Sunday, October 01, 2006

Deb's Pilgrimage to Poland

When we left the United States there were places that each member of the family wanted to get to visit while living in Europe. For Mike it would be Avila, Spain and for Cody it would be the church where Padre Pio got the stigmata. For me it would be Poland, for several reasons. The 1st reason, during this past lent I was struck by the true faithfulness and deep devotion that the Polish people have. It touched my heart so deeply, in almost a way I could not understand. Then as we were discerning if we were called to move overseas, I had been praying for a saint and Maximilian Kolbe seemed to take hold of me in a very special way. When Father Ritchey had said we would have a offering Sunday at Holy Apostles to help support our call to study abroad, I struggled very much with this. I had always been taught to make my own way. Self reliance a blessed virtue, yet one that can hinder your surrender to God's will in a huge way. So you could have asked no more difficult task then for me to go up on that altar and ask for money. To the point it made me almost ill. Yet, in Christ's most merciful compassion that Sunday each homily at the different masses was done by a different deacon and Fr. Ritchey. It was amazing how the Lord strengthened me, because Saturdays evening mass homily was done by Deacon Pera and he preached solely on the faithfulness and willingness that Saint Maximilian Kolbe had to follow Christ anywhere. It was what gave me the strength to continue on in moving my family so far from our families and our family at Holy Apostles. As we continued on it was Saint Kolbe again that helped me choose a homeschool program to teach our children, since I was going into homeschooling with much fear and trepidation, "The Kolbe Program" out of California. So when Mike came home saying there was going to be a pilgrimage to Poland the tears flooded down my face, for I knew my heart was to go and take this journey to honor our Lord for his ever faithfulness. Yet, it turned out that Mike could not leave due to a class on Friday. So in my mind I decided it was not the year. There was no way I was traveling to another foreign country with the kids alone, Austria was hard enough as a family. So the time went by and the day the trip was to depart Felicity and her new best friend, Elizabeth conned me to go a hour before the trip was to depart. I was horrified, one hour to get together money, passports, luggage etc. In full tears and much trepidation I said yes thinking some road block would get me out of this trip. I at one point told the Lord if we are not to do this, stop us from going!!! For I would hardly get to say good-bye to Mike and I would not get to tell Cody, Zach, and Eli good-bye since they were at mass. We joined the group and got on the bus to find out that they had over-booked the trip and they promptly kicked us off the trip. I was at peace, I knew we were not to go. So we started to walk home with all our stuff, to have the trip coordinator chase us down and say its a mistake, you have seats. So off we were to Poland. Our trip started with a all night bus ride and two border crossings. Yes, sleeping on a bus 4 1/2 months pregnant is a feat all on its own, may the Lord bless Mary our mother for riding on a donkey. The trip itself was packed with a huge amount of sights to see, since the trip was organized for 19 to 20 year old students from Franciscan University. I am old, out of shape, and very pregnant! :) Our 1st stop was to our Lady of Czestochowa (the black Madonna)! What an amazing experience to watch the faithfulness of the Polish people walking on their knees to honor our Lord and his mother. We then had mass in front of our blessed lady's picture and to kneel on the stone floors and offer thanks and sacrifice during the mass was amazing.

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