WITH JESUS TO ROME
Pilgrims of Divine Mercifulness – as their community is called so - set off from Łódź and went through Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia. After their crossing by ferry to Italy they had about 2 thousand kilometers to travel. The creator of the image is Fabian Jałocha, an artist from Radzymin near Warsaw.
The image of Merciful Jesus – the faithful copy of the image from Vilnus and painted according to the project of s. Faustyna Kowalska, the Saint Sister later – was to get to the church in Egypt. Therefore the inscription ‘Jesus, I trust you’ was written in Arabic. However, finally, the painting was made in Poland, and the five pilgrims of Divine Mercifulness – Roman, Wojciech, Grzegorz, Marek and Seweryn – decided to take the painting to Rome as a gift for the Pope. The pilgrims were experienced because they had already travelled on many paths and started a few years ago, going to Assisi, but, now difficulties were incomparably bigger – as they were to pull a cart with an enormous painting.
The first step made
They set off from Łódź in the mid of April, on Sunday of Divine Mercifulness , a day after pope Francis had announced the Holy Year of Mercifulness. On the first day they had already have an adventure: the cart weighing over 200 kg, on which they were carrying the picture, had to be taken back to a mechanic. They thought then that it was a bad start. God teaches humility and shows that it is Him who leads – they commented. – They were really anxious because when a cart got broken down in Łódź, so what might happen in the mountains? – says Leszek Podolecki, a founder of the Charity Institute named St. Albert the Brother, a mentor of pilgrims (they were his proteges). – I told them: the first step made. What is most important is not the weight of the cart, but your unity and community. The evil will want to destroy it.
The road, especially on roundabouts and the change of a lane, required good cooperation of the group, but it was getting better every day. However, the road had its consequences: the first blisters on legs. And it was also raining near Częstochowa, and they put up a ‘shelter’ for the cart for the first time – they ate under a shelter at their stops.
After a week they got to Jasna Góra. The image of Jesus was brought to the Chapel to the Miraculous Image of Our Lady for a while, and then to the basilica. In order to participate in it, Myrna Nazzour arrived at Jasna Góra, who is a stigmatic from Syria and one of the greatest mystics of the Church living now.
One mustn’t lose faith
On 1 May they hardly got to the first defile in the mountains. According to the report of www.idzieczlowiek.pl : ‘There was an exclusive SPA centre there. They only wanted a consent to camp in a forest, put up tents and a shelter on the cart. One of guests must have heard a story of the sweaty pilgrims because he discreetly paid for our accommodation and breakfast. A lady at the reception said that this man, a rich Russian man did not want to reveal his person. He had only told her that he wanted to help in this way at least because he was lost in God’s eyes. He asked us for a prayer for his two daughters. The woman at the reception gave him a cross of pilgrims from us and a word that one mustn’t lose faith in Divine Mercifulness’.
The beginning of May, Slovakia. In a village Czerne a church full of people was waiting for them – the message about the pilgrimage of the image of Jesus spreads very quickly. Their friends from Łódź joined them for a few days: Fr. Grzegorz, Robert, a superior of Lay Franciscans and Andrzej, a constructor of the cart. Now they were walking and praying.
A punctured tire in Slovakian
They had a punctured tire for the first time on the 600th kilometer, near Komatcice. They got help from the Slovakians. The Slovakians gave us accommodation, food and took our cart to a repair service. A punctured tire in Slovakian means ‘soul’. They joked: ‘Our cart got a new soul from you. They arrived at Hungary with the new ‘soul’ , where the area was as flat as a snooker table.
In Zirc town they met with an abbot of the Cysters and a team making a film about Divine Mercifulness for the World Youth Days next year. They had accommodation in the monastery, each of them in a separate room. The Polish-Hungarian friendship was blossoming and they chanted it in Hungarian: Jezusom, bizom Benned! (Jesus, I trust You!).
Mester Balazs, a mayor of Bardudvarnot town, while greeting the pilgrims, gave them bread and salt and asked if he could join the pilgrimage as a person pushing the cart. And it was so for a few days, till they got to the border with Croatia and the team consisted of six people. And in Croatia? This is a different story. We met with excellent hospitality all the time.
Croatian people whom we met during the Corpus Christi procession invited us for dinner, and then helped us with accommodation in Bosnia. In Bosnia, in the mosaic of cultures, languages and religions, only 15 percent of inhabitants are the Catholics , but the pilgrims met with constant expressions of friendliness, which also reflected in food and accommodation they got.
Across the mountains to Medjugorie
A great challenge for us were the mountains where there were no houses on the area of tens kilometers, only a twisting road and rocks. And it was also boiling hot, as it is usually so in the mid of June. In the canyon Vrbas they met a group of Poles – cyclists from the pilgrimage ‘Mission Mary’, leading from Poland to Medjugorie and Czarnogóra, on their route, exactly. There were a lot of emotions, friendliness and the common Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
It took them two weeks to wander in the mountains to Medjugorie. They got to the place, at last. ‘The painting was placed on a special place during the Rosary prayer and the Holy Mass – we read in a report on the website www.idzieczlowiek.pl – The parish priest welcomed our pilgrimage and presented it to a few thousands pilgrims from all over the world’. People could find out that their pilgrimage was a good offer for those who had experienced weaknesses in their life: in loneliness, addictions, illnesses, in prison. And that they are joined with one thought that it was Divine Mercifulness which raises sinners from their fall and lets them live.
After a few days in Medjugorie they were to overcome a road along the Adriatic to Split. From there a ferry to Ankona in Italy and further – from Assisi to Rome. Soon after a meeting with Pope. Yes, because they were already certain that they would be able to give the painting to Francis personally.
To Rome through Assisi
Italy, near Ankona, the end of June, over 30 degrees. They have walked first kilometers in Italy…and the cart with the painting landed on a Police tow truck. Gunmen said that there was too much traffic and transported them 12 km on a less busy road. They were very kind and admired the painting. They wished the pilgrims a good pilgrimage to Rome.
There were still a dozen kilometers to Assisi. So many, as they were on a road to the Apennines but after Bośnia they had a great experience. – It is not easy for them to walk but not it will be easier – says Leszek Podolecki. – I told them that unity would be the most important and that they had to be a good community. I know that they had bad moments, as their characters are different but they endured it.
Next week they have a chance for an audience with the Pope. – Archbishop Andrzej Dzięga helped in it – says Podolecki. – What will the Pope do when he sees the Arabic inscription? Let’s imagine that he may say: ‘Carry it on’. If he tells them to carry it to the Holy Land or to Cairo, they will. But it will be possible not earlier than next year, and preparations will surely last for a few months.