The month of August is a Marian month, set aside each year to celebrate Mary and her Immaculate Heart. This veneration is united to her physical heart, the seat of her love for her son, virtue, and inner life. Since the 16th century Catholic piety has assigned entire months to special devotions. St. John Paul the Great had a special devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and after taking into consideration the messages from Our Lady in Fatima, St. John Paul II attributed his botched assassination attempt to our Blessed Mother Mary’s intercession. He entrusted to her his entire Papal mission with his famous motto: “All Yours Mary”( Totus Tuus, Maria). While in Poland two years ago this week, our missionaries made a pilgrimage to pray and venerate the Image of Our Lady of Jasna Gora in preparation for the celebration of World Youth Day. Next to this painting is the blood stained stole of St. JP II as he had it boxed and hung next to the painting in gratitude. The painting is also known as the Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa; the Black Madonna, and is housed in a Chapel within the Pauline monastery.
Words cannot describe what it is like to venerate this painting that has been associated with Poland for over 600 years.
In the two years since I gazed upon the painting; the beauty of the image is still very close to my heart. The paintings origin is shrouded in legend which made this pilgrimage even more exciting. The legend states that the painting was done by St. Luke the Evangelist as he is to have painted the image on a tabletop from a table built by the carpenter Jesus. While St. Luke was painting the Virgin Mary, she told him about the events in Jesus’ life which he eventually used in his gospel. The legend goes on to say that St. Helen, visiting Jerusalem in 326AD in search of the true cross, came upon the painting and brought it to her son Constantine, who then built a shrine to house it. It is credited to have saved the city during a crucial battle with the Saracens as it was displayed from the walls of Constantinople. Subsequent owners were Charlemagne, Prince Leo of Ruthenia and then transferred to Poland in response to a request made in the dream of Prince Ladislaus of Opola. In 1430, looters attempted to take the portrait and sword and arrow marks are still there today despite numerous attempts to restore the painting. In 1655, Poland was overrun by Sweden’s King Charles the X. The area around the monastery that housed the Madonna remained unconquered and the monks somehow defended the portrait against a forty day battle which eventually helped all of Poland to drive out the invaders. After all of these events, Our Lady of Czestochowa became a symbol of national unity and the King placed Poland under the protection of the Blessed Mother, crowning her The Queen of Poland. More recent legend states that the image saved the city of Warsaw, Poland from being invaded by the Russians in 1920. The Russians quickly withdrew after seeing the image in the clouds over the city. Since then many miraculous healings have been attributed to those who have made a pilgrimage to the portrait or hold a special devotion for her. The name, Black Madonna is given to the image because of all the soot from centuries of votive lights and candles burning for love of the image. Please consider praying to Our Lady of Czestochowa, since this miraculous image is one of the oldest pictures of the Blessed Virgin in the world. Our Lady of Czestochowa pray for us!