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In the monastery-fortress of Jasna Gora, in Czestochowa, Poland is venerated an ancient icon of Holy Mary and the Infant God, with a fascinating history. Tradition has it that it was painted by St. Luke the Evangelist on a table built by Our Lord Jesus in St. Joseph’s workshop. Empress Saint Helena who found Our Lord’s cross, also discovered this icon in Jerusalem, and took it to Constantinople where her son, Constantine, built a church to enshrine it. 

The image remained in Constantinople for 500 years until, through dowries, it was taken to Russia to a region that later became Poland.

This icon, now known as Our Lady of Czestochowa, has an embattled history.

While still in Constantinople, placed on the wall of the city, the icon so frightened an army of besieging Muslims that they took flight.

 

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Under a Holy King

In the 15th century, the polish king Saint Ladislaus installed the holy image in his castle. Tartar invaders besieged the castle and an arrow pierced the image in the region of the throat, leaving a scar.

Interestingly, repeated attempts to repair the damaged painting failed. The scar always reappears.

Wishing to protect the icon from subsequent attacks, Saint Ladislaus took it to his town of birth, Opala.

On the way, he stopped at city of Czestochowa to rest, placing it in the wooden church of the Assumption in the nearby place of Jasna Gora (Bright Hill).

In the morning, the horses pulling the carriage containing the icon refused to move. Taking this as a sign, St. Ladislaus re-installed the image in the church of the Assumption and confided sanctuary and monastery to the Pauline Fathers.

It was on this day, August 26, 1382 that Saint Ladislaus established the feast of the Madonna of Czestochowa and it is still observed today.

 

 

Vandalized

Next, the Hussites, followers of the heretic John Hus from Prague, attempted to harm the holy icon. In 1430 they stormed the monastery and stole the image. Placing it in a wagon, they were carrying it away when the vehicle stopped and could not be moved. The attackers hurled the image to the ground, breaking it in three pieces. One man pulled his sword and struck the image twice on the cheek leaving two deep scars. On attempting to slash it thrice, the man went into agonizing convulsions and died.

The two scars on the holy image as well as the one on the throat have always reappeared after attempts to repair them.

 

Besieged

The holy icon’s great epic was the Siege of Czestochowa in 1655 when an army of 12,000 Swedish Protestant invaders led by a General Miller, attempted to take the monastery-fortress of Jasna Gora. The year before, a vision of a scourge in the face of the sun had been seen over the area. Indeed, King Karl Gustav, and the Swedes invaded and conquered most of Poland with the help of Calvinist Polish nobles, ousting King Jan Kasimir.

One monastery, led by a heroic prior, Fr. Augustine Kordecki, refused to surrender. Taking in five Catholic Polish nobles, the monastery resisted with only 300 men. The besieged faced treason, threats, and numerous assurances of the enemy’s “good will” in attempts to seduce them into an inglorious “peace”.

But placing their full trust in Our Lady, whose image they guarded, the monks answered, “Better to die worthily than to live impiously.” Thus began the 40-day siege, and nothing was spared to bring down the walls of Jasna Gora.

Meanwhile, the forty monks and the besieged prayed before the Holy Icon of Czestochowa. They prayed and fought, fought and prayed. And a mysterious “Lady”, dressed in a white or blue mantle, whom the Swedes called a “witch” began to appear on the ramparts, herself supplying the canons. The sight of her terrified the invaders.

A mysterious fog also enveloped the holy hill, which at times gave the illusion of the monastery-fortress being higher, at others lower, the result being that the canon-balls missed their target.

Finally, the mysterious lady appeared in the night to General Miller himself. After procuring a copy of the icon of Czestochowa, Miller said, "It is absolutely not comparable to that virgin who appeared to me; for it is not possible to see anything comparable on earth. Something of the celestial and divine, which frightened me from the beginning, shone in her face."

In the end, spooked and discouraged by these supernatural occurrences, the Swedes lifted the siege. From the victory of Czestochowa, the Poles again took heart, and rallying around King Jan Kasimir, took back their country.

(For the full account of the siege of Czestochowa Click here)

The next year, in the presence of the clergy, nobility and people, King Kasimir solemnly proclaimed Our Lady of Czestochowa Queen of Poland. Recognizing that Poland had been chastised for its sins, and oppression of the less fortunate, He promised to rule with equity.

In 1920, when the Russian army assembled at the River Vistula, the Polish people had recourse to their Madonna. The Russians quickly withdrew after the image appeared in the clouds over Warsaw.

In Polish history, this is known as the Miracle of Vistula.

During the Nazi occupation of Poland in WW II, Hitler ordered all religious pilgrimages closed. In a demonstration of love and trust in Our Lady, half a million Poles defied Hitler’s orders and visited the shrine. Following the liberation of Poland in 1945, a million and a half people expressed their gratitude to their Madonna by praying before the miraculous image.

Twenty eight years after the first attempt to capture Warsaw, the Russians took the city. That year 800,000 visited the Lady of Czestochowa in defiance of the invader.

And today, free from Communism, Czestochowa continues to be the religious heartbeat of Poland. To the miraculous, fearless Lady of Jasna Gora, the Polish go with their needs and petitions, their sorrows and their joys. Indeed she is their embattled, victorious, miraculous queen.

 


By A.F. Phillips

 

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DAILY QUOTE for January 19, 2019

We’ve had enough of exhortations to be silent! Cry out wit...

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January 19

 

We’ve had enough of exhortations to be silent!
Cry out with a hundred thousand tongues.
I see that the world is rotten
because of silence.

St. Catherine of Siena


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SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Wulfstan of Worcester

The citizens of Bristol would kidnap men and sell them into...

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St. Wulfstan of Worcester

Wulfstan (Wulstan) was a native of Warwickshire, England.  After his priestly ordination, he became a novice at the monastery of Worcester where he edified all by the innocence and sanctity of his life. He was assiduous at prayer, often watching all night in church.

The first task assigned to him at the monastery was the instruction of children, then treasurer and eventually - though against his fierce resistance - he was made prior. In 1062, he was elected Bishop of Worcester.

Wulfstan was a powerful preacher, often moving his audience to tears.

To his vigorous action is particularly attributed the suppression of the heinous practice among the citizens of Bristol of kidnapping men into slavery and shipping them over to Ireland. St. Patrick who became the great apostle and patron of the Irish was such a slave in his youth.

After the Norman conquest of England, William the Conqueror was initially uncertain about Wulfstan. But acknowledging his capacity and uprightness, Wulfstan was the only bishop William retained at his post under the new rule.

For the next thirty years Wulfstan rebuilt his cathedral, cared for the poor and put forth great effort in alleviating the harsh decrees of the Normans upon the vanquished Saxons. Whenever the English complained of the oppression of the Normans, Wulfstan told them: “This is a scourge of God for our sins, which we must bear with patience.”

The saintly bishop died on January 19 at eighty-seven years of age after washing the feet of a dozen poor men, a humble ritual he performed daily. He was canonized in 1203.

Photo by: Christopher Guy

WEEKLY STORY

Mary and the Muslim

One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him h...

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Mary and the Muslim

Don Octavio del Monaco was a wealthy citizen of 17th century Naples. Like many of his class, Don Octavius had several Muslim slaves in his household. These children of Islam were amazed at the kindness of their “master.” He fed and clothed them better than they received in their native land. In return, his slaves attended to their tasks with diligence, as Don Octavius did not over work them, but assigned them duties in keeping with their dignity as children of God.

If these Muslim slaves had any reason for complaint, it was the gentle persistence with which their master and his wife exhorted them to give up their false religion and become Catholics. Don Octavius even went so far as to invite the slaves to join his family in the chapel to worship the one true God with them!

Our story today is about one young slave in particular. His name was Abel, like the slain son of Adam and Eve. He felt drawn in a peculiar way to a lamp that burned in front of a shrine to Holy Mary. Abel would purchase the oil needed to keep the lamp lit from his own meager stipend. As he continued to practice this humble devotion, he would say, “I hope that this Lady will grant me some great favor.”

One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him he must become a Christian. At first the Turk resisted. But she placed her hand upon his shoulder, and said to him: “Now no longer resist, Abel, but be baptized and called Joseph,” conferring on him a name that was very dear to her Immaculate Heart indeed.

On August the 10th, 1648, there was much rejoicing in Heaven, for on that day “Joseph” and eleven other Muslims converted to the Christian faith and were baptized. Their conversion was brought about by the kindness shown by Don Octavius and the special intercession of the Mother of God.

Our story does not end here. Even once this son of hers was safely baptized, Mother Mary delighted in visiting him. Once, after having appeared to him, she was about to depart. But the Moor seized her mantle, saying, “Oh, Lady, when I find myself afflicted, I pray you to let me see you.” In fact, she one day promised him this and when Joseph found himself afflicted he invoked her, and Mary appeared to him again saying, “Have patience", and he was consoled.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him he must become a Christian.

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