Polish nuns, Carmelite nuns, living in a monastery in Iceland, surrounded by icy waters of the Atlantic ocean, have a canonization icon of John Paul II in their chapel.

One of nuns wrote it – because icon are written, not painted. Nuns placed it in their chapel. Marek Mszyca, the owner of the printing house in Kłobuck near Częstochowa, being in friendship with the Icelandic Caramel, saw the icon on Internet. Being delighted, he decided to bring this work to Poland.

Obviously, not the original work but its smaller copies. Moreover, the chairman of the Catholic Action in Częstochowa Artur Dąbrowski became enthusiastic about this idea. Thanks to it, the 2-meter copy of the canonization icon from Island is in a peregrination all over the country with the exhibition ‘Meetings with John Paul II’.

The icon of John Paul II was written in expectation for canonization of the Holy Father- the Carmelite nuns say to ‘Niedziela’. – Finishing its writing converged in an excellent way with the day of canonization assigned by the Church. On this occasion the reproduction of the icon of the Holy Father with a little explanatory book how to read this icon were prepared.

KATARZYNA WOYNAROWSKA: – Where did the Carmelite nuns take the idea of writing the icon from?

S. AGNIESZKA FROM GOD’S MOTHER OCD: – The icon of John Paul II the Pilgrim of the World was written by our sister Miriam from Baby Jesus – a Carmelite nun from Iceland. She was working on it for 4 years. It can be said that our whole community from Hafinarfjordur in Island participated in writing this icon through a prayer and suggestions resulting from it about the content of the image. The sizes of the icon are 170x70cm and is in our chapel in the monastery of the Carmelite Nuns in Iceland.

– It is not the first icon written in Caramel, is it?

– A few years ago in our community in Iceland we recognized the spiritual call for writing icons presenting the saints in Caramel. In this series icons of St. Theresa from Avila – a reformer of Caramel and the PhD of the Church, as well as St. John of the Cross – ‘a guide of love’ and St. Joseph – a patron of Caramel in Island and a powerful advocate in any need were created. Indeed St. Joseph was not a Carmelite (laugh) but he was very worshipped in Caramel, to which St. Theresa from Avila had contributed…

– Is the icon of John Paul II a part of a series of Carmelite icons?

– Maybe this statement will rouse surprise but I will try to explain it. Well, it is widely known that St. John Paul II belonged to the Scapular Brotherhood and from the day of his First Holy Communion till his death he wore the Carmelite Scapular. However, not everybody knows that spirituality of Karol Wojtyła was formed on the basis of the teaching of saint PhDs of Caramel: St. John of the Cross, St. Theresa from Avila and St. Theresa from Baby Jesus. During the war occupation in Kraków in Dębniki Karol Wojtyła met a layman – a tailor Jan Tyranowski. It was just him who presented writings and teachings of St. John of the Cross and other saints of Caramel to young Karol Wojtyła. Poetry of Karol Wojtyła from that time proves his deep mystic spiritual life.
When in 1982 John Paul II visited Avila he admitted that ‘he worships St. Theresa from Avila and St. John of the Cross as their spiritual masters’.
Reading the icon of John Paul II, especially the scenes presenting various periods of his life, one can see how much the Holy Father lived his contemplation life – how much he noticed the presence of God in every detail and at every moment of his life and how all events – these most difficult and painful ones, as well as the happy ones: work, learning, rest – he experienced in the presence of loving God. Every man can find an example in them, as well as consolation, help and courage to walk this road of close friendship with Jesus. We trust that like the is icon of John Paul II personalized us the person and spirit of this excellent saint, it will also be a meeting with the saint for all those who will pray to the reproduction of our icon.

– Do Sisters know that Your icon starts being popular in Poland? And that its copy with the papal exhibition has started its peregrination in Poland?

– We are a bit surprised by the fact how quickly our icon became popular in Poland. We live on a small island surrounded by arctic waters of the Atlantic Ocean, as if in a double cloister: the one resulting from our contemplation and pent life and resulting from the geographic location as well as a small population of 320 inhabitants of Island. Our icon is a fruit of our prayer in silence and solitude, a spiritual meeting with John Paul II.
We understand the quick popularization of the icon in Poland as an action of the Holy Spirit who presided over creating the icon and now wants its message to spread and be a chance for others to get fruits of the spiritual meeting with John Paul II.
St. John Paul II visited Iceland in 1989. It was a gesture of respect from the Holy Father for this small protestant society and small group of the Catholics, which was appreciated by the Icelanders. Today, after many years, the Holy Father in his image is leaving Island and is going in his further pilgrimage, uniting the most distanced countries and nations.

– How should we read the icon? A small book has been attached to the icon of Sisters – a kind of a spiritual guidebook….

– The word ‘icon’ (gr. eikon) is translated as: a picture, image, portrait. However, it has a deeper sense. The icon is a window through which we can look at the invisible mystery and read it with our heart. An event and people presented through the icon become present in a special way.
The man – created to the image and similarity of God, is the icon of His Creator. In pope John Paul II we could contemplate the God’s icon. Love radiating from his person attracted us, fascinated, inspired us and we felt well when being within this radiation. Everyone wants to be close to holiness because each of us has vocation to holiness implanted in heart in the eternal plan of God. Therefore, when John Paul II passed away from this earth physically, we are looking for his signs, ways in order to remain under his generous influence. We are His generation, we grew up in his school and we want to remain in it.
The icon, regardless of its character, becomes a special place of a meeting. The picture and symbol sometimes speaks with more power than the word does. Therefore, it is somehow natural that somebody who wants to meet with the Pope stands before his icon. The contemplation of the person of John Paul II, his life, utterly entrusted to God becomes a source of grace, lasting and alive call, so that we – similarly as him – through every day choices would let God inscribe his image in us.

– How did Sisters get to Island? In Poland it is said that it is a country of rough sweaters and people loving our Polish chocolate wafer Prince Polo, but it turns out that we have our Polish prayer foothold – the Carmelite convent!

– It has just been 30 years now since a group of nuns from Poland arrived in Iceland in order to start the Carmelite life on this harsh and different land than the Polish one. Our Caramel convent in Iceland was the first foreign foundation not only for Caramel, but generally, is we consider contemplation convents in Poland. From that memorable year 1984 till today, Jesus calls many young girls to our Caramel. He calls them to leave Homeland and ‘go to the country which is given as a promised land ‘ to meet and live with Him and for Him – far away from families, relatives and friends. Leaving Homeland for ever, we resign from what we love, but we resign for the only and the greatest Love of our life – Jesus. He still needs human hearts which would like to belong only to Him. Caramel in Iceland is just for us a place of our devotion to Him. Here, every day we receive love from His good hands, and being with Him brings us happiness, which nobody and nothing can give us in the world.


"Niedziela" 18/2014

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: