FROM THE HOLY SEPULCHER TO APOSTOLIC SEPULCHERS
On the occasion of the Year of Faith, being experienced in the Church, and the jubilee of the 850th anniversary of bringing Canons of the Holy Sepulcher from the Holy Land to Poland, and building the ‘Polish Jerusalem’ in Miechów – on 12-16 September 2013, there was a pilgrimage of the Polish Order of the Holy Sepulcher to the Eternal City.
On the threshold of the house
The pilgrimage started on 12 September with the Holy Mass in the chapel of the Polish House at via Cassia 1200 in Rome, which was presided over and whose sermon was preached by prelate priest Jerzy Bielecki, a church ceremony master of the Polish Order of the Holy Sepulcher, and also an initiator of this meeting of prayer. The participants of the liturgy were praying for the late prelate priest Jerzy Gredka, a member of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher, a pastor and custodian of the basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Miechów, whose funeral took place just on that day in the ‘Polish Jerusalem’. Prelate priest Mieczysław Niepsuj, a director of the Polish House, presented the members of the Holy Sepulcher Order a history of this place on the Italian land, important for Poles, and sister Remigia, a nun of the Blessed Heart of Jesus Convent, presented the activity of the Documentation Centre and Pontificate Studium of John Paul II to the guests, which has its headquarters there. She showed the guests round the museum, where gifts were gathered, which pilgrims gave to John Paul II. How surprised the hosts and guests were, when Krystyna Głowniak from Lublin, a participant of the pilgrimage, during visiting the Polish House, unexpectedly noticed her picture with the saints of Kosma and Damian on the wall of painting collection. The picture had been given to John Paul II by pharmacists. After a while, prelate priest Andrzej Raszpla, a member of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher, found the sculpture which he and his parishioners gave to the Holy Father. And exhibits of this museum are still surprising. For example, one can fall in prayer reflections over the image of Our Lady, the witness of the assassination against John Paul II, which took place on 13 May 1981. One can see a helmet of a heroic fireman Stanisław Trojanowski, who was rescuing people after the assassination on the towers World Trade Centre in New York on 11 September 2001.
They arrived for indulgences of the Year of Faith
The Polish Order of the Holy Sepulcher joined the big group of 3.5 thousand members of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, who arrived in Rome from the whole world in order to receive indulgences of the Year of Faith, praying at the sepulcher of the Saint Apostles in papal intentions and in the most important matters of the community, and, first of all, for peace. So, the big representation, being over 10 percent of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher, numbering about 30 thousand people now, visited papal basilicas and the main churches of Rome, participating in solemn celebrations, inscribed in the program of celebrations of the Year of Faith. The pilgrimage was preceded by the convent consultation. Its findings were presented by ‘Niedziela’ in the edition 37/2013. The Eucharist celebrated for the Order of the Holy Sepulcher in particular papal basilicas, was presided over by the great master of the Order cardinal Edwin Frederick O’Brien. During the Liturgy in the Basilica of St. Paul behind the Walls, there was the international investiture. The convent accepted among the others, candidates from Brazil, and one of them, 35-year-old knight, was appointed a superior of the third superiority of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher in this Southern-American country and he participated in accepting other new members. This is a sign that the Order invites younger and younger people to join it.
The Order of the Holy Sepulcher, going in a pilgrimage to the Eternal City, listened to a concert of sacral music in the Basilica of St. John in Lateran, preceding the prayer of the community. They carefully watched the state of the basilica, remembering that it had seriously been damaged when a mafia bomb exploded there, in the revenge act after the visit of John Paul II in Sicilia in 1993. At that time, in Agrigento, the Polish Pope called members of the mafia to convert, saying that the Day of the Divine Judgment would come also to them. The answer to it, was just planting the bomb under the Basilica of St. John in Lateran.
In the Basilica of Our Lady the Major, the Order of the Holy Sepulcher visited Mary worshipped as ‘SalusPopuli Romani’ (Savior of the Roman people), to whom, as we remember, pope Francis went to with a bouquet of flowers after his election for the Holy See, and after the Brazilian pilgrimage he gave Mary a football as a gift, which he had received from footballers in Rio de Janeiro. This time, the prayer was said by the Order of the Holy Sepulcher to Our Lady in the Polish language.
The Order of the Holy Sepulcher arrived at all celebrations and meetings in their solemn garments of the Order, which raised great interest, especially during the ingress to the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican. In the procession, one could see beautiful young ladies, looking like princesses and handsome knights, and also – elderly people, even in wheelchairs.
Visiting relics – signs of Lord’s Passion
On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, which is the patron feast of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, its members had an occasion to visit the basilica Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (The Holy Cross in Jerusalem), built on the ground which St. Helen brought from the Golgotha. In the church, in a special chapel, there are remnants of the cross on which Christ died, nails with which he was nailed to the cross, thorns of the thorny crown. There is also a part of the cross of the criminal crucified with Christ. The tradition says that these signs of Lord’s Passion are in Rome thanks to St. Helen, together with the steps, on which Jesus was walking to Pontius Pilate.
In the basilica of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem there is also another special chapel devoted to the great, although young witness of the cross. The chapel has a grave of a nearly 7-year-old Roman little girl Antonietta Meo (1930-37), classified to a group of prominent mystics. During the pontificate of John Paul II, her body was brought here in 1999 from the graveyard Verano. Pope Benedict XVI signed a decree about heroism of virtues of little Antonietta. She may be the youngest blessed in the history of the Church. She was carrying a heavy cross on her child’s body. Her illness was a reason for amputating her leg. In this state she maintained her joy of heart and boundless trustfulness to Lord Jesus. In the chapel her letters written to Heaven are kept. In showcases one could also see her dresses, sweaters, books, toys of little Antonietta.
The Order of the Holy Sepulcher with the visit at pope Francis’
On 13 September this year, the knights and dames of the Holy Sepulcher, gathered in such a big group at one time and in one place, met for the first time with pope Francis. Before the Holy Father arrived, they had listened to a lecture which was given by archbishop Rino Fischiel, the chairman of the Papal Council for New Evangelization, being the main organizer of the celebrations of the Year of Faith in the universal Church. The Pope cordially greeted the Grand Master of the Order cardinal Edwin O’Brien and the Grand Prior –Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins archbishop Foud Twal.
The speech addressed to the Order of the Holy Sepulcher was based on the three key words: wandering, building and confessing, which – as he reminded – he had suggested in the homily preached after his election in the Sistine Chapel in March 2013, as a signpost on the paths of faith.
Journey, building, confessing
Pope Francis noted that the man can either be a pilgrim or an errant. He emphasized that we often deal with errant wanderers, deprived of ideals of life and are often incapable of giving meaning to events of the world. He referred to the pilgrimage which led the Order of the Holy Sepulcher from the whole world to Rome. – You are experiencing the pilgrimage which is a great symbol of the human and Christian life – said pope Francis. – In the symbols of the pilgrimage you show that you are not ‘errant’ people. Your journey is a part of the history, and in the world in which boundaries fall and particular ways are linked even more closely to others.
Be witnesses of the profound meaning of the light that faith gives. Your task is to show how to preserve the great richness of values, of the wisdom of the past, but also living intensely in the present, committed to our today, with a look to the future, opening horizons of hope with your work to give a human face to societies. – said the Holy Father.
According to the Pope Francis, the activity of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher grows from the more profound confessing faith, care about nourishing the spiritual life, from permanent formation for an even more genuine and coherent Christian life. This is very important because confession of faith and the witness of charity are strictly connected with each other – noted the Holy Father. – May God help you be convinced and sincere ambassadors of peace and love among brothers. It is Him who will make your work fruitful – said the Pope Francis. Finally, he assured about his everyday prayer in the intention of the members of the Order.
They were also going their own paths
Among the pilgrims of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher there was a group which was also going its own paths, and, in fact, following the Roman footsteps of the members of the Order. It was possible to get to the spiritual headquarter of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem on the hill Gianicolo (Janikulum). This is an old church and monastery of Sant Onofrio, erected in 1419 and devoted to St. Onuphrius, a hermit. There is a real recluse atmosphere of silence and reflection. There are visible signs of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher everywhere: first of all, flags and the Jerusalem cross, mounted on walls and in church and monastery windows. There is also a monument of Pius X, the pope holding the post of the Grand Master of the Order whose grandfather was a Pole. Nearby there is a grave of cardinal Nicoli Canali, also a Grand Master and a reformer of the Order. A beautiful portico links the church with the cloister building in which the last poet of Renaissance Torquato Tasso spent the last days of his life and died in 1595, and he was buried there. In the church there is a bas-relief presenting a scene of a funeral procession where one can see among the others, Stanisław Reszka, a collaborator of cardinal Stanisław Hozjusz, a friend of Tasso’s. This place was visited by among the others Polish poets staying in the Eternal City: Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Słowacki, Cyprian K. Norwid, and also Teofil Lenartowicz, who, in their works, mentions the author of the ‘Jerusalem liberated’. At present, American Franciscans are in the convent of St, Onuphrius on Gianicolo.
Another place connected with the Order of the Holy Sepulcher is the headquarter of the convent authorities in Palazzo della Rovere; one can get there through the street of the Cavaliers of the Holy Sepulcher. The chief authority of the Order is composed by: the Grand Master – a member of the cardinals’ collegium, appointed by the Holy Father, the Grand Prior – the Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins and the Grand Magisterium whose members are appointed by the Grand Master. The Office, which manages the Order, is the office of the General Governor, held by a secular person. The auxiliary role is played by a consultation, a kind of a parliament, composed of the representatives of all superiors of the Order from all over the world.
This grave became an altar
The Polish Order of the Holy Sepulcher, found, certainly, its Polish roads in Rome. On 16 September in the morning they went to the Basilica of St. Peter for the Holy Mass. In front of the entrance, they unexpectedly met prelate priest Konrad Krajewski. And it was on the eve of receiving the bishopric sacra by him, in relation to the appointment him as a Pope’s almoner. As in the previous years, he had worked in the Łódź edition of ‘Niedziela’, he behaved in a very ordinary and cordial way, and even he promised to send his pictures - in remembrance of the ceremonies of bishopric ordination.
The Eucharist at the grave of blessed John Paul II was presided over by archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski – the chairman of the Papal Council for the Pastoral Ministry for the Sick and Health Service. He said accurately that this grave had become an altar.
Responsibility higher by four times
In his sermon, archbishop Zimowski referred to the treasure of the Polish pope’s thought. He noted that the month of September is also the month of - Mary and also a patriotic month. – In the beginning we were celebrating the feast of the Birth of Our Lady, later there was reminiscence of the Blessed Name of Mary, whose establishment was connected with the relief of Vienna. And later we celebrate the reminiscence of Blessed Mary the Painful Virgin – said archbishop Zimowski.
Among patriotic events of the month of September he mentioned the 74th anniversary of the outbreak of the cruel World War II and the Nazis occupation. – Whereas on 17 September there was a Bolshevik invasion into our homeland. So, bleeding Poland had one more invader. But we had always trusted Our Lady the Blessed, as it had been before, in 1920 – he said. In order to emphasize the power of faith, the Archbishop quoted the text of Franciszek Karpiński: ‘Faith opens Heaven for people,/The man dies peacefully with it,/When we are being tormented by an unpleasant event,/Who will give us a helpful hand if not Her?’
He suggested that everybody should undertake responsibility higher by four times in his life: for oneself, for others, for the Church and for Homeland. He drew a special attention to the holiness of our life, reminding the words of John Paul II pronounced in 1999 in Stary Sącz. The pope said then: ‘Do not be afraid to be saints! Archbishop Zimowski ended the statement that the heritage of John Paul II would not pass away if it was realized through attitudes and in decisions of our everyday life.
In the Polish chapel
The members of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher went from the grave of blessed John Paul II to Our Lady of Częstochowa in the Polish chapel in the Vatican Caves. Fr. Albert Szustak, the Pauline Father from Jasna Góra, accompanying the Roman pilgrimage of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher, presented the history of this chapel created during the pontificate of pope Pius XII. He also explained the genesis of crowns given on the death bed by pope John Paul II for the image of Our Lady of Jasna Góra which express the spiritual testament of the Polish Pope of Mary. On the day before the death, John Paul II wrote a special letter to the Pauline Order and blessed twin crowns for the image of Our Lady in the Vatican Caves, which was crowned in the morning on the day of his passing away to the eternity, on 2 April 2005, by cardinal Marian Jaworski and for the image in the Chapel of the Miraculous Image at Jasna Góra, whose coronation was done by cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz on 26 August 2005. In the Polish chapel the members of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher were praying together and sang ‘You are the Queen of Poland for centuries’ and the ‘Jasna Góra Appeal’.
On the pilgrimage route of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher, there were also Vatican Gardens, where since the XIII century popes have been buried. At present, this is a place of residence of two popes. Therefore, it is worth looking at the words of John Paul II written in the ‘Roman triptych’, where we read: ‘It was so in August and later in October of the memorable year of the two conclaves. And it is going to be so when it is necessary after my death. You – who penetrates us – show! He will show…’ And we have the pope Francis, who lives in the House of St. Martha, on the left from the Vatican Basilica. And we have also the retired pope Benedict XVI, supporting the pontificate of his successor with a prayer in the convent of Mater Ecclesiae, situated in the gardens. Walking, one can easily get to the headquarter of the both popes and nearly look inside them through windows.
Poles entering the Vatican gardens can be often really surprised. For example, by one of the alleys, a miniature of the cross of Giewont was placed on a rock by Polish Highlanders. On the landing platform for helicopters there is a brass monument of Our Lady of Częstochowa– presenting the whole figure of Mary who blesses the pope leaving Vatican. It is really a garden full of mysteries.
The pilgrimage of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher was also attended by Karol Bolesław Szlenkier C*SSH – a Polish superior of the Order. The pilgrimage was also attended by members of the Supremacy Council in Poland: prelate priest Jerzy Bielecki ESSH – a church ceremonies master, Stanisław Franciszek Osmenda CSSH – a secular ceremonies master, Sławomir Ciołek – Czarnecki ESSH –an attorney.
The whole stay in the Eternal City was full of surprises in whose discovering the guide Przemysław Mróz, a Pole living in Italy, was helping the members of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher.