Hello and welcome!
As I mentioned last week, I had been giving different catecheses for participants at World Youth Day in Poland, and on Friday we had the last of these in Wadowice.
The catechesis was held outdoors in the plaza, which was filled with young people from throughout the world, including our youth from the Cathedral the Holy Cross in Boston.
The plaza is just outside the church where Pope John Paul II was baptized, received his first Communion and was confirmed.
Right next to the church is his childhood home. His family had an apartment on the second story of a building that belonged to a Jewish merchant. On the first floor was the store, and they lived in a 3-room apartment above it. That whole building has now been turned into a museum, which is very well done. There are a number of interactive exhibits and articles from his life and upbringing.
I was particularly struck by a wall with letters from all over the world attesting to his sanctity that were sent in during the process of canonization.
As I say, the apartment is just next-door to the church. They say that when Karol Wojtyla’s mother was giving birth in that apartment, she could hear the people in church chanting the Litany of Loreto, they were so close.
It reminded me of my own upbringing, because when I was a child, we lived very close to our church as well. Our priest used to knock on our door at 6 o’clock in the morning if they needed altar boys, so that my brother and I could go serve the Mass. There is something special about living close to your parish church.
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Saturday morning, we had a Mass with the Boston pilgrim group led by Father Matt Williams in St. Mary’s Church, which is one of the spectacular churches around the center square of Kraków.
In addition to the Boston pilgrims, we were joined by the group from Scranton Pennsylvania, as well.
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Shortly after the Mass we left to attend the evening vigil with the Holy Father at Campus Misericordiae. It was a beautiful evening, the weather was perfect.
I was very impressed to see the huge Door of Mercy they set up in the middle of the field.
The vigil began with a number of musical performances and testimonies, and in his address, the Holy Father made very poignant references to some of those testimonies. Among them was the testimony of a young woman from Aleppo, Syria who talked about the situation in her country, and there was also a man from Paraguay who had been involved in drugs and was rescued from that life with the help of a church organization.
Following those testimonies, the Holy Father gave a very animated address in which he challenged the young people not become “couch potatoes” or to take early retirement, but to be involved in changing the world by changing their own hearts. His remarks were met by a very enthusiastic response from the crowd.
The event concluded with Eucharistic adoration. The tabernacle was just beautiful, with the doors that open, exposing the Blessed Sacrament.
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The next morning, of course, was the Mass in the same place.Sunday was a very hot and sunny day.
They estimate there were about 1.5 million people present for the Mass.
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Monday morning I made a visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp, which was a profoundly moving experience.
The Capuchin Friars arranged for me to be able to go and pray in the cell where St. Maximilian Kolbe was put to death.
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From there we visited Wawel Castle in Kraków, which includes the Cathedral as part of the complex. St. Stanislaus and a number of Polish Saints are buried in the Cathedral, along with many former kings and queens.
It was in the crypt of the cathedral that Pope John Paul II celebrated his first Mass.
John Paul II was ordained on All Saints Day. So, the day of his first Mass was All Souls Day and he celebrated three Masses on that altar in the crypt.
His mother, father and brother had all died by the time he was 20 years old, so none of them were alive to see him ordained a priest. I’m sure it was very meaningful for him that his first Mass was on All Souls Day with that connection to his departed family.
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Monday afternoon, I attended a meeting of about 150,000 young people of the Neocatechumenal Way with their founder, Kiko Arguello.
During the meeting, there was an altar call for vocations. It’s always very moving because literally thousands of young men, women and families come forward answering the call for vocations or to go on mission.
I was very happy that at the meeting I was able to greet the group of 24 young people from the Pacific island nation of Kiribati led by Przemyslaw Kasprzak, one of our Boston seminarians who has been working there for about a year. They were helped to attend World Youth Day through our Boston office of the Propagation of the Faith.
The young people presented me with necklace made of shells.
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Because I was traveling back from World Youth Day, I was unable to attend the Knights of Columbus Supreme Convention.
Though I was sorry to have missed it, I was very pleased that Bishop Peter Uglietto, Bishop Robert Hennessey and many people from the archdiocese were able to attend.
We are very proud that our Massachusetts Knights of Columbus were recognized for the large number of new members they have gained in the past year, and we want to congratulate them.
I also want to reiterate my gratitude on behalf of all those who were able to make use of the splendid center that the Knights sponsored at World Youth Day. The arena, with a 20,000 seat capacity, was very useful, not just for the Americans, but for all the English-speaking pilgrims who attended the many events that were held there.
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And finally, yesterday we had our annual St. John Vianney gathering for priests at St. John’s Seminary. We began our day with a talk by Father Vin Daily on the life and spirituality of Dorothy Day. It was a very fitting topic for the Year of Mercy.
Then we prayed Vespers together and concluded our gathering with a nice cookout in the seminary courtyard.
I always look forward to this day of priestly fraternity.
Until next week,