Szeptember 8. Kisboldogasszony napja, Szűz Mária születésének ünnepe, a görögkatolikus híveknek az egyházi év kezdete. Szeptember 6-án nemzeti kegyhelyünkön, Máriapócson vettünk részt a görögkatolikus püspöki liturgián alakuló Szent László Zarándokcsoportukkal (Szent László Pilgrims’s Group). Nagy szeretettel fogadott minket Pindzsu István atya, akinek előadásában megismerhettük a könnyező Szűz Mária-ikon történetét és a kegyhely csodás gyógyulásaiból is kaptunk ízelítőt.
Új lektorunk, Luke Larson első alkalommal vett részt magyarországi búcsún. Benyomásait angol nyelven adjuk közre. Bátorítjuk az angolul beszélni szerető, nemzeti és helyi értékeinket, keresztény hagyományainkat megismerni és megélni akaró diákjainkat, hogy csatlakozzanak a következő zarándoklat lehetőséghez. Érdeklődni igazgatónőnél lehet.
Reflection from Luke Larson
This Sunday (6. September), I had the opportunity to not only make my first trip outside of Kisvarda since I arrived on the 26th of August, but also to make my first pilgrimage in Hungary. Early in the morning, Judit, two Szent Laszlo high school students, Eszter and Gergő and I embarked on a journey to the little village of Mariapócs. Along the way, we talked about many things, from school exams to past travels to Hungarian history. I was especially interested to hear Judit and the students recount the story of Blessed Todor Romzsa, a martyr killed in 1947 near Uzhhorod, Ukraine for boldly practicing the Catholic faith under a communist regime that wanted to destroy it.
I was not quite sure what to expect of Mariapocs. The little settlement I saw on the way appeared quite quaint compared to American small towns with their wide streets, big parking lots, and lots of space between houses and businesses. What a surprise it would be to the unsuspecting traveler to come across the magnificent Saint Michael’s Greek Catholic Basilica in the little town of Mariapocs. I myself was surprised. That morning, I learned that Mariapocs is the most-visited pilgrimage site in Hungary. I noticed the year 1991 emblazoned upon the steeples, commemorating the year that Saint John Paul II paid tribute to the Blessed Mother in Máriapócs.
The basilica was stunning. The towering iconostasis was like nothing I had seen before. Back in the United States, I loved attending liturgies at eastern Catholic churches. I have been to a Ruthenian Catholic church, a Maronite Catholic church, and a Ukrainian Catholic church near my home in Minnesota and some other Ukrainian Catholic churches in North Dakota. The beauty of the architecture, the icons, the music, and the prayers of the liturgy that I found in these churches communicate the awe and the mystery of God. All of them, however, were quite humble in comparison to Saint Michael’s. Judit and the two students were great guides, happy to share their knowledge of the faith in Hungary with me. They pointed out a beautiful mosaic of Gojdics Pál, another martyr for the faith during socialist persecutions. His mosaic stood directly across from the mosaic of Blessed Todor Romzsa.
I was especially fascinated to learn about the miracles associated with the famous icon of the Blessed Mother that is housed in the basilica. Ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated with miracles. I remember feeling amazed upon learning the story of Saint Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes when I was eight years old. When I was fourteen, I chose Saint Juan Diego as my confirmation Saint because of my fascination with the miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe. During our pilgrimage, I learned that, in 1696, the icon of Blessed Mother in a small wooden church in Mariapocs began to weep. News of the event spread quickly. The icon was soon brought to Vienna, where the Christian leaders hoped this great manifestation of the power of God would help in defeating the armies of the conquering Ottomans. The icon never returned to Mariapocs, but a replica of the icon was given to the village. Curiously, the original icon never wept again, but the replica has wept twice: in 1715 and in 1905. Standing outside on the north side of the basilica I learned of the miraculous beehives attached to the walls there. Bees, as it turns out, almost never build their hives on the north side of any building because it is too shady and cold for them. These bees, however, had apparently wished to be as close to the icon as possible and so built their homes just on the other side of the wall. As the story goes, a man was healed in the 1830s at Mariapocs, and, in gratitude, promised to donate some of his own bees to the monks of the shrine. When he arrived home, he saw that one colony of bees was missing. As it turned out, they had already left of their own accord and had set up their home on the northern wall. Hives are still there today, almost two hundred years later. These are only the beginning of the many miraculous events at Mariapocs. The evidence of this is clear in the crutches hanging on the wall, each a testament to a particular healing.
The grounds of the pilgrimage site at Mariapocs contain much more than the basilica. There is a replica of the original small wooden church, an outdoor plaza, and a museum, and a retreat center capable of housing two hundred pilgrims. During Hungary’s socialist past, the building of the closter, now museum had been used as an institution for the insane. The government’s intention was that the yelling and crying from the building would distract the pilgrims. We were given a tour of the wooden church by a kind young Greek Catholic priest, Pindzsu István. I was surprised to learn that the church had been built as recently as 2009. The beautiful style of the icons and architecture looked much older. The tabernacle, uniquely, was the shape of a pelican. It is said that the pelican, when unable to provide food for its offspring, will give its own blood as nourishment. The pelican is sometimes used as a symbol for Christ because he sacrificed his own blood for us, his children, upon the cross.
The culmination of our journey was the divine liturgy, celebrated outside due to Covid. It was an incredible experience. Two bishops – including the metropolitan of all of Hungary – and about a dozen priests celebrated the liturgy. The sweet sound of the eastern chants, mixed with the unfamiliar sound of the Hungarian language, was a joy to behold. Though there were not nearly as many pilgrims for the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin as in a normal year, there was still a significant crowd of priests, seminarians, and faithful, young and old. There was a refreshing aura of holiness and peace about the place. The practice of pilgrimage is a beautiful expression of our Catholic faith. In recent years, I have been enjoyed discovering that beauty. In 2016, my sister and I, along with Pope Francis and two million young people from around the world, traveled to Krakow, Poland for World Youth Day. Back in my hometown of Saint Paul, I liked taking mini pilgrimages from time to time, simply spending a few hours walking to a church for Mass. Pilgrimages are somewhat of a lost art in the Church. In English, our verb “to roam” comes from the word “Rome”, hearkening back to a time when it was common in Europe to see pilgrims wandering to Rome. I returned home feeling reinvigorated and encouraged by the faith of the Hungarian people.