A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Marist at Large

Greetings all.

Spain was hot and dry and almost white. Poland is mostly hot but green and one big farm really, as I observed it from a 5 hour rail trip yesterday on my way to Wroclaw, that was once Breslau where St Edith Stein grew up.  The land is flat. Trees like silver birch and pine abound and most plants we see in NZ, even roses. But the challenge is to make sense of huge Polish words and their possible meaning. Happily most young Poles speak or know English – so I look around for one when in difficulty. Whew.

My main reason for coming to Poland was to visit the places of Edith Stein. You may know she was a Jewish philosopher who came to the RC faith in 1922 and later joined Carmel. She was well know as a writer and teacher and speaker for women’s groups but being Jew and Catholic meant she was doomed in Hitler’s Germany. She was taken from the Carmel and died at Auschwitz.  Her life and writings have gripped me.  So I hired an English-speaking Polish man and we did the rounds – her mother’s home, the Church where she went to Mass where a beautiful shrine is housed. The altar is the shape of an open large bible – given by the Archbishop of Koln where Edith lived in Carmel. I saw her grammar school – closed for summer holidays and then the university she attended. Great to walk where she did and breathe the air she breathed.  I wanted to see the Synagogue her mother attended but it was destroyed on ‘Krystalnacht’ night in 1938.  I feel for her Mum who was stunned when Edith was baptised and even more distressed when she entered Carmel. Poor mother but what a daughter she gave the world.  Luckily the Mum died in 1936 at 86, before the Jews here were sent to Auschwitz. May they be as one in heaven now.

I have spent the last 4 days right next to the Sanctuary of  ‘Divine Mercy’ and the remains of St Faustina Kowalska.  She is a new saint but what an impact the devotion to her and Jesus the Divine Mercy and his image that she revealed. The shrine is 100 metres from my room. It is all new and is immense and so refreshingly clean and simple in design – after all the baroque cathedrals.  I concelebrated Mass at 10.30 am where perhaps 2000 attended –and that was just one mass – it is Sunday of course. Ireland may have been the Island of Saints but Poland still is a country of saints. Pope JP II is just everyone’s favourite with Edith Stein a long way back third – but I predict she will rise in the charts in time.

This picture was taken at Mass at the well known shrine Jasa Gora.  My good Polish host Fr Jan Piotrowski drove  me there and arranged I join an English mass. A USA priest was celebrating 50 years. The famous icon of Mary in background and in a smallish chapel, but always crowded.I go to UK on Tuesday.

Paul sm.

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