‘DO WIDZENIA’ – ARRIVEDERCI KRAKOW!

‘DO WIDZENIA’ – ARRIVEDERCI KRAKOW!

It is my last full day in Krakow and the past week has been so wonderful that I am very reluctant to leave. Krakow is a beautiful city whose pulsating heart is the stunning, 40,000 square meter (430,000 square feet) Market Square, known locally as Rynek Glowny. It is filled with and surrounded by historical monuments – the medieval Cloth Hall, St. Mary’s Basilica, St. Adalbert Church, to name a few – and marvelous restaurants, pastry stores, five-star hotels, BnBs, elegant, brand name stores and – for me at least, the frosting on the cake – Krakow’s inimitable, white horse-driven carriages whose beautifully costumed drivers entice you with a smile and a reasonable fee to take a ride around old town. A carriage ride is a must here.

I have seen old friends and made new ones. I had a wonderful visit last Friday with Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, newly retired archbishop of Krakow and, as I think you all know, for 40 years he was Pope John Paul’s secretary, right-hand man and best friend. We have known each other for about 30 years. It was a joy to see him, he looked very happy and certainly seemed as busy as ever!

Cardinal Dziwisz asked me, as he always does when we meet, if I had brought some of my cookies and, for the first time in all our meetings, I had to say ‘no, Eminence, it is Lent.” And he replied, “You did well, I do not eat sweets in Lent.”

I knew two of his secretaries for a number of years and had the joy of seeing both of them during this visit. Fr. Dariusz Ras is now the parish priest, also called archpriest, of Saint Mary’s basilica on Market Square (it is twinned with St. Mary Major in Rome). We met Thursday morning in his office behind the basilica.

I did learn that the beautiful Mass I attended last Wednesday at St. Mary’s (which was where Fr. Dariusz and I caught up) was celebrated by one of Krakow’s auxiliary bishops. Krakow’s new Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski has started the custom of Station Churches in the diocese during Lent (you know of those through my blog and my recent Vatican Insider special), so a different church is used each day throughout Lent. (photo from St. Mary’s – I forgot to take a picture!)

By the way, the diocese of Krakow was established in the year 1000!

I also had a great meeting this morning with Fr. Tomasz Szopa, another former secretary to Cardinal Dziwisz, who is now the chancellor of the diocese! A lot to catch up on!

Yet another friend is Fr. Piotr Studnick, communications director for the diocese. We were able to have a chat over coffee and one of Krakow’s fabulous sweets. I’ve never in my life seen sweets and desserts like those I’ve seen here (anywhere except perhaps Jordan!). I’ll have to come back some time when it is not Lent.

You’ll learn of my new friends when I write about them in my book about Pope John Paul!

Back to Rome tomorrow. Today is the fourth anniversary of the election of Pope Francis to the papacy and is a holiday in the Vatican. At 3 this afternoon there was a celebration in St. Peter’s Basilica of Anglican vespers, presided over by Anglican Archbishop David Moxon, head of the Anglican Center of Rome. Archbishop Arthur Roche, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments delivered a homily.

So, for now I say, ‘Do widzenia – arrivederci, good bye Krakow!

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AN EVENING IN KRAKOW, SACRED AND PROFANE

AN EVENING IN KRAKOW, SACRED AND PROFANE

Just a quick note with a few photos. I went to the 6:30 mass at St, Mary’s Basilica this evening and was happy I got there when I did – a few more minutes and I’d have had to stand for Mass! The church was packed. I gathered the faithful knew more than I did cause when the procession began, there were 10 priests and a bishop.

The Mass was so very beautiful – the Polish faithful so recollect and reverent that in the moments of silence you literally could have heard a pin drop. The music was wonderful – as if the entire community was one big choir, so lovely and harmonious and heartfelt was the singing.

I never did discover who the bishop was but at the end of Mass he brought out a lovely reliquary and explained what it was to great applause. After Mass I went up to a priest I felt I knew to ask about the reliquary and it turned out to be a friend I’d not seen in a few years – Fr. Darius, a former secretary to Cardinal Dziwisz.  We spoke briefly and then he had to accompany the bishop to a residence. I found out it was a relic of the True Cross! I’ll learn more tomorrow when I visit Fr. Darius in his office.

I took some photos of St. Mary’s at the end of Mass and afterwards – after my conversation with Fr. Darius – strolled around Market Square. All I could think of, for some reason, was the difference between….

The Sacred –

….and the profane

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF ST. JOHN PAUL: KRAKOW

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF ST. JOHN PAUL: KRAKOW

I did not write a column yesterday because, following my arrival in Krakow in early afternoon, the rest of the day was nonstop. I checked into the Grand Hotel (more about this historic building, great rooms and terrific staff at a later date) about 2:30, unpacked and checked email to see about pending appointments and, as I always do in a new city or one I already know, I went out to explore the neighborhood.  I actually knew this one from my time here last June – I’m just a block off one of my favorites squares in the world, the famous and very beautiful Market Square, Rynek Glowny.

At about 5:20 I went into the basilica of St. Mary and, after a brief visit to this church that stuns the senses, almost putting them into overdrive, I spent an hour in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and then attended Mass. I later discovered that the 6:30 pm daily Mass is a student Mass: the young people provided the music and Mass was very well attended by adults as well.

Signs are all over asking people not to take photos but I did take two – which I posted last night on FB – of the overwhelmingly beautiful main altar chapel as soon as I saw some of the students taking photos. I’ll try to get permission to take more pictures as this church was very important in Pope John Paul’s life.

Here is the official website of St. Mary’s: http://mariacki.com/en/

Known by all here as St. Mary’s Church, the full name is Our Lady Assumed into Heaven. It is a brick Gothic church, originally built in the early 13th century by Bishop Iwo Odrowaz of Krakow and re-built in the 14th century. It is most celebrated for the wooden altarpiece carved by one Veit Stoss. The choir stalls in the altar area are stunning as well.

One of the favorite stories about the basilica is that of the trumpeter: Every hour a trumpet signal comes from the top of the taller of St. Mary’s two towers. However, the sound is cut off half way through, a break commemorating the famous 13th century trumpeter who was shot in the throat while sounding the alarm before an attack on the city by the Mongols. It is said that the noon-time trumpet sound is heard across Poland and abroad broadcast live by the Polish national Radio 1 Station. This was made famous in Eric Kelly’s book, “The Trumpeter of Krakow.”

By the way, I learned that St. Mary’s Basilica has served as an architectural model for many of the churches built by Polish migrants to America and other countries. One of these, by the way, is St. John Cantius in my hometown of Chicago.

Today was my first full day and Krakow and it has been nonstop activity to this moment.

In preparation for this trip, I’ve been in touch with friends in Poland and friends who have friends in Poland, asking to meet people who knew John Paul. One of those contacts was Fr. Wojciech Zyzak, rector of the John Paul II University. As he planned to leave for Warsaw tomorrow, he invited me to the university for a brief meeting and conversation and then a conference on Father Walerian Kalinka (1826–1886), who was a founder of the Polish Province of the Resurrectionist Fathers in 19th century.

The conference began at 9:30 and lasted until 1:30 with a morning coffee break. I did not understand a word but I was able to write a bit for my book as I listened to the speakers and, during the break and later at lunch, I met some fascinating priests and professors and heard some great stories about the man who brings a smile to everyone’s face in Poland as soon as it is mentioned, Pope John Paul.

I want to go to St. Mary’s again for a visit to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and Mass so shall close for now. I’ll try to post photos in FB whenever I can. I tried doing a FB Live yesterday but the connection in Market Square was not strong enough. I’ll try again at some point.

A JULY SMORGASBORD: VACATIONS, TRAVEL TIPS, WORLD YOUTH DAY

A JULY SMORGASBORD: VACATIONS, TRAVEL TIPS, WORLD YOUTH DAY

Although he is on a working vacation, Pope Francis does preside on Sundays in July at the Angelus from his study in the Apostolic Palace. Yesterday he reflected on the day’s Gospel story of Jesus who is welcomed by Martha and Mary into their home. They each offer their hospitality in different ways. Martha scurries around and is busy preparing things whereas Mary is content to sit at Jesus’ feet to listen to his words. When Martha asks Jesus if he is not upset that she is doing everything alone and Mary isn’t helping, he reminds her, as Pope Francis said, “that in order to welcome him many things are not necessary; indeed, only one thing is necessary, to listen to Jesus.”

Thus, the Holy Father was stressing two essential points: “the importance of hospitality, a real Christian virtue, but one which at times the world neglects,” and “the importance of dedicating more time to listening because the root of peace is in the capacity to listen.”

VACATIONS

With those words in mind, I want to tell you that I start my vacation tomorrow, and will be enjoying the hospitality of family in California and dear friends in Hawaii. I hope I can be Mary to their Martha while on vacation.

I’m always excited about visiting family because I’m part of such a terrific family! I have 9 nieces and nephews and 21 great-nieces and -nephews, a number of whom I will see in California, while others live in Arizona, Oregon, Illinois and Wisconsin (my next visits!)

Hawaii is a vacation unlike any other! It is beautiful beyond description – I don’t feel like a wordsmith when I am there, in fact, I lack for words. Even photos don’t seem to do justice but I will be posting a number on Facebook as I travel.

I could write an entire blog about each of my very special friends, from Jan and Trip, retired Navy (at least two blogs about this amazing couple), to Maria, a doctor at Tripler Medical Center who works with veterans returning from war zones, to Sister Davilyn ah Chick, OSF, principal of Our Lady of Pepetual Help school who wears about a dozen other hats, to Sister Malia Dominica Wong, OP, adjunct professor at Chaminade University in Honolulu, who also wears numerous hats (and both nuns are prolific writers), to Sister Marykutty Kottuppallil, a Missionary Sister of Mary Help of Christians (an order founded in 1942 in Guwahati northeast India in 1942, as part of the family of Salesian orders (superior of a small group of these sisters in Honolulu), to Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu.

In a category all by herself is Audrey Toguchi, our mutual friend, the person who “connects the dots” (her favorite saying), that is, brings people together. I was introduced to Audrey and her story in July of 2008 when I flew to Honolulu on a very quick “reconnaissance” mission. I had been alerted by Linda Cacpal, a fellow member of Audrey’s parish, St. Elizabeth in Aiea, that Audrey was the person whose miraculous cure of lung cancer was due to the intercesssion of Damien of Molokai and led to his canonization in October 2009.

I was in California in July 2008 for a nephew’s wedding. Linda and I had been emailing back and forth about the news from Rome days earlier about a miraculous cure leading to Damien’s canonization. She told me about Audrey and said, “you really should come to Hawaii and meet her.” Well, I did just that. I got on the Internet on Saturday, found airfare and a hotel and was on a plane for Honolulu Monday.

Audrey was the first person I met of what is now this circle of friends – my Hawaiian ohana or family. I interviewed her for my radio show and we struck up a friendship that has lasted and deepened to this day.

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Audrey and her husband Yuki (a magical gardener – I think he could grow orchids from stone)

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Linda also told Bishop Larry I was in town and his office called and we met for a visit and have seen each other every summer since. We’ve also met in Rome with Hawaii pilgrims for the 2009 Damien canonization and the 2012 St. Marianne Cope canonization.

Linda was fascinated by my blog and what she could learn about Rome, the Pope, the Vatican, etc. We had become pen pals not long after my first column appeared in 2006. She gave me my first ever orchid lei when I arrived in Honolulu in 2008 and we saw each other at least on most of my visits. Our last visit was the summer of 2014. She died in December of that year.

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As the local Catholic paper wrote: Linda Cacpal was a lay person, a retired state employee, a convert, a parish minister with a love for the church so total that the bishop was moved to preside at her funeral. “This dear sister of ours dedicated her life to God completely,” Bishop Larry Silva told those who came to say goodbye to their friend in Christ, Jan. 12, at St. Elizabeth Church in Aiea. Eight priests concelebrated. Three deacons assisted.

Cacpal died on the day after Christmas in the home of her godchild and caregiver Leila Tee after suffering through a number of illnesses. She was 62. She worked in a variety of parish and diocesan ministries. She was a Secular Franciscan. And several years ago, Bishop Silva put her on the Diocesan Pastoral Council, his mostly lay advisory panel.

Now you have an inkling of why I get so excited when I plan my Hawaii trip. I love to see and do the Shaka, aka “Hang loose,” a Hawaiian hand gesture meaning take it easy, relax, chill out. It can also be shown to someone as a sign of approval, welcome or goodbye – aloha.

Make a fist, then extend your thumb and little finger, and lightly shake your hand in an up nand down, see-saw motion with your thumb and finger.

Now, “hang loose” on your vacation!

As I re-read what I’ve written, I began to mentally list the names of family and friends I will see and I think I have enough to make five decades of the rosary, each bead a beloved relative or friend.

TRAVEL TIPS

Throughout the year, but especially during the Easter season and in the summer, I get avalanches of emails asking for travel tips. People want suggestions on sites to see in Rome and throughout Italy. I am asked for guides, how to procure tickets to events (or train tickets), for help with hotels and convents and rental cars or private drivers. I am asked for all kinds of shopping tips.

I could probably answer any or all of those questions if I was a full time travel agent but I am not – not do I have time to explore a lot of areas that, I admit, I wish I had time for!

But this is why I prepared the link on my blog: CLICK HERE FOR PRACTICAL INFORMATION ON VISITING THE VATICAN

Not every single question will be answered but a lot will. I write about convents. I explain why I cannot advise people on hotels. I DO, however, list some great restaurants!

Do you need a ticket to a papal Mass or weekly audience (the Angelus does not require a ticket)? Go to: Prefectrure of the Papal Household: http://www.vatican.va/various/prefettura/en/biglietti_en.html

Want to avoid the long lines and reserve tickets to the Vatican Museums? Click here: http://mv.vatican.va/3_EN/pages/MV_Home.html

Often just a simple search on the Internet to sites beyond what I have listed will provide you with all the information you need.

Pass this information on to friends and family members who will be travelling to Rome – you will help me and you will help them!

WORLD YOUTH DAY

What a terrific event this will be once again. I’ve been to a number of WYDs and always come home the richer person. Krakow will be immensely meaningful in the grand scheme of youth days because it was the diocese led for many years by Pope John Paul, who instituted WYD, and is now led by the late Pope’s secretary and confidante for 40 years. Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz.

St. John Paul and St. Faustina Kowalksa are the co-patrons of this special World Youth Day.

To track what is happening and what awaits you if you are about to leave for Poland, visit the official website: http://www.krakow2016.com/en/

And, of course, EWTN will have enormous coverage – television, radio, our website, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

SAFE TRAVELS, EVERYONE! GOD SIT ON YOUR SHOULDER!  SEE YOU IN A FEW WEEKS!

 

THE SIGHTS OF KRAKOW, HOME TO WORLD YOUTH DAY 2016

World Youth Day in Krakow is just around the corner. As you know, I was there a few weeks ago and finally have a little time to more of the many photos I took, pictures I hope will give you some idea of the pulsating heart of this beautiful and ancient city that perhaps a million – maybe more – young people will experience at the end of July.

THE SIGHTS OF KRAKOW, HOME TO WORLD YOUTH DAY 2016

Kraków is a wonderful pilgrim city with a walkable Old Town and major shrines within the City. The Krakow official World Youth Day website says, “While you are there, be sure to visit these points of interest”:

Main Market Square (Rynek Glowny)

It’s the center of Kraków’s community life, bustling with activity and festivals. Within this main market square you will see:  St. Adalbert, St. Mary’s Basilica, Cloth Hall, and the Town Hall tower.

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St. Mary’s Basilica

The current basilica, with stunning Gothic architecture, is from the 14th century, although a church stood on the site more than 100 yrs even before that.  The top left tower has a crown, representing royalty and Mary as the Queen of Heaven and of Poland. Listen for the Hejnal, a bugle song, which is played from the tower every hour.  It commemorates the watchman who long ago sounded this song to alert Krakow during a Tartar invasion. His alarm was broken midway as an enemy arrow pierced his throat.  Every hour it is played by firemen who man the tower in 24-hour shifts, and it always ends abruptly mid tune, in remembrance of the watchman who gave his life. Look at how WYD and number of days to its start are indicated on the basilica façade.

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St. Adalbert

This is the oldest church in Kraków, dating from the 10th century.  It may look crooked to the square, but it is not.  It is built facing east as all churches traditionally were.  In that time the priest led the faithful in Mass, all facing east toward the rising sun, looking toward the Second Coming of the Son and our final judgment day. In this estimation, it is the square that is crooked, not the church.

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Cloth Hall

This is a great market for traditional Polish wares, and a prime place for souvenirs, tourists, and pickpockets alike.  It has been a permanent structure since the 14th century, as a place for merchants. This structure however is from the 16th century built after a fire leveled the previous one.  The “S” in the entry gable is for King Sigismund the Old, who built this “new” structure in the Italian Renaissance style.  You can see marks of his renovations throughout the nation in the same style.

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Town Hall Tower

This is all that remains of the 14th century town hall after the fire that also leveled the first Cloth Hall (in background of last photo).

The old and the new:

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An office just before entering Market square – if you know your history, you know what Solidarnosc is!

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Some of the fascinating architecture in Krakow:

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Off the Market Square (no photos):

Wawel Hill

A symbol of Polish royalty and independence, it is the most visited site in the nation.  A castle has stood here since the beginning of Polish history, and was the seat of the kings for over 500 years. The Wawel Cathedral was the site of most of the royal coronations and funerals for the last 1000 years.  It houses the tombs of nearly all of Poland’s most important rulers and historical figures, including the tomb of the first Polish Saint, St. Stanislaus (directly beneath the altar).

The cathedral is very eclectic with centuries of additions, unique to the style of the times. There is 12th century Romanesque, 14th century Gothic, 16th century Renaissance, 17th century Baroque, and 18th/19th century Neo Classical.  One can still see bits of the original Romanesque structure made of white limestone.

Much of this area is free to enter, including the main level of the Cathedral, the inner courtyard of the castle, and the field of ruins from earlier structures. There are also several areas and museums for which there is an entrance fee, such as: the crypt and the John Paul II Cathedral Museum, the Sigismund tower, and the castle interior and exhibits.

Campus Misericordiae – the final site for WYD Events: World Youth Day Vigil on Saturday and the papal Mass on Sunday will be held at “Campus Misericordiae,” (Field of Mercy), a special site designed specifically for these events: It is about 15km southeast of central Krakow in Brzegi, Poland, between Nowa Huta and Wieliczka. This site was chosen to facilitate travel from the city of Krakow and outlying areas where youth and their leaders will be lodged, busses parked etc.

 

TWO SHRINES, TWO SAINTS, ONE POPE

A heads up for tomorrow. I will try to post some photos on Facebook but tomorrow I have some appointments in the morning and then take off for the airport and my flight to Rome, thus time for writing may either be rare or perhaps nonexistent. I did prepare a VATICAN INSIDER for this weekend so be sure not to miss that – I did a special report on Krakow and the papal visit. If I do have time to post photos, there will probably be little or no commentary.

TWO SHRINES, TWO SAINTS, ONE POPE

I don’t have much time to write tonight because I had to spend much of the morning trying to check in for my Ryanair flight tomorrow (the first time I’ve ever taken this airline and probably the last, given this experience) and getting a new suitcase (a much used carry on suitcase got ripped on the flight from Rome and is unusable).

Later morning and early afternoon were delightful, however. I went to the Divine Mercy Shrine and the new St. John Paul II Shrine in Lagiewniki, about 7 kilometers from the center of Krakow, where I roamed the grounds, prayed in various chapels and attended Mass. The afternoon included a late lunch and a carriage ride through the Old City to Wawel Castle.

Pope Francis will visit both shrines on July 30. He will go through the Door of Mercy and confess several young people and, at 10:30, he will celebrate Mass for Polish priests, men and women religious, consecrated persons and seminarians in the John Paul II Shrine. This great, modern church and shrine complex was built in only three years.

I’ll have to let the photos I took today do the talking for now, although I have no pictures of the chapel at Divine Mercy where Saint Faustina is buried and where there is the miraculous image of Divine Mercy. Photos are forbidden and I could not find a way around that – and no one else was even thinking of taking photos. Not a cell phone or camera in sight. People kept pouring into the small chapel – though none were allowed in while Mass was ongoing – and lining up to kiss the small relic under glass of a knuckle of this Polish saint. Other relics were on the altar above her tomb and under the Divine Mercy image.

John Paul II Shrine:

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Divine Mercy grounds

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INGREDIENTS FOR A SPECIAL DAY: A CARDINAL, A CONVERSATION AND COOKIES

INGREDIENTS FOR A SPECIAL DAY: A CARDINAL, A CONVERSATION AND COOKIES

I barely know where to begin because my first full day in Kraków has been extraordinary, but I’ve decided to focus on one special moment, one special visit.

I had an appointment this morning with Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow, whom I have known for many years, as I wrote yesterday. We first met in the early years of Pope John Paul’s pontificate, stayed in touch and saw each other throughout those long years and remained stayed in touch even after John Paul the Great died in 2005.

My first trip to Kraków to see the archbishop who succeeded his “boss” as archbishop of Krakow was to report on Pope Benedict’s visit in 2006 to honor his predecessor. Now, as I walk the streets of this beautiful and historic city, I find it hard to believe that 10 years have passed.

The cardinal and I met at 10:30. He has had a busy week so far because Msgr. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies is also in Karkow to plan for Pope Francis’ liturgies when he comes in late July for World Youth Day.

Fr. Tomasz, the cardinal’s secretary, ushered me into an office I had visited only once before, 10 years ago, but felt it was so familiar, that I knew it well.

I had seen the cardinal in Rome on June 5 and we mentioned that visit for the canonization of a new Polish Saint Stanislaus, this time the founder of the Marian Fathers. We naturally also talked about World Youth Day and the cardinal reported how hard everyone has been working, how excited everyone is and how “absolutely wonderful” Krakow’s World Youth Day will be.

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He told me that 40,000 Americans are coming and said he is thrilled! He added that 250,000 Italian youth are coming! This all makes me wonder: wow, how many Polish Youth will there be?!

I gave Cardinal Dziwisz a copy of my book, “A Holy Year in Rome,” and he also knows about my book on John Paul. We’ve agreed to meet again in September when he will have more time to sit down and tell me the stories I want to hear, the stories I want to tell about John Paul’s humor and humanity. The cardinal is immensely pleased I have chosen to focus on these aspects of the man for whom he was almost like a son for 40 years!

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He was also immensely pleased that I brought my homemade chocolate chip cookies (as was Fr. Tomasz)! We both remember how the Pope enjoyed them, as did the papal household, the Polish nuns and others, because the cardinal, at the time Msgr. Stanislaw, either called me or wrote me a note each time I brought cookies to the Holy Father. So many special, really special, memories!

Cardinal Dziwisz really warmed the cockles of my heart when he thanked me for the work I did all the years at the Vatican and for the work I now do, my “ministry” for EWTN, for the Church.

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Since he knew I intend to go to the Shrine of Divine Mercy the John Paul II shrine tomorrow, he asked me to report back to him with my impressions on the Saint John Paul Shrine!

After this memorable visit and renewal of a long and wonderful friendship, Fr. Tomasz took some photos (many more than you see here!) and the cardinal and I said our goodbyes, promising to meet in September.

I bid him farewell with my Mother’s words – God sit on your shoulder!

Fr. Tomasz asked if I had ever seen the room whose window the Pope always appeared at when he came to Poland and stayed at the archbishop’s residence. The crowd of faithful would never let him get to bed without first greeting them at this window. And the same happened for Benedict XVI ten years ago – a huge, adoring crowd and the same window.

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I had seen the window from outside but never the famous room:

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Fr. Tomasz then brought me to a place that gave me goose bumps – the chapel where John Paul, Karol Wojtyla, was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Sapieha on November 1, 1946.

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I was able to stay some time here in prayer, and the memories of this great and long pontificate all came flooding back. As you can see in the photos, there is the picture of John Paul used for his beatification and canonization and there are also some relics here.

A special beginning to a special day.