You're driving along on two lane blacktop and traffic in front of you suddenly slows to a crawl. In the distance, in the opposite lane, you see them marching toward you. Pilgrims, Polish pilgrims, on their trek to pay homage to the Queen of Poland at her throne in Jasna Gora. This event may repeat itself several times before you complete your journey because tens of thousands of pilgrims, in groups usually numbering in the hundreds and with banners identifying their home parishes or deaneries, are afoot and all heading for the very same destination. And timing is very important because they all want to be there on August 15 - the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The pilgrimage is essentially a spiritual journey and native Poles consistently express a much deeper and richer spirituality than that exhibited by their Polish-American cousins. Perhaps that is really a cultural environment issue, but something seems to have been lost by the descendants of those noble immigrants who made their trek across the Atlantic in search of better opportunities.
The journey of each pilgrim group is carefully planned far in advance and each group has been organized by a local parish or deanery and assigned a "ks. dyrektor", a priest designated "Father Director", to supervise and guide it. Rest stops, comfort stations, refreshments, and places to spend the night are strategically located along the various routes. Nearly as much effort goes into the planning as the actual execution of the pilgrimage.
Onward, ever onward, they plod until they disappear from view. And then yet another group appears on the distant horizon. Their goal is the same, to pay homage to their Queen, the Queen of Poland - Czarna Madonna.
| Finally, the pilgrims arrive...|