.
A Pilgrimage is my second home – says Fr. MIrosław Ładniak, a guide of the Foot Pilgrimage from Lublin to Jasna Góra. This year it is the 36th time he has set off on a pilgrimage. – My whole spirituality and my whole life are marked with the stages of a pilgrimage during which I match prayer with effort. On a pilgrimage I get to know myself; I experience that life without suffering or difficulties is impossible but I am learning how to overcome them, how to carry my cross on my shoulders and not to be lonely, but carry it with Christ. This is my road – the priest emphasizes.
God is leading
It is said similarly by laymen. Some of them thank for receiving grace, others are asking for strength for their further life, for advice and intercession of Our Lady in difficult and complicated matters for themselves and their families. Halina from Chełm went on a pilgrimage for the first time last year.
I have always wanted to make a pilgrimage but I could not for various reasons. Now I am retired and went on a pilgrimage to thank Our Lady that I had been able to work luckily till my retirement. For all graces with which I and my family have been gifted by Mary for so many years – says the woman and she emphasizes that every time is good to make a pilgrimage. Zygmunt from Sawin is not afraid of pilgrimage difficulties – he has been on foot pilgrimages to Jasna Góra 8 times, in order to thank for his family, wife and children whom he loves a lot. Young people, children under their mothers’ hearts, whole families, and seniors make pilgrimages to the One who is the best Mother of all. – God is leading everybody – says Fr. Ładniak, who was the most surprised by a woman from Częstochowa participating in a pilgrimage. She went to the east of Poland to make a pilgrimage to Jasna Góra, whose towers she sees from her window every day.
Joy about faith
A pilgrim is a joyful man. – This is surprising that despite the difficulty of pilgrimage and various weather, a pilgrim is always happy – says Dorota Choma, a radio and TV journalist. It is 18 years since she has been accompanying pilgrims, first as a pilgrim and later as a reporter. – Pilgrims know where they are going, regardless of their age or the pilgrimage years. They are not people who set off to survive the weather but to share their joy about faith with others. They are patient, helpful, friendly, engaged, able to listen; retreats on the way are their conscious choice – she emphasizes.
The sign of the world
Pilgrims often emphasize that although they have various motives for a pilgrimage, they are united with the common way to Jesus and His Mother. For inhabitants of small villages and towns they are a sign of a different God’s world. – Those who have tried to make a pilgrimage, experience unusual Passover on the way. This is overcoming themselves their egoism and drawbacks – says bishop Mieczysław Cisło. – The beauty of pilgrimages is the community of faith and solidarity of spirit. Pilgrims are going not only for themselves but also for others – those with whom they are going and those who give them accommodation and share a slice of bread and a mug of water with them. They are going to give a testimony to the world – says the auxiliary bishop of the dioceses of Lublin.