Supreme Knight Carl Anderson joined an estimated 100,000 pilgrims at the annual Pilgrimage of Men and Youth to the Shrine of Our Lady of Piekary Śląskie in southern Poland.
In remarks at the end of the Sunday Mass, Anderson recalled the great truth taught by Pope John Paul II: “To be human is to be a pilgrim, constantly drawn to the Father, by the Father’s love.”
Pilgrimages have been taking place at the shrine since the mid-17th century. When a painting of the Virgin Mary was moved from the side of the church to the main altar, many miraculous healings were reported to have occurred among local residents. When an outbreak of the plague occurred in 1676, Jesuit priests encouraged their parishioners to make a pilgrimage to Piekary and pray.
Four years later, when the plague broke out in Prague, Emperor Leopold I of Austria asked for the painting to be brought into the city and carried in solemn procession. The plague receded and Archbishop Wellstein of Prague proclaimed the miraculous properties of the image. During the 20th century, Cardinal Karol Wojtyła visited Piekary Śląskie several times before becoming pope.
Speaking to the large crowd following the Mass, Supreme Knight Anderson recalled Cardinal Wojtyła’s numerous pilgrimages to Piekary.
“Both as pilgrim and as preacher he taught us this great truth: To be human is to be a pilgrim, constantly drawn to the Father, by the Father’s love. But John Paul the Great taught us another truth – to be a pilgrim today is also to be an evangelist and a patriot. He witnessed to a world-changing reality: that each personal journey toward God cannot be separated from the task of bringing our families, our society, and our country closer to God.”
Holy Mass was presided over by Cardinal Emeritus Franciszek Macharski of Kraków. The homily was delivered by Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne.
Also in attendance were Jarosław Kaczyński, former prime minister of Poland and brother of the late Polish President Lech Kaczyński, as well as Jerzy Buzek, former prime minister of Poland and the current Ppresident of the European Parliament.
Six Polish-American Knights from Phoenix were present at the ceremonies and formed a Fourth Degree honor guard during the procession from a parish in Radzionków to the pilgrimage site on Calvary Hill in Piekary Śląskie where Mass was celebrated. The Arizona Knights are members of Our Lady of Częstochowa Council 14185 as well as John Paul II Assembly 3148.
While in Poland, the Supreme Knight also met with more than 150 new Third Degree Knights, who formed the first class of candidates to take their Third Degree in Poland. Two Third Degree ceremonies were held May 29, 2010 in Piekary Śląskie. An additional ceremony will be held in Łomża on Saturday, June 5.