Thursday, May 22, 2008

May 23rd: Poland - Our Lady of Czestochowa

Feast Day: August 26th

Shrine of the Black Madonna, also called Our Lady of Jasna Gora, chief Marian sanctuary of Poland. There is a legend that the picture of Our Lady and her Son at the shrine was painted by St. Luke on a tabletop made by Jesus himself when he was an apprentice carpenter to St. Joseph. Hidden during the early persecutions, it was brought by St. Helena (255-330) to Constantinople. In the troubled eighth century it was stealthily taken from that city to a forest in Eastern Poland. From there it was removed to Częstochowa. In 1430 a great Gothic cathedral was built around the precious relic, but in the war with the Hussites they stole the picture. When their horses refused to move their cargo beyond the village boundaries, they threw the picture by the roadside, where it lay broken. All attempts to repair the damage have failed. In the next three hundred years the Polish people believed that their welfare was identified with this miraculous picture. When the Turks were at the gates of Vienna, Sobieski (1624-96), the Polish king, dedicated his crusade to Mary, and the West was saved. Under Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) the people came secretly on their pilgrimages to Częstochowa, and in 1945, at the end of World War II, they came 500,000 strong to thank Mary for their liberation. In 1947 over 1,500,000 came there to beg Mary to save them from Communism. Public pilgrimages to Częstochowa are forbidden, but the shrine is still unharmed. (Fr. John A. Hardon)
Today the shrine of Our Lady at Czestochowa is a busy place of pilgrimage. You can see pictures of the shrine at the Sacred Destinations Travel Guide.

This Mary Page article about Our Lady of Czestochowa is part of a series on Black Madonnas.

One of my favourite English Catholic authors, Hilaire Belloc, wrote a Ballade to Our Lady of Czestochowa. Here is the first verse:
Lady and Queen of Mystery manifold
And very Regent of the untroubled sky,
Whom in a dream St. Hilda did behold
And heard a woodland music passing by:
You shall receive me when the clouds are high
With evening and the sheep attain the fold.
This is the faith that I have held and hold.
And this is that in which I mean to die.
In America there is a National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa at Doylestown, Pennsylvania, and a chapel dedicated to her at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington. From the shrine website comes this prayer:

Prayer to Our Lady of Czestochowa

HOLY MOTHER of Czestochowa,
Thou art full of grace, goodness and mercy.
I consecrate to Thee all my thoughts, words and actions
---- my soul and body.
I beseech Thy blessings
and especially prayers for my salvation.

Today, I consecrate myself to Thee, Good Mother, totally
---- with body and soul, amid joy and sufferings,
to obtain for myself and others Thy blessings
on this earth and eternal life in Heaven. Amen.

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