Courtesy Archbishop Sample
Archbishop Sample before the icon of the Holy Virgin of Czestochowa in the Jasna Góra Monastery in Czestochowa.
Courtesy Archbishop Sample
Archbishop Sample before the icon of the Holy Virgin of Czestochowa in the Jasna Góra Monastery in Czestochowa.
KRAKÓW — I am writing this column from Kraków in Poland where I am privileged to be gathered with pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Portland for World Youth Day. It is a complete understatement to say that this has been for me one of the most spiritually uplifting experiences of my life. Not everyone may know that I am half Polish from my mother’s side, and I have longed to visit Poland for about 36 years. A dream has been fulfilled for me. Thank you God!

In many ways, this is the “land of Divine Mercy.” It was here that St. Faustina Kowalska received the visions of Jesus revealed as Divine Mercy and wrote her diary which contains the message that Jesus wishes the world to receive at this time in history — our time. It is also here that St. John Paul II lived and ministered. He is largely responsible for bringing the message committed to St. Faustina to the world. His second encyclical was “Dives in Misericordia,” reminding us that God is “rich in mercy.”

It is no accident that these revelations came and St. John Paul lived here in Kraków at a time when some of the greatest crimes ever committed against humanity were committed. Not far from here is the concentration camp at Auschwitz. We visited the camp where St. Maximilian Kolbe was starved to death after showing mercy to a fellow prisoner by taking his place under the sentence of death. It was here that more than 1.3 million Jews and others were gassed and cremated in the horrible death chambers. It was a painful experience to walk around the death camps where so many were unmercifully exterminated.

God’s response to these horrors was to give us the message of his Divine Mercy. Now is the time of mercy. Humanity must take up the call to his mercy. We must plead for his mercy for us and for the whole world. We must be merciful to others in a deep and profound way by forgiving others and practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. In all of this, we must place our complete trust in Jesus. “Jezu ufam tobie” are the words enshrined beneath the image of Divine Mercy we saw enthroned above the tomb of St. Faustina. “Jesus I trust in you.”

We are living in troubling and perilous times. One has the sense that something profound and important is happening. We must rediscover the heart of God, which is a heart of mercy revealed in the passion, death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus. Our blessed Lord told St. Faustina that if we want to avoid experiencing God’s justice, we must reach out and take his hand of mercy extended to us.

But I have great hope in the hundreds of thousands of young people gathered here from all over the world, including the young people from western Oregon! You would all be so proud of our young people, as I am. It has been a privilege to experience this all with them. They get it! They understand that faith in God and all he has revealed to us in his Son is the answer to the darkness in the world today. The dear young people from our archdiocese have helped renew my own faith and hope.

The inspiration for these World Youth Days came from the saintly pope who loved the young people in such a profound and special way. He saw in them the hope for the future, and he was never hesitant to challenge them to the greatness of which they are capable and which the world needs. I wandered today around the neighborhood where St. John Paul lived. I could feel his presence, and I was inspired to try and be a better shepherd, especially to the young people he loved so much.

The highlight of this trip for me will probably be celebrating Mass at the altar below the beautiful icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa with her piercing eyes. I have had a devotion to her for 36 years, and I literally could not stop looking at her. She has seen Poland through centuries of struggle, suffering and persecution. Our Lady is the Mother of Mercy. To her I once again entrust myself and the people under my pastoral care. May she help awaken in us deeper faith, hope and love. May she help us to live the message of Divine Mercy fully. May she watch over and guide our young people to the bright future entrusted to their care.

Matka Boze Czesto-chowska, pray for us!