Benedict XVI in the Mother's house at Jasna Gora
Katarzyna Woynarowska, Fr Robert Lukaszuk, OSPPE
Jasna Gora witnessed six papal visits. It is difficult to surprise the city of Czestochowa but this time the tension and emotions fill the air. We, hosts and pilgrims, feel that it is going to be another great day. Many hours before the meeting with the Holy Father crowds of people come to the monastery. By 3 pm the commons, parks and lanes leading to Jasna Gora are packed. The faithful have been praying since morning. They said the hours in the morning, which sounded specifically at Jasna Gora. Now, standing on the sanctuary walls Fr Kamil Szustak, OSPPE, is teaching people a wonderful song by Bishop Jozef Zawistowski and Fr Wieslaw Kadziela entitled 'Stand firm in faith'. The refrain of the song ends with the words 'Deus caritas est', which is the title of the first encyclical of Benedict XVI. This song, which will be sung in the parish church, becomes a memento of the meeting with the Pope, Fr Kamil explains.
There have been 40 confessionals on the edge of the square. And there are queues to each one of them.
10 am - beginning of the penance service. Meditation, silence, reflection.
- We want the Holy Father John Paul II's conviction that Jasna Gora was a confessional and altar to come true, informs Fr Piotr Polek, vice-abbot of Jasna Gora, who is responsible for the organisation of the papal visit.
Last preparations on the walls. The well-known field altar has been only slightly modified to meet the needs of the Pope. Marek Kankowski, carpenter from Krzepice, has prepared a special throne with the papal emblem and insignia. The culmination is Holy Mass, which Cardinal Henryk Gulbinowicz, Archbishop Emeritus of Wroclaw, celebrates at 3 pm. Bishop Andrzej Suski delivers a homily.
The papal helicopter lands at the Pilgrim House at 5.17 pm. Archbishop Stanislaw Nowak, Metropolitan of Czestochowa, Fr Izydor Matuszewski, General of the Pauline Order, and the Board of the Sanctuary, welcome the Pope. Few minutes later the people who have been waiting on the other side of Jasna Gora wave their banners and hang out their placards, shouting: 'We love you! Viva Papa!' Bolted away by the noise birds rise from the park trees. Benedict XVI arrives at the courtyard in a dark limousine. The picture of our Lady is unveiled with old royal fanfares. The Successor of Peter and Successor of John Paul II is deeply moved when he prays in the Chapel of Our Lady. 600 monks and nuns, seminarians and lay leaders of movements, associations and brotherhoods as well as institutes of consecrated life pray together with the Holy Father. The General of the Pauline Order greets Benedict XVI and informs him about the constant prayer for the Holy Father at Jasna Gora. He stresses that the Pope arrives at Jasna Gora on Mother's Day, thus honouring all earthy mothers.
Benedict XVI offers a gold rose, which Pope Paul VI was to bring to the Mother of God in 1966 in order to celebrate the Millennium of Poland's Baptism but the communist government did not let him in. After 40 years the wish of Paul VI and the wish of Benedict XVI come true. We read in the inscription 'Benedict XVI offers a gold rose to the Mother of God, our Lady of Jasna Gora, remembering the great Son of the Polish Nation, the beloved Predecessor John Paul II (26 May 2006).'
After the prayer the Holy Father enters the monastery and goes to the primate's apartment on the second floor. On the way, in the sacristy, he meets the delegation of Marian towns.
In the meantime, half a million people who have gathered at the foot of Jasna Gora Hill, around the monastery and in the streets of Czestochowa learn the German greetings 'Gr(ss Gott' and 'Heiliger Vater'. The composition 'Tu es Petrus' is performed. The first words of Benedict XVI are interrupted by 'Long live the Pope!' 'Benedetto!' The Pope smiles and asks for silence. The Marian prayer in the month of May, which is so specifically Polish, is enriched with the words of welcome spoken by the bishop of the place Stanislaw Nowak, who is deeply moved and says that Poles have always felt free at Jasna Gora and have entrusted their lives to God. Archbishop Nowak asks Benedict XVI to pray the Litany of the Blessed Virgil Mary, entrust us to the Mother of God and give us his blessing. The Holy Father exposes the Blessed Sacrament in the 18th century monstrance, made by Brother Makary Sztyftowski, on the Jasna Gora walls. Fr Izydor Matuszewski reads a prayer of adoration. How beautiful is the reading about Mary and disciples in the upper room! Benedict XVI speaks in Polish and Italian about the mystery of vocation, mystery of faith and Mary as our spiritual Guide, Guide not only for the consecrated people and seminarians but also for all those who have gathered at the foot of Jasna Gora Hill. 'It is important for you to believe in the power of faith', the Holy Father says, 'in the relationship with living God so that faith penetrates your thinking and acting, so that faith is joy and enthusiasm.' After a while the wistful Polish melody of the Litany of Loretto is sung so loudly around the place that the whole world can hear it. The service ends with a blessing of the Sacrament, which embraces the entire gathered crowd, devotional objects and cornerstones for Polish churches as well as commemorative tablets and the cross of the Golgotha of the East.
After the service the Holy Father meets the Pauline fathers and brothers in the Knight Hall and photos are taken. The Pauline Fathers give Benedict XVI a copy of the Jasna Gora icon as well as an amber chalice and a paten. Afterwards the Holy Fathers leaves the shrine.
When Benedict XVI gets into the helicopter the people gathered on the commons keep praying, thanking God for the grace of this extraordinary meeting. They have waited for this moment of common prayer for many hours. As they tell us nobody has been disappointed.