A reproduction of the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, also known as the Black Madonna, has come to the United States from Poland for veneration by pilgrims at American cathedrals, basilicas, parish churches and shrines across the country.
"From Ocean to Ocean" is sponsored by Human Life International (HLI.org). This worldwide pilgrimage is dedicated to the defense and support of life and family through the intercession of the Blessed Mother under her title of Our Lady of Czestochowa.
The pilgrimage started in 2012 in Vladivostok, Russia, then made its way through 24 countries and more than 400 cities and towns to reach the Atlantic Ocean.
One of its final European stops was on Divine Mercy Sunday 2013 in Fatima, Portugal, where the icon was placed on the site of the Fatima apparitions of Our Lady, which the faithful recall on Oct. 13.
In an extraordinary liturgical event before the worldwide pilgrimage began, in January 2012, this splendid reproduction of the original icon in the Monastery of Jasna Góra in Poland was blessed by the archbishop of Czestochowa. The archbishop of Krakow made a special act of entrustment to Our Lady of Czestochowa, and the icon was touched to the original icon, which is believed to have been painted by St. Luke.
Father Roman Majewski, prior of Jasna Gora, wrote of the pilgrimage online at FromOceantoOcean.org: "The pilgrimage of the Czestochowa icon ‘From Ocean to Ocean’ through the world is an unprecedented historical event and has enormous significance."
Since Aug. 24, when the pilgrimage landed on America’s shores at St. Clement’s Island, Md., the icon has traveled to a number of parishes and places, such as Mount St. Mary’s Seminary and the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia.
The icon reproduction is also uniting East and West by stopping at Russian Orthodox churches.
The majority of churches the icon traveled to across Russia were Orthodox. It received the support and blessings of Metropolitan Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Catholics and Orthodox have always shared a love and veneration for Our Lady, in particular through this icon.
Father Peter West, Human Life International’s vice president for missions and coordinator for the pilgrimage in America, enumerated several examples from Catholic Tradition of the faithful’s reliance on icons and holy relics, including Marian ones. Among them:
"In the Old Testament, there was a tradition of bringing the Ark of the Covenant into battle," he said. "At the siege of Jericho, the Israelites marched around seven times, and the city walls fell down. The people of Poland prayed [during their own] ‘siege of Jericho’ [with the Russian occupation in the 20th century]; and at the end of the siege, the Polish government dropped its restrictions, and the Pope [Blessed John Paul II] was able to go to Poland and speak boldly, shortly after which communism was defeated in that country and then in the Soviet Union."
"The Russians carried the icon of Our Lady of Kazan into battle as they drove Napoleon out of Russia," added Father West. "The memorial of the Holy Name of Mary [Sept. 12] was instituted in 1683, after John Sobieski won the Battle of Vienna, relieving the city and crushing Moslem domination in Europe for over 300 years. The Polish Hussars wore an emblem of Our Lady of Czestochowa [on their uniforms] as they went into battle, and the king consecrated the kingdom of Poland to Our Lady of Czestochowa."
Father West makes the connection clear regarding miraculous interventions through Our Lady in modern times: "Now, we are renewing this tradition and bringing the icon into the battle for life. We are calling on Our Lady and bringing the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa into the battle against the culture of death and asking her to help us build a culture of life. We’ve entrusted the civilization of life and love into the hands of the Blessed Virgin Mary."
Already, our Blessed Mother is healing souls, saving lives and transforming the culture at stops along the way. During the icon’s visit to a late-term abortion business, three women chose life.
Our Lady of Czestochowa, pray for us!
Joseph Pronechen is a
Register staff writer.
The icon will be traveling to many locations through several states in the coming months, including at the March for Life events in Washington, Jan. 21-22, 2014.
Visit the "From Ocean to Ocean" website (FromOceanToOcean.org) for dates and location information.