Thursday, February 28, 2013

Funny Letters from 5th Grade Students

This week students sent some letters to me for some encouragement and asked me some great questions, so I thought I would share so enjoy,

"How many Bibles do you have? I bet you have a lot. And do you read them?"

"What Diocese do you want to be in?" 

"How old were you when you wanted to become a priest? Maybe someday I will want to become a priest. NOT right now because I'm in districts for hockey right now." 

"I hear you have 4 brothers, can I have one?" 

"Is seminarian school fun? I pinke-promise I will pray for you and your seminarian school."

"What is it like to be a seminarian? I heard you went to Immaculate Conception. I go their now. It hasn't changed one bit. My favorite day of the week is Wednesday because it is church day. The thing I love to do most is sing holy songs."

"What kind of sports do you like? I also love to pray and learn about God, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph." 

I wasn't born in Traverse City like you. I am the oldest of one. As you can see I am an only child. 

"Fr. Farkas I am happy you are studying at the seminary to be a priest."

"Are you married? How many kids do you have? I have one sister and two brothers." 

This made my day,

 St. John Bosco, Pray for us 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

God guides His Church

I just got back to my room from a jam packed (literally) morning in St. Peter's square for the last general audience of Pope Benedict XVI. We could not ask for a more beautiful morning. The sun is shining brightly here in Rome and the air is crisp and fresh. I may have even got a little sun burnt this morning. There were so many people there from all walks of life and from all continents. Some media reports say there were over 200,000 people at the audience today. I believe that I've been in bigger crowds at WYD for example, but I've never been in such a dense crowd The square was filled to capacity. It was so beautiful to see so many people there to say one last farewell to the Pope Benedict, a humble servant of the servants of God.

The whole event was really beautiful and quite emotional for those gathered there. I won't be soon to forget it. To have the opportunity to be in the square for such a historic and beautiful event is incredible. One of the moments I will remember the best is when during his discourse Pope Benedict was talking about the living body of Christ and motioning with his hands towards the crowd said, "Look at the Church, the body of Christ, and see how alive it is!" I looked around myself and took in that beautiful truth. How alive the Church is with all her members facing together the difficulties of our times with faith, hope and above all charity.

His discourse is worth reading. I've attached the text below.

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood!
Distinguished Authorities!
Dear brothers and sisters! 
Thank you for coming in such large numbers to this last General Audience of my pontificate.
Like the Apostle Paul in the biblical text that we have heard, I feel in my heart the paramount duty to thank God, who guides the Church and makes her grow: who sows His Word and thus nourishes the faith in His people. At this moment my spirit reaches out to embrace the whole Church throughout the world, and I thank God for the “news” that in these years of Petrine ministry I have been able to receive regarding the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the charity that circulates in the body of the Church – charity that makes the Church to live in love – and of the hope that opens for us the way towards the fullness of life, and directs us towards the heavenly homeland. 
I feel I [ought to] carry everyone in prayer, in a present that is God’s, where I recall every meeting, every voyage, every pastoral visit. I gather everyone and every thing in prayerful recollection, in order to entrust them to the Lord: in order that we might have full knowledge of His will, with every wisdom and spiritual understanding, and in order that we might comport ourselves in a manner that is worthy of Him, of His, bearing fruit in every good work (cf. Col 1:9-10). 
At this time, I have within myself a great trust [in God], because I know – all of us know – that the Gospel’s word of truth is the strength of the Church: it is her life. The Gospel purifies and renews: it bears fruit wherever the community of believers hears and welcomes the grace of God in truth and lives in charity. This is my faith, this is my joy.
When, almost eight years ago, on April 19th, [2005], I agreed to take on the Petrine ministry, I held steadfast in this certainty, which has always accompanied me. In that moment, as I have already stated several times, the words that resounded in my heart were: “Lord, what do you ask of me? It a great weight that You place on my shoulders, but, if You ask me, at your word I will throw out the nets, sure that you will guide me” – and the Lord really has guided me. He has been close to me: daily could I feel His presence. [These years] have been a stretch of the Church’s pilgrim way, which has seen moments joy and light, but also difficult moments. I have felt like St. Peter with the Apostles in the boat on the Sea of ​​Galilee: the Lord has given us many days of sunshine and gentle breeze, days in which the catch has been abundant; [then] there have been times when the seas were rough and the wind against us, as in the whole history of the Church it has ever been - and the Lord seemed to sleep. Nevertheless, I always knew that the Lord is in the barque, that the barque of the Church is not mine, not ours, but His - and He shall not let her sink. It is He, who steers her: to be sure, he does so also through men of His choosing, for He desired that it be so. This was and is a certainty that nothing can tarnish. It is for this reason, that today my heart is filled with gratitude to God, for never did He leave me or the Church without His consolation, His light, His love. 
We are in the Year of Faith, which I desired in order to strengthen our own faith in God in a context that seems to push faith more and more toward the margins of life. I would like to invite everyone to renew firm trust in the Lord. I would like that we all, entrust ourselves as children to the arms of God, and rest assured that those arms support us and us to walk every day, even in times of struggle. I would like everyone to feel loved by the God who gave His Son for us and showed us His boundless love. I want everyone to feel the joy of being Christian. In a beautiful prayer to be recited daily in the morning says, “I adore you, my God, I love you with all my heart. I thank You for having created me, for having made me a Christian.” Yes, we are happy for the gift of faith: it is the most precious good, that no one can take from us! Let us thank God for this every day, with prayer and with a coherent Christian life. God loves us, but He also expects that we love Him! 
At this time, however, it is not only God, whom I desire to thank. A Pope is not alone in guiding St. Peter’s barque, even if it is his first responsibility – and I have not ever felt myself alone in bearing either the joys or the weight of the Petrine ministry. The Lord has placed next to me many people, who, with generosity and love for God and the Church, have helped me and been close to me. First of all you, dear Brother Cardinals: your wisdom, your counsels, your friendship, were all precious to me. My collaborators, starting with my Secretary of State, who accompanied me faithfully over the years, the Secretariat of State and the whole Roman Curia, as well as all those who, in various areas, give their service to the Holy See: the many faces which never emerge, but remain in the background, in silence, in their daily commitment, with a spirit of faith and humility. They have been for me a sure and reliable support. A special thought [goes] to the Church of Rome, my diocese! I can not forget the Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, the consecrated persons and the entire People of God: in pastoral visits, in public encounters, at Audiences, in traveling, I have always received great care and deep affection; I also loved each and every one, without exception, with that pastoral charity which is the heart of every shepherd, especially the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Every day I carried each of you in my prayers, with the father's heart. 
I wish my greetings and my thanks to reach everyone: the heart of a Pope expands to [embrace] the whole world. I would like to express my gratitude to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, which makes present the great family of nations. Here I also think of all those who work for good communication, whom I thank for their important service.
At this point I would like to offer heartfelt thanks to all the many people throughout the whole world, who, in recent weeks have sent me moving tokens of concern, friendship and prayer. Yes, the Pope is never alone: now I experience this [truth] again in a way so great as to touch my very heart. The Pope belongs to everyone, and so many people feel very close to him. It’s true that I receive letters from the world's greatest figures - from the Heads of State, religious leaders, representatives of the world of culture and so on. I also receive many letters from ordinary people who write to me simply from their heart and let me feel their affection, which is born of our being together in Christ Jesus, in the Church. These people do not write me as one might write, for example, to a prince or a great figure one does not know. They write as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, with the sense of very affectionate family ties. Here, one can touch what the Church is – not an organization, not an association for religious or humanitarian purposes, but a living body, a community of brothers and sisters in the Body of Jesus Christ, who unites us all. To experience the Church in this way and almost be able to touch with one’s hands the power of His truth and His love, is a source of joy, in a time in which many speak of its decline. 
In recent months, I felt that my strength had decreased, and I asked God with insistence in prayer to enlighten me with His light to make me take the right decision – not for my sake, but for the good of the Church. I have taken this step in full awareness of its severity and also its novelty, but with a deep peace of mind. Loving the Church also means having the courage to make difficult, trying choices, having ever before oneself the good of the Church and not one’s own. 
Here allow me to return once again to April 19, 2005. The gravity of the decision was precisely in the fact that from that moment on I was committed always and forever by the Lord. Always – he, who assumes the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and totally to everyone, to the whole Church. His life is, so to speak, totally deprived of the private sphere. I have felt, and I feel even in this very moment, that one receives one’s life precisely when he offers it as a gift. I said before that many people who love the Lord also love the Successor of Saint Peter and are fond of him, that the Pope has truly brothers and sisters, sons and daughters all over the world, and that he feels safe in the embrace of their communion, because he no longer belongs to himself, but he belongs to all and all are truly his own.
The “always” is also a “forever” - there is no returning to private life. My decision to forgo the exercise of active ministry, does not revoke this. I do not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences and so on. I do not abandon the cross, but remain in a new way near to the Crucified Lord. I no longer wield the power of the office for the government of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, within St. Peter’s bounds. St. Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, shall be a great example in this for me. He showed us the way to a life which, active or passive, belongs wholly to the work of God.
I thank each and every one of you for the respect and understanding with which you have welcomed this important decision. I continue to accompany the Church on her way through prayer and reflection, with the dedication to the Lord and to His Bride, which I have hitherto tried to live daily and that I would live forever. I ask you to remember me before God, and above all to pray for the Cardinals, who are called to so important a task, and for the new Successor of Peter, that the Lord might accompany him with the light and the power of His Spirit. 
Let us invoke the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of God and of the Church, that she might accompany each of us and the whole ecclesial community: to her we entrust ourselves, with deep trust. 
Dear friends! God guides His Church, maintains her always, and especially in difficult times. Let us never lose this vision of faith, which is the only true vision of the way of the Church and the world. In our heart, in the heart of each of you, let there be always the joyous certainty that the Lord is near, that He does not abandon us, that He is near to us and that He surrounds us with His love. Thank you!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Defending the Faith: My Reflections on the March for Life

I have been contemplating for about a month on how I was going to write about my experience of marching at the March-4-Life on January 25, 2013. And I’m going to stick my neck out on the chopping block, because I think it is best if I start with a confession. I have not always been pro-life. Let me clarify that statement, it was not that I did not think that aborting a child was wrong, for I saw that as wrong. I would say, I was pro-life, but I did not believe that it was my place as a man to state my morals and beliefs on what I thought was strictly a women’s issue. I know that I am not the only man (or woman) out there that thought this on the Pro-Life Movement.

Now, I have always been Catholic and I was raised in a wonderful Catholic home. My parents quizzed my siblings and me on the faith on a regular basis; Holy Days of Obligation were not an option, as well as, the Stations of the Cross during the season of Lent. When I was really young I thought owning a home was something only priests had because the only person I new that “had/has” a house was my cousin, who is a priest. My brothers and I were Altar Boys for mass, lectors, and were extremely active members in the CCD programs and the high school ministry program too. And my parents made sure that my older brother and I made it to Rome, Italy for the Jubilee Year in 2000 to see, now Blessed Pope John Paul II because they said, “it will be an experience that will change your lives.” And when it came time in choosing a university after two years at the community college, I wanted to attend a Catholic university for my higher education and I even chose to study Sacred Music as my discipline. So you’re probably thinking: what went wrong? Where was the screw up? I seem pro-life, but how was I not Pro-Life?

The answer is simple: I was terrified to live out my faith; I was scared of what people would say or do to me if they found out I was one of them [pro-lifers], who prayed their rosary outside an abortion clinic or even worse I might be seen on television protesting for the Right to Life. I would be invited to march, both in DC and locally too, or to go and pray outside of an abortion or planned parenthood clinic by friends and colleagues and every time I would find some reason, some lame excuse of why I could not attend. Even after entering seminary, I was still frightened of the outside world. So during my first year of seminary, I said I would pray here at school, in solitude, all because I was scared, because I was a chicken, because I was a coward to fight for the right to life. It was as though for my entire life I was like Judas, dipping into all the vast riches of the Church, and then taking the sword and twisting the heart of Jesus and Mary right before a time of trial and prayer. How for so long I have had the desire to be like the Beloved Apostle Saint John to stand at the foot of the cross and never leave Christ, Our Lord and Savoir and how I have failed to live up to his exquisite expectations. 

But this year I did it, I stood up, maybe in a small way, but I stood with Christ on the thresholds of the battlefield. And I was still scared, I was still terrified, and on the outside I looked calm and cool, but internally I shaking and nervous. But I was there standing up for the belief that every human from the moment of conception has the right to live, the right to live a life to the fullest. And how good God was to me. The day before the march, I was in full roman attire walking with over hundred men of the Pontifical College Josephinum to the National Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to attend the Vigil Mass for Life. My heart was racing and all I could think was, “Create in me a clean heart, o God.” All I wanted to do was go to confession for my sins, and as I walked into the crypt thinking “it will be easy to find a priest,” but every seminarian was in clerical attire and I didn’t know where to go. And low and behold, out of the corner of my eye I caught the glimpse of my spiritual director. How good God is that he made sure that my spiritual director and I crossed paths at that very moment. And here at this most beautiful shrine were thousands of people cramming into the basilica to pray for the repose of those innocent souls and to pray for the conversion of all our hearts. As I was processing into the main church for the mass, and when I finally saw the resurrected Christ in the mural I was blown to tears. And watching the faithful seeing seminarian after seminarian you see on their face, “these men are the future that will help in the front lines of this war on life.” And how terrified I still was, but I knew, at that very moment, I knew God is with me in all my anxieties, fears, and temptations.

The day of the march is something I will never forget, it is etched into my memory for as long as I live whether it be long or short.  As we, the men from the Josephinum, arrived at the Washington Mall, I was struck by the amount of people. Banners waved, hymns were sung and no it was not just Catholics, it was people from every walk of life. I thought of scripture, “Every nation on earth . . .” for everywhere I looked: from the young to the old, the blind and the lame, the rich and the poor in extremely cold temperatures were united on the common ground that everyone deserves a life. I have been to Washington D.C. three times before this, but never have I seen this city this crowded. It was estimated that roughly 600,000 people were marching. One woman stood out in particular to me, she had a sign that said, “I regret my abortion.” and you could see on her face the pain she had, you could feel that her heart was broken and she was picking up the pieces and here she was doing the unthinkable, by putting herself in an extremely vulnerable position to help others not do what she had done. I was moved to tears and I could not help but think, “This woman is stronger than me.” With each step I could feel the presence of God, I could hear the saints and martyrs singing their hymns of praise. As we marched in our full roman attire, men, women and children thanked us for being here as a witness to the faith. All I could think was how could I have been so blind for so long; how could I not have seen that I have been needed to help pray and act for the end of this evil? And now I am here ready to take my place with Christ to confront something that I truly believe is an evil to our society.  

So I charge you all, what are you going to do to help end abortion? Imagine if every Christian finally said, “enough is enough!” It would be just a matter of time for this 40 Year War to be over. But it’s not going to be easy; you will be ridiculed and made fun of, and you will be called horrible names, but remember, Christ took every sin, every ounce of our brokenness since the fall of mankind to the cross and shed his blood to save us from eternal damnation. And if Mary, the Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven and Earth could watch at the foot of the cross, her most perfect son die such a horrible and yet victorious death. Then I can do the simple thing of defending my faith, of defending life to the most innocent of all human beings, the unborn child.  I am proud to be Catholic and I am proud to be Pro-Life.

Eternal rest grant unto these unborn children, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

At the window one last time

At 12 Noon today (Rome time) Pope Benedict XVI delivered his final Sunday Angelus from his room in the Apostolic Palace. St. Peter's square was absolutely packed. I've never seen it like that for a Sunday Angelus before. The locals came out in large numbers, although I saw a lot of different flags waving in the air. It was a really beautiful moment to be in the square with SO MANY PEOPLE to show our support for Pope Benedict. There were so many young people there! Some news reports are estimating 150,000 people packed St. Peter's square.

The Holy Father kept to his tradition of commenting on the Gospel of the day and only with a few simple words commented on his historical decision at the end of his reflections. Take a look for yourself, below is a translation of his reflections.

Dear brothers and sisters – thank you for your affection! 
On the second Sunday of Lent, the liturgy always presents us with the Gospel of the Transfiguration of the Lord. The evangelist Luke places particular emphasis on the fact that Jesus was transfigured as he prayed: his is a profound experience of relationship with the Father during a sort of spiritual retreat that Jesus lives on a high mountain in the company of Peter, James and John , the three disciples always present in moments of divine manifestation of the Master (Luke 5:10, 8.51, 9.28).
The Lord, who shortly before had foretold his death and resurrection (9:22), offers his disciples a foretaste of his glory. And even in the Transfiguration, as in baptism, we hear the voice of the Heavenly Father, "This is my Son, the Chosen One listen to him" (9:35). The presence of Moses and Elijah, representing the Law and the Prophets of the Old Covenant, it is highly significant: the whole history of the Alliance is focused on Him, the Christ, who accomplishes a new "exodus" (9:31) , not to the promised land as in the time of Moses, but to Heaven. Peter’s words: "Master, it is good that we are here" (9.33) represents the impossible attempt to stop this mystical experience. St. Augustine says: "[Peter] ... on the mountain ... had Christ as the food of the soul. Why should he come down to return to the labours and pains, while up there he was full of feelings of holy love for God that inspired in him a holy conduct? "(Sermon 78.3). 
We can draw a very important lesson from meditating on this passage of the Gospel. First, the primacy of prayer, without which all the work of the apostolate and of charity is reduced to activism. In Lent we learn to give proper time to prayer, both personal and communal, which gives breath to our spiritual life. In addition, to pray is not to isolate oneself from the world and its contradictions, as Peter wanted on Tabor, instead prayer leads us back to the path, to action. "The Christian life - I wrote in my Message for Lent - consists in continuously scaling the mountain to meet God and then coming back down, bearing the love and strength drawn from him, so as to serve our brothers and sisters with God’s own love "(n. 3).
Dear brothers and sisters, I feel that this Word of God is particularly directed at me, at this point in my life. The Lord is calling me to "climb the mountain", to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation. But this does not mean abandoning the Church, indeed, if God is asking me to do this it is so that I can continue to serve the Church with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done thus far, but in a way that is better suited to my age and my strength. Let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary: may she always help us all to follow the Lord Jesus in prayer and works of charity.
The Holy Father ended his last appearance from the window of the Apostolic Palace with these words:

Nella preghiera siamo sempre vicini 
- In prayer we are always near to on another.

The sign held by the some of the young people of the 'Padre Pio Prayer Group'

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Chair of St. Peter

The feast of the chair of St. Peter is always a great occasion for the Church to pray for the Pope. how much more this year does this feast call to mind the importance of prayer for our Pope. Let's take this moment to pray for Pope Benedict XVI, for the Cardinals who will elect his successor  and for the soon to be named successor to the chair of St. Peter. 

The feast celebrates the primacy of Peter and his successors' the Pope. The great sculpture (see left) of the chair of St. Peter houses the wood fragments of a chair believed to be St. Peter's. The chair seems to float in midair supported by four great doctors of the Church, Sts Augustine and Ambrose of the West and Sts. Athanasius and John Chrysostom of the East. On this feast day the chair is covered in hundreds of candles. If you click on the photo you might be able to see them.

The other tradition for today's feast is the statue of St. Peter within the basilica is dressed in regal vestments. The interesting feature of this particular statue is that his foot is almost worn away by the number of pilgrims who rub it each day.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

My new short film "BeoWulf"

Just copy and paste

For Literature class we read "BeoWulf" and on Friday I decided that it would be a fun short film and so I ask a few seminarians to play in this movie, one of them is the great Peter Freundl. Then we shot the movie Saturday and Sunday and just like that we had a sweet movie. On our opening night we had 55 seminarians show up from both the college and theology, which is amazing.

Well I hope you enjoy our film and I have to thank Ben Rexroat for helping me look like Grendel :-) and yes I need a hair cut.

Have a good Sunday

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Remember that you are dust...

Today begins our 40 day Lenten journey towards the very summit of our Christian faith, the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. This season is set aside for fasting, prayer, and almsgiving so that our lives may be converted and we walk ever closer with God. 

As you all know, these last few days have been especially filled with historic events. Today, Ash Wednesday our Holy Father made his first public appearance since his announcement on Monday. Fortunately I don't have classes today so I was able to attend both the general audience and the celebration of Holy Mass at St. Peter's basilica. I'd like to leave with you all a few of my impressions from today's event.

Ash Wednesday started for me early this morning. I made the traditional Station Church pilgrimage walk from the North American College to Santa Sabina, the first station church. The priests from the college celebrated Mass and distributed ashes. Since I didn't have class I took my time walking back to the college winding my way through the streets of Rome with a typically American black cross of ashes on my forehead (the Italians don't put the ashes on their forehead, but rather sprinkled upon the top of their head).

I ran into a friend from Aquinas College
Pope Benedict XVI conducted his normal Wednesday audience today in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican. The whole thing was really beautiful. Our Holy Father came out onto the stage smiling as the room was filled to the brim with applause. When it came time for him to begin the catechesis he began as he always does, "Cari fratelli e sorelle...My dear brothers and sisters" which was interpreted with an explosion of clapping. The entire hall swelled with appreciation, thankfulness, and love for him. The clapping lasted for what seemed like five minutes as all came to their feet. Once we gave him a chance to speak, he thanked us for our prayers and support. He said, "Thank you; in these days which have not been easy for me, I have felt almost physically the power of prayer – your prayers – which the love of the Church has given me." So let's keep those prayers coming for him and for the Church as she is guided by the Holy Spirit.

Then, he simply did what he has done his whole life for the Church. He broke open the word and taught us. He led us through a beautiful Lectio Divina on Sunday's Gospel reading where Jesus is led into the desert and tempted. If you get a change you should read it. (though it has not been entirely translated yet) At the heart of the Pope's talk he held up for us three examples of radical conversion from the 20th century.

Leaving the audience hall, I couldn't help but be a bit emotional, the Pope who I had known throughout my teenage years and adult life was saying goodbye. I don't have words yet to describe all of this, just simply a few thoughts. . .

This evening the Holy Father offered his last public celebration of Holy Mass in St. Peter's basilica with the distribution of ashes. I couldn't help but go. The Mass was simple and noble, as the season calls for, but quite beautiful. The Holy Father at no point made a public spectacle of himself or at all talked about himself. In his homily he only mentioned his decision to resign along with a words of thanks and a request for prayers. His homily was a classic example of his preaching style that is he simply broke open the Word of God. He tied all the readings together and in 15 minutes talked about each of the readings giving a few deep insights into each. We'll have to wait for the translation of it. The Mass ended with a short speech by Cardinal Bertone wherein expressed the sentiments of all those gathered in the Basilica. There was a grand standing ovation for what seemed like minutes. It only ended once the Holy Father took to the microphone and said, "Thank you, Thank you all, let us now return to prayer."

Walking home from St. Peter's tonight, I was left with a feeling of deep gratitude for the great humility of Pope Benedict. He is very much in the same line as St. John the Baptist who declared that 'He must increase but I must decrease' (John 3:30) These are truly exiting days. I'm blessed to be able to be in Rome for these events that will transpire of the next few weeks. But most importantly, let us prepare ourselves for a worthy celebration of the Easter mysteries by entering deeply into the holy season of Lent. And as the Holy Father said, "Let us now return to prayer..."

"Repent and believe in the Gospel"

"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return"

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Pilgrimage to Krakow Poland


 The students at the Angelicum finished exams last Friday and a group of 8 first year seminarians decided to make a pilgrimage to Krakow Poland.  It was a perfect way to rest before starting second semester and also for me personally to thank Blessed John Paul II for his intercession in my studies.  He studied and received a degree from the Angelicum so I feel connected to him in this way.  Above is a picture of the main market square in Krakow with St. Mary's in the back ground.  Every day there was Holy Mass there on the half hour starting at 6 am and going through noon.  They were well attended.
Above is a picture of St. Mary's from another angle a couple days later.  SNOW!!!!  It was a great blessing to walk around with 6 inches of snow on the ground.  To the right is a picture of one of the beautiful parks in Krakow.  It was a little wet because the temperature was hovering around freezing but it was well worth it.  It made me think of home.  


Day Trips:

We made a few day trips outside of Krakow.  One to Auschwitz concentration camp.  This was a very powerful day.  This first picture is of the train tracks leading into the gates of the Berkenau camp.  This may look familiar to some from the movie Schindlers List.  The size of this camp was amazing, there were nearly 100,000 prisoners here at one point.  

Here are pictures of the chimneys of the hundreds of prisoners bunk houses.  The wood shell of most of them have been destroyed or fallen down leaving only the brick.  In the picture below you can see the number of them, and this is only one side of the camp.  

We also made day trips to Czestochowa and the Divine Mercy Shrine.  All powerful places to pray.  

Fat Thursday:

Yeah, I mean fat Thursday not fat Tuesday.  We stayed at the Franciscan Friary just a block or two from the main market square.  They were wonderful hosts and they had wonderful sisters cooking for them.  I was confused when I walked into the lounge one morning and found piles of punchki.  It looked like a scene from fat Tuesday.  Well one of the brothers explained that the tradition in Poland is fat Thursday.  I was not going to complain.  Look at those things!  

If you look closely at the picture below you will see what may be a familiar face.  It is St. Maximilian Kolbe.  He is the friar with the beard.  He lived and taught at the friary we stayed at for the week.  This was a picture of the men living there at that time.  To the left is a picture of the altar in which St. Maximilian went to pray for our Ladies intercession when he needed money for the Militia Immaculata.  There was an envelope on the altar with the exact amount he needed.  Years later offered himself in place of another prisoner who had a wife and children to go to the starvation cell at Auschwitz.  

JPII and Krakow

We were blessed to have the Archdiocesan offices and residence directly across the street from the Franciscans.  This is were John Paul II lived when he was Archbishop of Krakow.  But also during the Nazi occupation.  The Archbishop at that time took the 15 or so seminarians in to live with him for there safety   He taught them right there in house.  We were also blessed by being on the same flight as the current Archbishop, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz.  We introduced ourselves as American Seminarians studying in Rome and making a pilgrimage to Krakow.  He invited us to come over for a visit during our stay in Krakow.  So we were able to meet with him and tour the residence.  The picture of the window to the left is a very popular window that JPII used to talk to the people of Krakow from when he was visiting.  There is now a picture of him in the window in memory. This is the room which he and the other seminarians stayed in during the Nazi occupation as well. 
Below is the chapel where JPII was ordained a priest.  The Archbishop at that time wanted to ordain him quietly and quickly so he could head off to Rome for further studies, thus he made the exception and ordained him in this small chapel as opposed to the Cathedral.   When he was Archbishop of Krakow he would spend 4 hours in this chapel in prayer and also work.  He would respond to many letters here in front of the Blessed Sacrament.