Monday, April 18, 2016

The Holy Face in Poland

by Ewa Pasko


The city of Katowice - located in southern Poland, 80 km from Krakow (beloved city of Pope John Paul II), 80 km from the Polish-Czech border and 1000 km from Italy-  has three hundred thousand inhabitants. It is the capital of the Silesia region, the most industrialized part of the country and a region full of mines and ironworks, of hard work but also of very strong faith as well as a region full of shrines dedicated to Our Lady (Jasna Góra in Częstochowa, Piekary Śląskie, Pszów, Leśniów, Gidle etc.). The people of Silesia love the Mother of God and often come to visit her in her many shrines.

The Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the oldest catholic church in Katowice. It is located in the historic center of the city and was built in 1870 in a neo-Gothic style, on the plan of the Latin cross, according to the project of the architect Alexis Langer. With its height of 71 meters it is one of the greatest and most beautiful monuments  in Katowice. Inside the church on both sides of the nave there are paintings by Joseph Unierzyski, under the title "The Marian cycle" and the stained glass windows of Adam Bunsch, disciples of Mehoffer. In its unique chapel, calleded the Adoration Chapel  of the Blessed Sacrament, is the monstrance carved in stone - like a large flower (from the artistic project of Teresa Michalowska Rauszer) - made for the Second Eucharistic Congress  and for the third visit of Pope John Paul II to Poland in 1987.

                                           Parish of the Immaculate Conception

Every day the faithful are here to worship Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. In 2001 the Metropolitan Archbishop of Katowice Mons. Damian Zimon appointed Fr Andrea Suchoň pastor of the parish of the Immaculate Conception of Holy Mary. Don Andrea also serves as the dean of the center of Katowice, as the director of the Faculty of Catholic Social Science and as a member of the Council of Priests. In 2010 he obtained the dignity of a papal chaplain. Don Andrea cares for the church with great heart, continually renewing its furnishings. But he also take great care of  the parishioners, especially the poor families, organizing the day care center for poor children and the annual holiday for them. For many years a kitchen for the poor and homeless has prepared hot meals for 200 people every day. Don Andrea Suchoň is really a good and caring shepherd

 In 2007 Fr Andrea and numerous parishioners participated in the pilgrimage of the Silesian people to Rome. Thousands of pilgrims met in Rome having the sole purpose - to celebrate the 750th anniversary of the death of Hyacinth Odrowąż - a Polish saint born in Silesia. He is the only Polish saint whose stone carving is located on the Bernini colonnade in St. Peter's Square in Rome and a great Apostle of Europe - to whom Northern and Eastern Europe owes the reinforcement of Christianity and therefore of her identity and the possibility of development. After the solemn three day ceremonies in Rome the Polish bishops, the parish priest Andrea Suchoň and all the pilgrims have visited some Italian sanctuaries. Among them were San Giovanni Rotondo, Monte San Angelo, Lanciano and  Manoppello. At that time, the parishioners of St. Mary in Katowice (including our family) saw for the first time the miraculous Image of Jesus in Manoppello. This was the beginning of our many contacts. Since that time every year many pilgrims from the Silesia region come to the Shrine of the Holy Face. And therefore our parish wanted to obtain a copy of the Image of the Holy Face  and have the opportunity to worship it in our church. The copy of the Holy Face arrived in Katowice  and our parish obtained the miraculous image thanks to the courtesy and friendship on the part of the Capuchin Fathers of Manoppello.

                                     The Copy of the Holy Face Arrives in Katowice

In the month of July 2015 during his visit to Poland which included  the Divine Mercy Center in Krakow Lagiewniki Father Carmine Cucinelli Rector of the Basilica of the Holy Face also brought the special gift for our parish - a copy of the Holy Face image. Starting in September 2015 preparations were begun for its enthronement. Don Andrea Suchoň oversaw the work of the architect for its surroundings and of the artists. Everything was well done.

                                                             The Enthronment

 The enthronement was a very important day for our parish during which the Holy Face was enthroned in our church of the Immaculate Conception. On November 29 a week long Holy Mission began. Sunday, December 6, 2015 starting at 5:30pm there took place the ceremony  for the closing of the Holy Mission and of the enthronement of the Holy Face - with the participation of the Archbishop of Katowice Mons. Damian Zimon. The ceremony began with prayers, with the breaking open of the Gospel, the religious song on the cross of Christ and the word preached by the Oblate Fathers Missionaries of Mary Immaculate - to conclude the Holy Mission. The missionary father recalled the inauguration of the Holy Mission and the moment of the receiving of the key to the parish church - and turns to our parish priest Don Andrea Suchoň. Then begins the procession around the church in the direction of the new mission cross. The faithful sing "In the cross there is suffering, in the cross there's salvation," and recite the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Then Katowice Archbishop Mons. Damian Zimon consecrates the new missionary cross. The faithful renew their baptismal promises and then all the priests kiss the cross.  Archbishop Damiano speaks and reminds all those gathered of the history of the parish. He recalls the nineteen sixties when the communist government wanted to tear down the missionary cross located between the church and the street. The cross was saved (situated closer to the church). The Archbishop  also recalls the parish priest, Father Emilio Szramek deported in 1939 to the concentration camp of Dachau in Germany where he died in 1942. On June 13, 1999 Don Emilio Szramek and 107 martyrs of World War II were beatified by Pope John Paul II.

Now the procession takes place around the church - to the adoration chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. All are gathered waiting for the start of the Enthronement of the Holy Face. Archbishop Damian Zimon, Don Andrea Suchoň and all together look with emotion and veneration upon the Holy Face in the reliquary of the image with its well-decorated frame, placed on the plinth in front of the large stone monstrance in the shape of a flower. After a few minutes of silence  Fr Andrea Suchoň and a representative of the parish, Ewa Pasko, begin to speak presenting the meaning of the Holy Face and the history of the cult.

 (Text) There are important places in the world where God has left us the great miracles - to strengthen us. The images are not made by human hand. The first is located in the Sanctuary of Guadalupe in Mexico. In 1531, Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego. On the cloak of Juan Diego there appeared the image of Mary. There are no traces of paint and despite the passage of time the colors on the mantle are not faded. The second image not made by human hand is located in the Cathedral of Turin, in Italy. The Holy Shroud of Turin - the cloth in which was wrapped Christ's body after being taken down from the cross. On the cloth you can see the body of the Crucified with all traces of His wounds. And finally the third image - kept in the Shrine of Manoppello, in Italy. The transparent as muslin cloth shows the face of Christ at the time of the Resurrection. Yet there are seen signs of wounds on his forehead, a swollen cheek and a broken nose but also the eyes of the living Lord who looks at us.  There are no traces of paint on the material of which the Veil is made. The third image, not made by human hand, is preserved in Manoppello since 1506.   Saint Padre Pio said that "for Christians today the Holy Face is the biggest miracle that we have". Padre Pio was right, it is really a miracle --Why here we can see the true face of Jesus. And Jesus said, "Whoever sees me, sees the Father." Thus seeing his face we see the face of God!  At Manoppello are many pilgrims who see the face of the Risen Lord. For some years there have been also many Polish pilgrims who represent more than half of all pilgrims who come from outside Italy. Therefore the Capuchin fathers of the sanctuary of Manoppello have decided to offer to our parish a copy of the miraculous image of the Holy Face of Jesus- and our beloved parish priest Don Andrea decided to accept it and put it in our church. Now not only those who go on pilgrimage to Italy but also all who come to our church will look upon the face of the Risen Lord and seek strength in his face. Our parish is the first in Poland to hold a solemn enthronement of the Holy Face.  Similar ceremonies took place in other parts of the world, including in Canada, the Philippines and the United States. The Capuchins of Manoppello have told us that the Lord Jesus in his Face comes to churches dedicated to his mother. And so our church of the Immaculate Conception of Mary received a copy of the Miraculous Face of Manoppello. We are happy to look at it, pray and implore grace. And we will invite our dear Father Carmine Cucinelli Rector of the Basilica of our parish so that we can learn more about the miraculous Face of Jesus, the history of the Sanctuary and the visit of Pope Benedict XVI on 1 September 2006. 

Finally the time comes for the most important moment - Katowice Archbishop consecrates the Face of Jesus

Now Don Andrea recites the prayer of Pope Benedict XVI of September 1, 2007:

Lord Jesus as the first apostles whom you asked, "What do you seek?", accepted your invitation to "Come and see", recognizing you as the Son of God, the promised Messiah for the world's redemption, we too, your disciples in this difficult time, want to follow you and be your friends, drawn by the brilliance of your Face, much desired yet hidden. Show us we pray you your Face ever new, that mirror, mystery laden, of God's infinite mercy. Grant that we may contemplate it with the eyes of our minds and hearts, the Son's face, radiance of the Father's glory and the imprint of his Nature, the human face of God that has burst into history to reveal the horizons of eternity. The silent Face of Jesus suffering and risen, when loved and accepted changes the heart and life. "Your Face, Lord, do I seek, do not hide your face from me". How many times through the centuries and millenia has not resounded the ardent invocation of the Psalmist among the faithful! Lord, with faith we too repeat the same invocation: "Man of suffering, as one from whom others hide their faces", Do not hide your Face from us! We want to draw from your eyes, that look upon us with tenderness and compassion, the force of love and peace which shows us the way of life and the courage to follow you without fear or compromise so as to be witnesses of your Gospel with concrete signs of acceptance, love and foregiveness. O Holy Face of Christ, Light that enlightens the darkness of doubt and sadness, Life that has defeated forever the force of evil and death, o inscrutable gaze that never ceases to watch over men and people, Face concealed in the Eucharistic signs and in the faces of those that live with us, make us God's pilgrims in the world, longing for the Infinite and ready for the final encounter when we shall see you Lord "face to face" and be able to contemplate you forever in heavenly Glory. Mary, Mother of the Holy Face, help us have "innocent hands and a pure heart", hands illumined with the truth of love and enraptured by divine beauty, that transformed by the encounter with Christ, we may give ourselves to the poor and the suffering whose faces reflect the hidden presence of your Son Jesus who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen!

The Mass begins with the final sermon of the Oblate missionaries. The missionary Father Andrea says it so beautifully: "We have followed the road from the cross to the image of the Holy Face. The road from the crucifixion to the resurrection "

After the Mass and singing  of the Te Deum Fr Andrea Suchoň thanked Msgr. Damian Zimon for the consecration of the Holy Face and at the end of the ceremony all received the blessing from the Archbishop .... Before leaving the church the participants of the ceremony stopped at the chapel of adoration. All feel in their hearts the joy and emotion. The Lord in His Face - Face of the Risen - is present in our church and every day we see Him, and we worship Him.

Many people tell us today that by praying before the Blessed Sacrament and looking at the image of the Holy Face with the eyes of the Lord filled with goodness - that they feel more strongly his closeness and his love. The parish priest, Father Andrea Suchoň, priests and parishioners - the whole community of the Parish of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Katowice thank from the depths of their heart Father Carmine Cucinelli Rector of the Shrine of the Holy Face and all the dear Capuchin Fathers of Manoppello for their precious gift.

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