Hello friends! It’s been a little bit since my last post because life has been busy! Let me share what I’ve been up to…
Sunday, April 24, was Divine Mercy Sunday, and oh my goodness, it was such a gift to be able to celebrate it here in Krakow. If you don’t know, the devotion of Divine Mercy is simply that – remembering how Christ is always merciful to us and learning to lean into that truth. Christ appeared in visions to a woman named Sr. Faustina who was a nun in Krakow. After her death, devotion to Divine Mercy and praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy spread throughout the whole world, and John Paul II named the second Sunday of Easter to be Divine Mercy Sunday. Across from the John Paul II Shrine where I live is the Divine Mercy Shrine, built right next to the chapel where Faustina lived during these visions. Sunday morning I was able to attend Mass in this chapel in English along with some of my other friends. The campus at the Shrine was full of so many pilgrims that day, it was amazing! We had been to Divine Mercy a few times since they do Mass in English on Sundays, but it had never been this full before. My heart was warmed realizing that the reason there were so many people here was because they all recognized that today was very important, and they wanted to be a part of celebrating it.
Later that afternoon, we returned to the Shrine for the Hour of Mercy which is the 3 o’clock hour when Christ died. They hosted a holy hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament along with praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet in different languages. It was so full that my friends and I couldn’t even get into the main Basilica where they were hosting the holy hour, so we knelt outside with countless others to pray. After the Hour of Mercy, we decided to attend Mass again since they were hosting it outside! I’m so glad I stayed for that, because it was so amazing getting to be a part of such a large congregation attending Mass that day.
The following day we had a field trip out to Wadowice, which is where John Paul II lived until he was 18 and moved to Krakow for university. His house, which they now built into a museum, was right next door to the church his family was a part of, and where he was baptized. We were able to walk through this church and see the baptismal font he was baptized in. We then walked through the museum dedicated to him next door and got to walk through his family’s apartment that was within the museum. I loved getting to see the place where young Karol Wojtyla actually grew up and lived during his childhood. Later that day we drove to Kalwaria, which is an area in Krakow where they made a replica of areas of the Holy Land of Jerusalem. Each year on Good Friday they have live Stations of the Cross throughout the land of Kalwaira. I hope someday I can come back on that day to attend them!
I had normal days of classes on Tuesday and Wednesday before packing my bags to go to France on Thursday! My friend Grazyna and I woke up early Thursday morning to fly to Paris where we met my parents at the Arc de Triumph! We had a great time biking through the city and passing by so many of these major places like the Louvre and Notre Dame. Grazyna and I bought some crepes and sat in front of Notre Dame to eat them after my parents left to grab their train to Nice. Grazyna and I would join them in a few days after our trip to Lisieux! Before that, we stopped at a chapel dedicated to the Miraculous Medal. It was such a simple and beautiful gem in such a huge city. St. Catherine Labour received visions from Mary right here in Paris, and they built a chapel where they occurred, and St. Catherine is now buried there. It was such a perfect little pilgrimage stop before hopping on a train to Lisieux.
Hands down, Lisieux was my favorite part of France. It was so peaceful and quiet. My confirmation saint, St. Therese of Lisieux was from this city, and both Grazyna and I have a special relationship with her. We took a train to Lisieux at the end of the day on Thursday and spent all of Friday exploring this beautiful town. We started with a stop at the Carmel, where Therese lived when she was a nun and where she is buried. I’m not quite sure how long Grazyna and I stayed in front of her tomb praying, but at some point, a lady stopped to hand us both a rose, a symbol Therese is known for. That was the highlight of my entire weekend! It was such a beautiful time just getting to spend time with my best Heavenly friend and receive a beautiful gift from this woman. After prayer at St. Therese’s tomb and Mass at the Carmel, we walked through the mini museum they had attached that walked through Therese’s 24 years of life on earth. After that, we walked to her childhood home which they have preserved all these years! This was absolutely beautiful and such a peaceful place. After having the tour, Grazyna and I just sat in her backyard for a bit before saying a prayer and heading onto our final destination of the day, the Basilica of St. Therese. Oh my goodness friends, this place was such a testament to what God can do with your yes. When Therese was on her deathbed, some sisters whispered to each other that they didn’t know what they would write for her obituary, because she hadn’t really done much. So much of Therese’s life was a silent witness to Christ, but it paid off. This beautiful and large basilica in her name stood to me as a physical representation of what happens when you give your little yes to God. You might not be able to do much, but when you give Him what you have, He makes great things from it. This basilica was amazing, with little side chapels dedicated to different countries, as well as her parents’ tomb in the basement. They also had a beautiful side chapel dedicated to Poland which was fun to see!
Saturday morning we took a train back into Paris and enjoyed another day there. We went first to Sacre Cour. It was amazing to see such a beautiful and old church that has been there for so long. We stopped to say a prayer and were able to listen to the sisters there as they prayed the Liturgy of the Hours. Afterward, we took a bus to the Eiffel Tower! Grazyna and I picked up some simple picnic food on our way to the tower and had a simple little picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower! After taking some pictures, we got in line to go to the top. It took so long, but it was totally worth it. You could see so much from the very top, and it was amazing to get to be at one of the most famous monuments in the world. After enjoying the views for a while, we headed down and to the airport to catch our flight to Nice.
Nice was so so beautiful. We went to Mass at the Cathedral with my parents the next morning, and then just spent the morning and early afternoon shopping. We just soaked in the beautiful weather on the seashore and in the town for the day before heading back to eat dinner and watch a movie. The next day, we took a train to Monaco and enjoyed ourselves just wandering around. The sea was beautiful, and there were so many fun boats to look at! Monaco is also hosting Formula 1 racing in a few weeks, and my family is a huge fan of F1. We walked around the racetrack that will be full of cars in a few weeks and took lots of pictures for my brothers back home. We also stopped to buy a drink in the Monte Carlo Casino, and we felt so fancy! It was such a fun way to spend the day and our last day of the trip.
Tuesday I spent traveling home and sleeping after a packed long weekend. On Wednesday I was able to meet up with my parents in Krakow after class and show them some of my favorite spots before bringing them back to the shrine for dinner with the whole group I’ve been living with the last few months! It was so fun to give them a taste of my life while I’ve been abroad. Thursday I spent studying and working on papers while my parents visited Auschwitz which I will do in a week or so. We spent Friday together touring different parts of downtown Krakow again, and on Saturday I took them out to Czestochowa. It’s been such an amazing blessing to share this special place with them. They fly back early Monday morning, so tomorrow will be my last day to hang out with them here in Poland before moving home in a week! I can’t believe my time in Poland is almost over, but I am so so grateful for my time here. Tune in next week to hear about my last week. Czesc!