Krakow has been called the City of Saints. The number of canonized Saints who are from Krakow or who have lived in this city is more than perhaps any city in the world other than Rome. Yesterday, a group of about 15 of the young adults on pilgrimage with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis visited some of the most significant sites associated with these Saints – from St. John Paul II to St. Maximilian Kolbe to St. Stanislas to St. Kinga and more. Looking back on this day, it has to be one of the most enjoyable and spiritual rewarding days I can remember. There are so many things I could share, but just a few highlights …
We began the day at the place where St. Stanislas, bishop of Krakow, was martyred in the 11th century by the king for refusing to bow to the authority of unjust rulers. We prayed morning prayer while standing at the bottom of a well where the bishop was killed. Providentially, we were able to join Bishop Kevin Rhodes and the pilgrims from the Diocese of Ft. Wayne-South Bend for Mass at the church built over the site of the martyrdom.
In the back of the Franciscan church in Krakow, there is a silver plaque on a pew denoting the place where then-Cardinal Karol Wojtyla prayed each day he lived across the street from this church as Archbishop of Krakow. I think I know why he picked this particular pew – while kneeling there, you have a perfect view of an icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help at a side altar – the same icon of Mary that is present in the future pope’s home parish church in Wadowice. The pilgrims in our group all were able to kneel at that same spot and pray. And there were some powerful encounters with God in prayer.
At the Church of St. Stanislas Kostka in Debniki, we saw the parish where St. John Paul II lived as a young adult while he was attending college across the river at the Jagiellonian University. We also prayed at the tomb of Jan Tyranowski, the young man who was a spiritual mentor to the future pope and helped him discover his priestly vocation. The more I learn about Jan Tyranowski, the more I want to know about him and the more I see him as an inspiration for my own ministry and as an example for young adult Catholics seeking to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ.At the end of the day, several of us visited the Basilica of St. Florian, where a young Fr. Karol Wojtyla served as a college chaplain. There, he began gathering together groups of young people for fellowship and prayer. There, some say, the idea of what would later become World Youth Day began to take shape. And now, a new generation has gathered in this City of Saints to encounter Jesus Christ in the Church, the Sacraments, the Saints, the Holy Father, and one another.
This morning, we will celebrate Mass as a large Archdiocese of Indianapolis pilgrimage group before starting our walking pilgrimage to the site of the closing Vigil and Mass for World Youth Day 2016. I don’t anticipate having good internet connection for a while – we will be sleeping outside tonight and spending a lot of time walking or driving in the coming days – but look for a post at some point about the culmination of this pilgrimage. And continue to pray for us along the way.