Christmas in Krakow’s Jewish Quarter: Divine Mercy, Part 2

“Also not far from the Jewish Quarter in this city, is a little chapel where the bones of a Polish nun, St. Faustina Kowalska, are laid to rest. Hanging above this poor nun’s tomb is the miraculous image of Divine Mercy. The painting is of the merciful God that this humble women hailed; on her knees, head lowered, prayer beads in hand.”

-Christmas in Krakow: The Jewish Quarter, Divine Mercy, Part 1

In stark contrast to Hitler, St. Faustina gave her life by emptying herself of self-love. She experienced deep mystical union with God having her one desire for herself to be God’s will at all times, in every present moment.

Having entered the convent in 1925 after experiencing the Suffering Christ, she spent her days serving her sisters in the Congregation of Our Lady of Mercy. It was in this small convent in Krakow, not far from the Jewish Quarter, that God would reveal himself to this young Polish woman who had given up everything, including marriage, to live a life of obedience and poverty.

As she enthusiastically went about her tasks, that were rather monotonous and dull, one would never guess by appearances, that this nun with only three years of formal education would be God’s choice to reveal to a tormented world his answer to it’s misery; Divine Mercy.

Over the course of the next thirteen years, Jesus revealed the mystery of his pierced heart for the world, which is Love and Mercy, over and over again to St. Faustina. He expressed his great hunger to be united in love with each person on earth. He promised that anyone who turned to Him with trust in His goodness would receive pardon for the wrongs they had done, for He is Love and Mercy itself.

Having a deeply contemplative prayer life of humble sacrifice, extraordinary gifts were given to St. Faustina such as revelations, visions, the hidden wounds of Christ, participation in the Passion of Jesus’ suffering, bilocation, prophecy, reading of souls, and mystical marriage and engagement.

As incredible as those gifts are, the most lasting gift to be given through Faustina is the miraculous image of Divine Mercy, along with the accompanying prayers invoking God’s unfathomable mercy for the world.

Jesus revealed, and is still revealing today through this miraculous image, that He is mercy and the hope for our misery. His greatest desire is to flood our soul with His boundless love. We need to trust in Him.

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Blood and water which gushed forth from the heart of Jesus, I trust in you.

Prayer from the Chaplet of Divine Mercy

Visiting the Divine Mercy Sanctuary: Krakow, Poland

The Divine Mercy Sanctuary is open to visitors. Mass is offered, as well as other prayer services, throughout the year. Check their website for the most current offerings. In addition to the shrine where St. Faustina is laid to rest, there is a basilica, as well as her house which has as a reproduction of her cell. The sanctuary is run by the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy.

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Christmas in Krakow’s Jewish Quarter: Divine Mercy, Part 1

“Tell the world of my great and unfathomable Mercy.”

Jesus to St. Faustina

Christmas Eve in the Jewish Quarter

Returning to the hostel from Midnight Mass, I joined two new friends from Tel Aviv, who were celebrating Hanukkah. As we raised our glass together, I could not help but think of what happened not far from this city during World War II; the systematic extermination of people, primarily Jews, but many others as well, who were deemed less than vermin.

Just prior to my arrival in Krakow, I had made an intentional trip to Dachau, a Nazi concentration camp just outside of Munich, Germany. It was a personal pilgrimage for me of which I will write more about soon. So much suffering had taken place there as a direct result of individuals choosing to commit evil against their neighbors, many of whom were Poles. Comprehension of the suffering imposed on those interned in the camps seems nearly unfathomable to people of good heart.

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When confronted with evil on the magnitude of the Holocaust, it seems only natural to want to lash out at anyone that could have had the power to stop the atrocities and didn’t. Evil on this level, may cause us to question even the existence of the Creator. We might even attribute to God all the narcissistic qualities of the man who the SS hailed as their “Hitler” thus paying the man, not the Creator, homage.

In light of these conclusions, hopelessness and despair seem understandable. All that might be able to rally us through those two tunnels of darkness, would be our hearts cry for justice, but too often, this desire turns into revenge–justice at all costs, no matter what level it sinks us to. Forgiveness? For what purpose?

At a low point in my life, as I wrestled with forgiving people who injured me gravely, someone told me this:

Unforgiveness is like handing your enemy a cup of poison but instead drinking it yourself.

That was an eye opening perspective. What good was my anger doing for me? Nothing good. Forgiveness seemed impossible to me. I did not have enough Love. I was incapable of forgiving my enemy. I was suffering; not the one perpetuating the evil.

Enter Saint Faustina Kowalska

Also not far from the Jewish Quarter in this city, is a little chapel where the bones of a Polish nun, St. Faustina Kowalska, are laid to rest. Hanging above this poor nun’s tomb is the miraculous image of Divine Mercy. The painting is of the merciful God that this humble women hailed; on her knees, head lowered, prayer beads in hand.

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Christmas Day: Krakow’s Main Square, The Place to Be

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The Nativity at St. Mary’s Basilica

The magic of Krakow does not end on Christmas Eve. Actually the celebration is just beginning! The majority of Poles still observe Christmas for the full twelve days. The celebration begins on December 24th and continues through Epiphany, which is January 6th.

Christmas Day in Krakow must be spent visiting the Christmas Fair. Amidst horse drawn carriages, Christmas trees, twinkling lights, and stages bedecked with Polish singers and dancers, is a square permeated with delicious scents. Mulled wine, sausages, soups, sweet treats and pierogies (polish dumplings) are served in abundance. Wooden stalls are filled to the brim with rustic and glass ornaments, handmade knitwear, traditional pottery, toys, and wooden housewares.

Cloth Hall, which might be the first shopping mall ever, is likely to be open too. This UNESCO World Heritage Site which dates back to the Renaissance, is full of quality amber jewelry, beautiful icons and other items to purchase.

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Christmas Fair, Main Square

A visit to St. Mary’s Basilica which is adjacent to Main Square should not be missed. It is free to those who enter to pray or to attend mass. Tours are not offered on Holy Days.

St. Mary’s is second in importance in Krakow, only to Wawel Cathedral. It is from her watchtower that Krakow’s trumpeter sounded the alarm at the invasion of the Tarters during the Middle Ages. During that invasion, the trumpeter was unable to finish the call as he had been shot in the throat by a Tarter’s arrow, causing him to give up his life. Still to this day the trumpet call is made from the watchtower on the hour throughout each day. To honor the faithful, fallen trumpeter, the call ends at the exact moment the trumpeter of Krakow stopped playing, all those centuries ago.

I swear on my honor as a Pole, as a servant of the King of the Polish people, that I will faithfully and unto the death, if there be need, sound upon the trumpet the Heynal in honor of Our Lady each hour in the tower of the church which bears her name. -Oath of the Trumpeter of Krakow

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Szopka Krakow

Krakow loves Christmas. It is customary during this holy season to visit different churches throughout the city to pray before the beautiful nativities on display inside. Mini-pilgrimages may be made in this way to honor the long awaited Christ Child. As you make your way to the next church keep your eyes out for the many szkopas scattered about the city in shop windows, museums, restaurants and along the street. These whimsical folk art nativities use Krakow’s historical buildings as their backdrop. Krakow’s szkopas brighten the season and heighten the charm of this endearing City of Saints.

 

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A Magical Christmas in the City of Saints: Krakow, Poland

We stood there in it’s shadow, shivering not just from the bite in the midnight air, but also with anticipation of what we had both so longed for throughout our advents. With daring, he spoke his first words of broken English; wide smiles filled in where words were lacking.

The iron gate was still closed and a few others were embarking up the steep road that would lead to the ancient sanctuary where the tomb of Poland’s most beloved Stanislaus’ body rests. The gate began to be drawn by the guardsman. He motioned for us to enter and the two, who were now twenty, quickly made our way up the road to the great door of Wawel Cathedral.

There to meet us, as if the Trumpeter of Krakow himself, was a distinguished clergyman dressed in full medieval regalia announcing with tremendous vigor a greeting of great importance. All in POLISH. Of course.

As I passed, I quietly whispered, “Merry Christmas, Father.” with my very American accent. The priest’s stern face melted into a sweet smile and he allowed this American girl to enter Poland’s great treasure. As I entered I felt as if I had just stumbled upon a dragon’s hoard with all the glittering metal. I was truly taken back by the beauty of this Holy place.

I took a seat in a wooden monk’s stall not far from the alter. Kneeling on the stone floor like thousands of pilgrim’s before me, I thanked God for bringing me here safely. I asked my beloved, Saint Pope John Paul II, to pray for my family as he had prayed for his in this Cathedral at his first mass as a priest.

“Oh my God,” I began. “I offer up all my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this pilgrimage, in union with this holy mass and those offered throughout the world. I pray…”

Baby Jesus was laid in the manger. The mass that I had traveled across the world for had begun. The cadence of the words spoken, though unintelligible to me, were intimately familiar, striking deeply in my heart. And then the miracle happened once again. God came down to dwell in his people. We were filled with hope.

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Me. Myself. And Why?

Camino del Norte 2019

So why? Why another travel-ish-y blog. Do we really need one more when there are already so many siq Aussie, vegan, influencers who have perfected the Kiwi accent and don’t mind close ups on their barely-there-derrieres; while living their best life and blogging from the mouth of an ancient ruin? Did I mention they do that all while chugging a pint?

No, we don’t–but this isn’t going to be one of those travel blogs because my Instagram feed is already flowing with amazing travel porn. Cheers. I love those Aussies and their adventurous spirits!

Instead, it is my hope to share with you the idea of pilgrimage, and to give you inspiration to seek that which will bring you and your favorite people: grace, joy and peace. And perhaps, a little know-how on going it alone.

I hope you will find encouragement here as we walk alone, together. 

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My First Blog Post

Hey. Welcome in.

Camino de Santiago, The French Route 2019

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.

If you want to find out a bit more about my blog head to Me, Myself; and Why?

Cheers!