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Pilgrimage Reflection

PilgrimageRecently, I returned from the Salvatorian pilgrimage, in which we travelled through six countries “Following the Footsteps of Fr Francis Jordan” it was an incredible journey and through it witnessed the Salvatorian way of love and friendship.

From Australia we travelled to Switzerland and then into Germany to Gurtweil birthplace of Fr Jordan and where he grew up; Taffers where he was initially buried. Salzburg in Austria was our next stop, home of Mozart, whose home we visited and of course the Sound of Music, we attended a special dinner and floor show, Fr Leonard and I were invited to dance on stage with the cast! Next stop was Prague, Czech Republic. On the way to Prague we stopped in Passau where we attended an organ recital in St Stephen's Cathedral. The following day we pay a visit to Infant Jesus Church and Prague Castle. It was now time to discover Poland, Trzebnica where we stayed at our first Salvatorian Guest House. The highlight of our time here was a visit to Bagno, an old hunting lodge, which is the major Seminary of the Polish Salvatorians; a beautiful country house set in huge grounds.

The welcome here was very special, everyone was so happy to see us and show us their home. A wonderful afternoon tea had been prepared and after Mass we enjoyed their hospitality and met the Rector of the Seminary, Fr Jerzy Madera and other young priests. A feeling of international friendship was felt by all in this Salvatorian home. The next stop in our journey was Krakow, and the Hotel of Divine Mercy. In the complex stood a spectacular modern basilica, with the picture of The Divine Mercy as its centrepiece.

Next day our pilgrimage took us to Czestochwa, home of the Black Madonna; this is the Mecca for all Polish Catholics. Fr Leonard celebrated Mass in the Sanctuary, at 2pm as the picture was unveiled. We had central pews and it was a great honour and privilege to be there. The following day we toured the Salt Mines of Wieliczka, everything is carved out of salt by the miners, chapels with statues and holy pictures, they are really talented craftsmen.

Day 12. A guided tour of Krakow castle and St Mary's Cathedral where I climbed to the bell tower and made a wish on Zygmunt's bell!   then lunch cruising the Vistula River. Now we are off to mountain country and the town of Zakopane, a Swiss styled village. Next morning we ride by cable car which takes us to the summit of the Tatra mountain range, and I hiked up to the weather station. Still in the mountains, we ride in horse drawn wagons to Lake Morskie Oko blue lake, a unique experience.

Day 16, its high adventure as we raft down the Dunajec River which is the border between Poland and Slovakia.

Sunday July 12th. We meet Fr Leonard's family after Mass at the parish church. Fr Leonard is the main celebrant and does a wonderful job giving us bilingual Mass, parishioners welcome our presence; we spent the afternoon sitting in the garden with his family enjoying afternoon tea.

Today is in stark contrast to yesterday. A visit to Auschwitz, an experience I will long remember. What I saw made me feel physically sick, and I pulled out after seeing the piles and piles of baby and children's shoes and clothes. I am not emotionally strong as I thought I was.

In the afternoon we visit Wadowice Pope John Paul's birthplace. The pilgrimage finished in Rome, after a tour of the Vatican museum and St Peter's Basilica. We visit the Salvatorian House where Francis Jordan's tomb lies. Having celebrated Mass in the chapel, we were given supper on the roof terrace, as we witness the sun setting over the dome of St Peter's. In conclusion, what was the highlight of my trip? I visited many beautiful places, but it was not them that inspired me, but a photograph of Pope John Paul II embracing his friend of many years - Cardinal Wyszynski.

The story is that when both men wanted to get away, they would come to this area to relax, walk, talk and pray in the chapel, this of course was before he became Pope. This photograph shows Pope John Paul II in white embracing the Cardinal (in a navy alb with his red sash). It speaks to me of love between two people which has not altered with the change of power.

This is what I have gained from this pilgrimage, the feeling of love and acceptance between everyone. We came as strangers from different parts of Australia and parted friends and companions in the Salvatorian Way.

 

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Do not lose heart, even if you are humiliated greatly. Have confidence in the Lord and strive for holiness.