Rooted in Christ
It was the 75th jubilee National Academic Pilgrimage to Jasna Gora. 'We are arriving here, we, rectors, professors, academic staff, students and priests, as part of the big tradition of pilgrimages of academic communities to You, Mother and Queen,' were the words of Bishop Marek Jedraszewski, delegate of the Polish Bishops' Conference for Academic Pastoral Ministry, directed to the participants of the pilgrimage during the Jasna Gora Appeal on 7 May 2011. He reminded them of the beginnings of the tradition when Blessed John Paul II as a grammar school student had arrived at Jasna Gora with the First National Academic Pilgrimage in 1936. Then twice: in 1942 and 1943 he took part in the secret pilgrimages during World War II because he cared very much that this tradition was continued.
Greeting: I am, I remember, I am watchful
Archbishop Stanislaw Nowak of Czestochowa greeted the academic community, 'Mary, Queen of Poland, I am with You, I remember and I am watchful.' He referred to the meeting of John Paul II with young people from all over the world in Czestochowa in 1991. 'During the Sixth World Youth Day in Czestochowa, facing over one million people, the Holy Father John Paul II proclaimed his creed, concerning the meaning of the word 'I am' during the Appeal. The favourite accent of his reflections directed to young people was 'watchful': watch over conscience, heart, greatness of one's humanity as well as over mind and freedom', Archbishop Nowak said.
The relics of Blessed John Paul II: an ampoule with his blood was carried in the pilgrimage. This event caused great joy among students, who came from all over Poland, and among the citizens of Czestochowa who had a unique occasion to experience this special presence of 'their' Pope.
The academic Church of St Irenaeus in Czestochowa
The inhabitants of Czestochowa made phone calls and sent SMS text messages, 'Come to the academic church; you can kiss the relics for one more hour…' People came quickly and the exposition of relics was prolonged for another hour. There were students, old people and parents with small children. People were moved, staring at the reliquary. Each of them kissed the relic. Some wanted to touch it and put a picture, a rosary or a prayer book on it. They took pictures. With love and faith that it was him in some particle, so close…
Do you want to be a palm or grass?
This question was asked by Rev. Dr. Wojciech Wegrzyniak at the beginning of the introductory conference. He regarded it as a fundamental question, which determined all kinds of rooting. The next conferences referred to the motto and theme of the pilgrimage 'Rooted in Christ.' Starting with comparing man to grass or a palm the speaker showed the possibility to choose between a quick effective but short-term success and a long-awaited, patiently worked out result yielding concrete fruit. He also focused on the necessity to discern with whom we wanted to be rooted, asking the question whether we understood Christ, who he was. 'Dynamic attitude in faith,' constant search and desire to know, conviction that a Christian is the one that can discern and shows recognisable signs of Christ in his/her life; these signs are: love, love of your neighbour - all these things are very important.
Przemyslaw Babiarz, a sports journalist, who also gave a talk to students, referred to the subject how to be 'rooted in Christ' in public space. He said that Lord God led straight but through curved roads. He compared the big game for the sense of life to the most wonderful match we could lose. 'Public life is in some ways like swimming in troubled water - under water, even with a diver's mask it is a hard achievement; the orientation in such a situation, support of somebody who is a guide, is the basis to survive,' the journalist said. He called television such troubled water since the media in their mass did not often have a source; they used a poisoned source or pretended that they had a source. The speaker tried to convince young people about the importance of being rooted. He referred to a tree that drew juice with its roots and if the roots were cut the tree withered. The roots are our origins and one should ask the question, 'Where do I come from?' During his public ministry Jesus was asked such a question.
Confessing your faith
During the meeting with students Malgorzata Kozuchowska, an actress, spoke about how it was difficult for people connected with culture to confess their faith in God. She tried to convince young people that it was extremely important to have the courage and not to be ashamed of who you were, what you believed in, what priorities you had and what values you followed in your life. Speaking about herself as a public figure she felt inner responsibility for what she communicated to people. In her interviews she preferred to speak about important things although it was not easy since in the world of the media sensation and scandals were increasingly more important. 'The more stupid, the better,' she said. 'It is hard to defend oneself against such things but one should defend oneself and often act against all the odds.' The actress spoke to the students. She was not afraid of difficult questions, including her roles in some TV series. She tried to prove that the truth had extreme power and it was worth living in accordance with one's conscience. And Christians' power is that they do not accept their weaknesses but take efforts to overcome them.
From the archcathedral to Jasna Gora
Time of prayer, penance and reconciliation. Time for the adoration of John Paul II's relics. During his talk Bishop Marek Jedraszewski said how the Holy Father could reach people. He referred to the motto of the pilgrimage quoting the words of the Pope spoken in Krakow in June 1979, 'You should never cut the roots from which we grow.' He connected his statement with the commandment, 'You shall honour your father and mother' through which John Paul II reminded us of respect for our ancestors and called for a proper shape of national life, education to freedom (at the threshold of the Third Polish Republic). 'Peace and Power' and 'Presence that strikes' were the terms used by the UNESCO representatives to refer to the Polish Pope.
After Archbishop Stanislaw Nowak had blessed the gathered with the relics people marched along the Blessed Virgin Mary Avenues towards Jasna Gora where a Mass presided over by Bishop Andrzej Czaja of Opole was celebrated in front of the shrine. Then the Jasna Gora Appeal accompanied by the reflections of Bishop Jedraszewski was sang. It was followed by a night prayer vigil at the relics of John Paul II.
The 75th National Academic Pilgrimage ended with a Mass in the basilica at Jasna Gora on 8 May, presided over by Bishop Jedraszewski. Several thousand students, with joy and feeling of the presence of the great patron of the youth and with the words of the student chaplain, 'Lord, increase our faith,' went to their homes all over Poland.