THE P RTAL
The land of Blessed
John Paul II
AS I write this, I am busy with preparations for a trip to Poland. I’m on a pilgrimage/holiday with family and friends – including some of the team from the excellent
Magnificat (has Morning and Evening prayers, the Propers for Mass each day, plus info on all the saints and seasons, plus glorious artwork. If you don’t yet receive it every month, get yourself a sub. now: firstname.lastname@example.org
Why Poland? Blessed John Paul II, of course. Tere are dozens
of good reasons to visit Krakow: cathedral, castle, museums, university, history, scenery, coffee-shops, cakes, enchanting streets and squares, restaurants... and we’ll enjoy as much as we can of all of these, and with vigour. But the John Paul theme is the real reason for the trip.
John Paul II changed history Not only Polish history – 1989 and all that – but
British history. We are now all living the great adventure that our Holy Father Benedict began for us with Anglicanorum Coetibus. And its roots go back thirty years, to the first-ever visit to Britain of a Bishop of Rome, John Paul’s arrival at Gatwick in 1982.
I was there – with an awful lot of others – on the
tarmac at Gatwick, peering and cheering, jumping up to try to catch a glimpse of the white-clad figure that stooped to kiss the ground and turned to greet and wave. We had all set off at four in the morning in a coach from our Surrey parish, clutching thermoses of coffee and home-made periscopes.
Blessed John Paul’s walk into Canterbury Cathedral
alongside Dr Robert Runcie, praying at the tomb of St Tomas Becket was the proximate start of the series of events that led to the establishment of the Ordinariate, and the reason you are reading this. It is his successor, our wonderful Benedict XVI, who has had the courage to follow up, to take the great step and create the Ordinariate, aſter requests from Anglicans who came to see that any form of corporate reunion with Rome on a scale once envisaged was no longer possible.
And now here we are in a new chapter in a new century. Poland is a different country – facing new and
oſten frighteningly different challenges from those presented under Communism, and Britain is utterly different too. Time to take stock, to go on pilgrimage, to pray. Te Divine Mercy shrine and Sister Faustina. Wawel
cathedral, where Blessed John Paul was
ordained. Wadowice, where he was born and brought up and there is a museum dedicated to him. And more. Cream cakes, too – John Paul’s favourite cakes are now known as kremowka papieska in his honour.
A time to pray We’ll pray at the Divine Mercy shrine, and our
prayers for Britain will be fervent: this is a country where abortion, drug abuse, high crime rates and family break-up are now so standard as to be the stuff of clichés, and where the government’s response is to urge legislation inventing the notion that two men can marry each other. We’ll light candles for our friends and family, for all the intentions that we are carrying on this pilgrimage, and for the Ordinariate and its bright future.
We’ll explore Poland’s history, including recent
history that in the 20th century forged bonds with Britain in a dark hour, and in the 21st has brought so many Poles to work here in uncertain times. Poland’s history is chequered and so is ours.
We cannot predict the future and we can’t simply
issue instructions to God and expect him to fulfil them: history is human history and we write it with our deeds, good and bad. JPII now knows more about it all than we do.
Te day aſter I get back, there’s an ordination in
London of two more priests for the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, with more to follow: that walk into Canterbury Cathedral and prayers at the tomb of a martyred archbishop are all part of that too.
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