Yesterday, we attended the 50th Annual Polish-American Festival at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Częstochowa (American Częstochowa) in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. This was our second year visiting the shrine and the festival. The shrine was built by and is staffed by the Fathers and Brothers of the Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit (aka the Pauline Fathers).
The Paulines also staff the Jasna Góra Monastery in Częstochowa, Poland, which is Poland’s most famous shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Jasna Góra Monastery houses the original image of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, which is also known as Our Lady of Częstochowa.
The Lower Church at American Częstochowa was designed to resemble the sanctuary and chapel at Jasna Góra, including a replica of the miraculous image of Our Lady above the tabernacle. Sitting in the chairs before the tabernacle and the replica of the miraculous image, there is a serene calmness that settles around you.
After spending some time in prayer and exploring the church and museum, we headed over to the festival. We took in the sights, sounds, aromas, and tastes of the Polish-American Festival. We enjoyed a few Polish delicacies, including placki (potato pancakes), gołabki (stuffed cabbage), kielbasa, and imported Polish pivo (beer).
After enjoying our lunch, we explored the festival. I was quite impressed with the replica of a 17th Century Polish encampment. I was especially enthralled with the regalia of the Winged Hussars. The Polish army under the capable command of King Jan III Sobieski singlehandedly defeated the Ottomans and won the Battle of Vienna in 1683.
In a letter to Pope Innocent XI, Sobieski wrote, “Veni, vidi, Deus vicit”, which means “I came, I saw, God conquered”. Pope Innocent hailed Sobieski as the “Savior of Vienna and Western European civilization”. Many people like to poke fun at the military acumen of the Poles, but without them Western Civilization would have surely fell.
Before heading back home, we stopped into the shrine’s gift shop, which was chock full of religious items, including books, statues, rosaries, clothes, prayer cards, liturgical vestments, etc. If you get a chance I highly recommend you visiting the Shrine of Our Lady of Częstochowa, whether it be for a pilgrimage of prayer or for next year’s 51st Annual Polish-American Festival. You do not need to be Polish to have a truly awe inspiring experience.
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