Poland: Numerous pilgrimages for peace, especially in Ukraine

Most pilgrims arrive at the Częstochowa shrine in August

Portavoz de Jasna Gora
Portavoz de Jasna Gora

This year’s walking pilgrimage to Jasna Góra is a great plea for peace especially inUkraine, says Izabela Tyras, Director of the Jasna Góra Press Office. During the vacation season, Poles make pilgrimages to many shrines, among which Jasna Góra in Czestochowa holds a special place. In August, the Marian shrine fills up with pilgrims of various nationalities, not only from Poland. Most pilgrims arrive on foot in organised groups. Some, such as the Warsaw pilgrimage, have a tradition dating back more than 400 years.

“There is a spirit of penance, but also great joy at regaining the possibility of pilgrimage without pandemic restrictions”, Izabela Tyras emphasises.

A pilgrimage peak is underway at Jasna Góra. Most pilgrims arrive at the Częstochowa shrine in August. Traditionally, most reach their destination before the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August15 ) or on the feast of Our Lady of Częstochowa (August 26).

“About 80 walking pilgrimages are scheduled to enter on August 26. These are smaller groups, mainly from nearby towns and cities, although there will also be pilgrims from afar, for example from Tarnów. For years, the Tarnów pilgrimage has been one of the most numerous in the country,” says Izabela Tyras, Director of the Jasna Góra Press Office.

By bike, rollerblading, running and on foot

@JasnaGoraNews / Twitter
@JasnaGoraNews / Twitter

Walking pilgrimages are immensely popular. Although recently more and more people have decided to set out on rollerblades, by motorbike or by bicycle.The Jasna Góra Press Office reports that from 4 June to 14 August, 50,500 people came to the Marian shrine in 139 walking pilgrimages. In 220 cycling pilgrimages – almost 7 thousand people came, and 544 people came in 20 running groups. Other pilgrimages included a roller-skating pilgrimage from Wrocław with 35 people and a horseback riding pilgrimage with 17 people.

In 65 walking pilgrimages before the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, from 5 to 14 August, 43.3 thousand pilgrims reached Jasna Góra, which is about 4 thousand more than a year ago. “All pilgrimages are dominated by young people and young families with children, which fills us with great hope for the future. There are also many ‘debutants’ – those who go on a pilgrimage for the first time,” says Izabela Tyras.

They have been making pilgrimages to Jasna Góra for several centuries

The tradition of Jasna Góra pilgrimage began in the first half of the 15th century. When the image of the Black Madonna, which had been restored after a robbery, was transferred in a solemn procession from Krakow to the Pauline Monastery in Częstochowa. Two centuries later, numerous pilgrimages were already coming to this place from, among others, Gliwice, Żywiec, Krakow and Poznań. One of the oldest is the pilgrimage from Kalisz (since 1673), and since 1711 a regular Warsaw pilgrimage has been organised to Jasna Góra.

In the intentions of peace, for the Church and Homeland

“This year’s pilgrimage to Jasna Góra on foot is a great plea for peace, especially for Ukraine. There is a spirit of penance, but also great joy at regaining the possibility of pilgrimage without pandemic restrictions. Intentions for the Church and the Homeland are also present”, emphasises the Director of the Jasna Góra Press Office.

She explains that pilgrims, who walk to Czestochowa for several, a dozen or even 20 days, ask for peace, not only the external one, but also peace of heart for Ukrainians.

“Also, refugees themselves take part in the pilgrimages, but there are also pilgrims from Ukraine such as priests and nuns, who join for the time of the retreat on the way,” she adds.

According to Izabela Tyras, apart from August, which is the most popular month for pilgrimages at Jasna Góra, July is also popular for walking or cycling groups.  “The feast of Our Lady of the Scapular (July16 ) gathers lots of pilgrims, and it is then that we deal with the so-called first summer pilgrimage peak here,” she adds.

“The pandemic has set us back a bit, so we are trying to catch up. We really missed Our Lady and this form of pilgrimage,” said the pilgrims, adding that some thought it would decline after the pandemic, yet there are more pilgrims again, many young people and young families with children, which is very hope-giving,” says Tyras.

“Through my pilgrimage this year, the Lord God has shown me how important it is to cooperate with His inspirations”.

@JasnaGoraNews / Twitter
@JasnaGoraNews / Twitter

To Jasna Góra each pilgrim carries his or her intentions. These are requests not only for the grace of health, motherhood, fatherhood or prayers for numerous priestly and religious vocations. For some of them, the route they have to take is a symbol of perseverance, but also of discerning God’s will.

One of those who reached Jasna Góra before 15 August is 31-year-old Edith.

“Through my pilgrimage this year, the Lord has shown me, how important it is to cooperate with His inspirations,” she says. This was her first pilgrimage, completely unplanned.

“A few days before, I had a spiritual meeting at another Marian shrine, where the theme of spiritual warfare was discussed, that we should not rely only on our own strength. If God invites us to do something, He will give us the strength to resist evil and fulfil what is His desire for a given time,” Edyta explains.

The woman admits that she had many difficulties and temptations before setting out on the pilgrimage route.

“I signed up almost on the last day still thinking it was probably too late. Before the journey, I struggled with the fear of how I would be received, whether I could physically cope, whether I would enjoy this form of devotion. But thank God I managed to let that go too”, Edith emphasises.

She says that for her the pilgrimage to Jasna Góra was a spiritually beautiful time.

“This is how I imagine the Church – as a community of people who are united by faith in Jesus and love for the Blessed Mother, who help each other, pray, but also sing, dance and exchange interesting observations to the glory of God. When one of the pilgrims asked me, if I was going next year, I just smiled in agreement – after all, I am already counting down the days until next year’s hike,” explains the 31-year-old Edith.

And she adds: “I believe that if God wills it and Mary invites me, even the troubles piling up along the way will not be able to destroy this plan, God is simply almighty. I thank the spiritual pilgrims, the clergy, the donors, the medical services, the traffic managers, every person I met for their kindness, their goodness, their mercy, for being witnesses to the faith. ‘If our God is with us, who is against us?’”.