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Stepping into History

Stepping into History

Hanging In with the Czestochowa Madonna

     In North Florida, on Jan. 15 - 19, 2014, a blessed copy of the celebrated icon Our Lady of Czestochowa, visited a number of sites.  History claims the evangelist Luke reputedly "wrote" the image of Mary, the Mother of God, on a cedar tabletop belonging to the Holy Family. Revered for centuries, the icon is credited with miracles both physical and spiritual.

     Known as the Black Madonna, Helena, the mother of Constantine, discovered the painting in the 4th century in Jerusalem. Following a five hundred year stay in Constantinople, the icon traveled to Russia, ending up in a region that became Poland. Located in a Pauline monastery in Jana Gora, it has been intimately associated with the Poles for the last six hundred years.

     In 1983, Czestochowa made headlines when 50,000 industrial workers in pilgrimage from all over Poland converged upon the shrine to reaffirm the democratic ideals of the outlawed Solidarity union. Founder Lech Walesa enshrined his Noble Peace Prize with the Black Madonna. At the celebratory Mass, the Polish Cardinal told the people, "Hang in there, as we are hanging in." Cheers and the two-finger victory sign erupted from the massive crowd gathered in the open fields. Incensed government authorities, declared Walesa an enemy of the family.

     In early 2012, a group of pro-life leaders met to discuss a faith-based response to the culture of death. They decided on a pilgrimage in defense of Life asking for the intercession of the Mother of God. The biblical tradition of carrying the Arc of the Covenant into battle inspired the leaders who understandable chose Our Lady of Czestochowa to lead the Ocean to Ocean Pro-Life Pilgrimage sponsored by Human Life International. The image, reportedly assisting with the fall of communism in Poland, unites both Eastern and Western traditions.

     The pilgrimage began appropriately in Russia, the first country to accept abortion in 1920. Since it's beginning at Vladivostok on the eastern coast, the icon, and her entourage has travelled 40,000 miles throughout Europe in defense of marriage, the family, and the right to life of every individual. 2014 marks the pilgrimage's stops in North America, South America waits in 2015.

     Mary. the Blessed Mother, as Catholics affectionately call her, has many titles. Frequently she is known as Our lady of a particular location: of Lourdes, of Fatima, of Portugal. Often the title includes a virtue or attribute. Mary is known as Our Lady of Charity, of Hope, of Perpetual Help. The title of the Madonna in our own St. Augustine is somewhat unique, Our Lady of La Leche, Our Lady of the Milk. However, the woman known as Mary has but one solitary boast, at the invitation of an angel, she accepted the role of Mother of God. Our Lady of Czestochowa, pray for us.

     See: You Tube's  From Ocean to Ocean - Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa

30°  8´

On April 2, 2013, the cry of the day was 30° 8´ Thirty degrees, 8 minutes; that is the exact location where, 500 years ago, Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon sighted the land he named La Florida. This time I was there! There was a colorful reenactment of the event on the seashore by a direct descendent of Ponce. A grateful crowd of 200 or so history devotees cheered the unveiling of his bronze statue.

A number of festivities played out over the next few days, but none was as impressive as the Mass in the Cathedral of St. Augustine. The Spanish mayor of Santervas de Campos, Spain where Ponce was baptized in 1474, presented a handcrafted replica of the baptismal font to the city. Of all the many gifts that Spain and her people have brought to the New World, by far, the greatest gift, said Bishop Felipe Estévez “was the faith.”