The 64 members of our college and young adult pilgrimage group from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis all arrived safely in Prague last night – the first stop on our way to Krakow for World Youth Day. We spent today touring this beautiful city of hundreds of spires and towers, certainly one of the jewels of Europe. It was a day of a lot of walking to try to see as much as possible – Prague really can’t be seen in a day, but we did out best to hit the highlights! Among the stops were the Old Town, the Jewish Quarter, the Municipal House, Charles Bridge, St. Nicholas Church, the Prague Castle, and St. Vitus Cathedral.
We joined the English language noon Mass at the Church of Our Lady of Victory, which houses the miraculous original statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague. To our delight, Bishop Paul Sirba of Duluth, Minnesota, was presiding at that Mass, which included World Youth Day pilgrims from the United States, the Philippines, India, and other places. This was our first real preview of World Youth Day – the church was so packed full of people that most of our pilgrims were sitting on the floor or on the steps of the sanctuary. Following Mass, we were able to spend time in prayer in front of this miraculous and well-known statue of the Infant Jesus. Chances are there might be a repilca of this statue in a church near you!
This afternoon, we learned about and prayed at the tombs of the most notable of Prague’s canonized Saints – especially St. Wenceslas and St. John Nepomucene – who are both buried at St. Vitus Cathedral, along with the namesake of the Cathedral, St. Vitus, who was a martyr from Sicily. St. Wenceslas is the same Good King Wenceslas from the Christmas carol – he was a generous and faithful count of Bohemia a thousand years ago who was killed by his jealous brother. St. John Nepomucene is known as the Martyr of the Confessional because he refused to break the seal of confession on order of the king, who wanted to know the secrets his wife had confessed to St. John. The king had him tortured and killed and then thrown off the Charles Bridge in Prague.
We are now back at our hotel for a bit of rest before dinner, then I imagine many in the group will head back into the city for the evening. Tomorrow morning, we depart Prague and head toward Krakow, with a stop in Wadowice, Poland, the home town of St. John Paul II.