August 7, 2011

Krakow and Divine Mercy

My favorite aspect of going on pilgrimage is that every day is filled with new graces and surprises.  When things go wrong and plans fall apart, opportunities to trust in God's providence are born.  He never disappoints and always exceeds every expectation.  All that is required is trust.

In a suburb just south of the town center, Lagiewniki, there is a sanctuary dedicated to Divine Mercy.  Sister Faustyna Kowalska had a deep relationship with Jesus and He spoke to her about his desire for Christians to rediscover devotion to his Divine Mercy.  He appeared to her with rays of light coming from his heart - a visible symbol of the grace, the blood and water, that He poured out on the Cross for each of us.  He knows our every suffering.  He has entered deep into our misery.  He comes to us inviting us to entrust our difficulties to Him.  It is by trusting Him that his power can flow into our lives. 

Jesus asked Sister Faustyna to have an image painted depicting the way she saw Him coming to us.  There were several attempts both before and after her death to provide this image.  The image commissioned before her death did not fully meet Sister's expectations.  Nor was it placed in a convent chapel the way she desired.  In fact, many things that Jesus asked of her never quite went the way she had hoped.  She often thought that she was failure - and many of her fellow religious thought she was crazy.  In the midst of this, she refused to be discouraged but constantly tried to renew her devotion to Jesus, trusting in him.  

After her death just prior to the Nazi invasion of Poland, one artist painted an image of the Lord in a manner described in her diary and gave it as a gift to the convent in Lagiewniki where Sister Faustyna was buried.  He offered it in gratitude for a miracle that saved his life.  The image is believed to be miraculous.  Some who have looked on it in prayer have been cured.  Something about this image and the the devotion promoted by Sr. Faustyna helped many Catholics deal not only with the Nazi occupation but also communism.  John Paul II also found this devotion to be helpful for his own spiritual life.  Today, the image is located just over the relics of Sister Faustyna in the convent chapel on the grounds of the sanctuary.  In 2002, John Paul II consecrated the grounds as a sanctuary to Divine Mercy.  Today, over two million pilgrims visit  each year discovering in different ways what it means to trust in the Lord and to live out his merciful love in their daily lives.

Yesterday a couple of our pilgrims arrived - without their luggage.  There was a little bit of discouragement in their faces when I met them at their hotel.  They needed to go to mass and were located only blocks away from the sanctuary.  So we went.  It was so beautiful and peaceful, a small example of the the surprise graces the Lord constantly gives to those who trust in Him.