Pope John Paul II recalled several highlights from his Aug. 16–19 trip to Poland during his general audience on Aug. 21 at his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. They included the consecration of the Shrine of Divine Mercy, the beatification of four of his countrymen and the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the shrine at Kalwaria Zebrzydowska.
More than 3,500 pilgrims attended the general audience amid singing and applause of some 300 Poles. “The main purpose of my visit was to proclaim once again that God is ‘rich in mercy,’ especially through the consecration of the new Shrine of Divine Mercy in Lagiewniki,” the Holy Father said. He told the pilgrims that Sister Faustina's simple prayer, “Jesus, I trust in you,” has sustained him throughout life. “As a laborer and a student, and later as a priest and a bishop in the difficult periods of Poland's history, I, too, repeated this simple and profound invocation many times and experienced its effectiveness and its force,” he said.
John Paul also recalled the Mass he celebrated for more than 3 million people in Krakow, during which he beatified four of his countrymen. “These blessed people, together with the other saints, are shining examples of how ‘creativity in charity,’ of which I spoke in my apostolic letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, draws us into closer solidarity with all those who are suffering and makes us architects of a world that is renewed by love,” he said.
The Holy Father told the pilgrims the shrine at Kalwaria Zebrzydowska also has special meaning for him. “I have had a connection to that holy place since my childhood,” he said. “Many times I have experienced how the Mother of God, Our Lady of Graces, turns her merciful eyes to those who are afflicted and need her wisdom and help.”
Today, I would like to reflect on my eighth trip to the land of my birth, which divine Providence enabled me to carry out safely a few days ago.
I would like to express once again my gratitude to the president of the Republic of Poland, its prime minister and its civil and military authorities of every order and rank, as well as to the authorities of the city of Krakow, for ensuring that my visit would be peaceful. I also wish to extend my cordial thanks to its primate, Cardinal Jozef Glemp, to the archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, and to the entire episcopate, as well as the priests, religious and all those who prepared this important ecclesial event and took part in it with faith and devotion.
Above all, I wish to extend my warmest gratitude to the beloved people of my country, who welcomed me in such great numbers with an overwhelming display of affection and intense participation. My visit was to only one diocese, but in spirit I embraced all of Poland, which, I hope, will continue in its effort to create genuine social progress while never failing to faithfully safeguard its own Christian identity.
God Is Merciful
“God, who is rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4). These words were often heard during my apostolic pilgrimage. Indeed, the main purpose of my visit was to proclaim once again that God is “rich in mercy,” especially through the consecration of the new Shrine of Divine Mercy in Lagiewniki. The new church will be a center for spreading the fire of God's mercy throughout the world, based on what the Lord showed St. Faustina Kowalska, the Apostle of Divine Mercy.
“Jesus, I trust in you!” This is the simple prayer that Sister Faustina has taught us, which we can utter at any moment in life. As a laborer and a student, and later as a priest and a bishop in the difficult periods of Poland's history, I, too, repeated this simple and profound invocation many times and experienced its effectiveness and its force.
Mercy is one of the most beautiful attributes of our Creator and Redeemer, and the Church exists to bring men to this inexhaustible source, of which she is the guardian and steward. This is why I wished to entrust my homeland, the Church and all of mankind to Divine Mercy.
Example of Mercy
The merciful love of God opens our hearts to concrete acts of charity toward our neighbor. This was true for Archbishop Zygmunt Szczesny Feliñski, Father Jan Beyzym, Sister Sancja Szymkowiak and Father Jan Balicki, whom I had the joy of beatifying during the Mass that was celebrated in Krakow's Blonie Park last Sunday.
I wanted to hold up these newly beatified individuals as an example to the Christian people, so their words and example would serve as a stimulus and as an encouragement for them to witness through their deeds to the Lord's merciful love, which conquers evil with good (see Romans 12:21). This is the only way in which it is possible to build the civilization of love that we longingly desire, whose gentle strength is a strong contrast to the mysterium iniquitatis that is present throughout the world. We, Christ's disciples, have been given the task of proclaiming and living out the lofty mystery of Divine Mercy that regenerates the world and impels us to love our brothers and sisters and even our enemies. These blessed people, together with the other saints, are shining examples of how “creativity in charity,” of which I spoke in my apostolic letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, draws us into closer solidarity with all those who are suffering (see No. 50) and makes us architects of a world that is renewed by love.
The Power of Love
My pilgrimage then led me to Kalwaria Zebrzydowska to commemorate the 400th anniversary of that shrine, which is dedicated to the Passion of Jesus and to Our Lady of Sorrows. I have had a connection to that holy place since my childhood. Many times I have experienced how the Mother of God, Our Lady of Graces, turns her merciful eyes to those who are afflicted and need her wisdom and help.
After Czestochowa, this is one of the most well-known and frequently visited shrines in all of Poland, to which the faithful of neighboring countries also flock. After having completed the Way of the Cross and the Way of the Compassion of the Mother of God, pilgrims stand before the ancient and miraculous image of Mary our Advocate, who welcomes them with eyes full of love. Standing before her, one can perceive and penetrate the mysterious bond between our Redeemer, who “suffered” on Calvary, and his Mother, who “suffered with him” at the foot of the cross. In this communion of love in suffering, it is easy to see the source of the power of intercession that the Virgin Mary's prayer has for us, her children.
Let us ask Our Lady to kindle the spark of God's grace in our hearts, helping us to transmit to the world the fire of Divine Mercy. May Mary obtain for everyone the gift of unity and peace: unity of faith, unity of spirit and thought, and unity within families; peace of hearts and peace among nations and throughout the world, while awaiting Christ's glorious return.