Philadelphia was founded by William Penn in 1682. It was in Philadelphia that the Founding Fathers of the United States adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 and the United States Constitution on September 17, 1787. Philadelphia is the fifth largest city in the United States. The name comes from two Greek words – philos meaning love and adelphos meaning brother. Thus it is commonly referred to by its nickname – The City of Brotherly Love. But out of out of the nation’s 10 largest cities, Philadelphia’s homicide rate is the worst. Philadelphia is sorely in need of God and the Gospel of Life!
On September 16, the pilgrim icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa was brought to the Cathedral-Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. Msgr. Arthur Rodgers, the Rector, was a gracious host. He allowed me to use the rectory of the Cathedral-Basilica as a base operations during my week long stay in Philadelphia. On Monday evening, I had dinner with seven of the priests of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and shared with them the purpose of the From Ocean to Ocean Pilgrimage in Defense of Life. The dinner helped to take advantage of several opportunities to bring the icon to other parts of the Archdiocese and share some materials from Human Life International. Fr. Dennis Gill is planning a Magnificat Day on November 9, 2013 which expected to draw thousands of people. Three thousand of HLI’s This We Believe pamphlets were sent to the Archdiocese to help explain some of the basic truths of the Catholic faith.
That same evening, I attended a planning meeting in the home of Brian Gail for a Knights of Immaculata Retreat at the Malvern Retreat House in Malvern, PA on November 22-23, 2013. The visit of the pilgrim icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa will be an important part of this retreat. The Knights of the Immaculata promote Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary following the spirituality of St. Maximilian Kolbe.
During the week, the icon was welcomed to the Immaculate Conception Chapel of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary by the Rector, Bishop Timothy Senior. I prayed the rosary with the Legion of Mary and the Seminarians for Life for the defense of life and the family. Bishop Senior also gave me the opportunity to address the whole seminary body after dinner about the nature and purpose of the peregrination. After dinner, I attended a meeting of Seminarians For Life and shared some of the pro-life materials from Human Life International.
On Thursday, the pilgrim icon visited Villanova University and was greeted by a small group of students and faculty. One of the professors, who is married to a Polish woman, gave a presentation on the history of the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa. I offered Mass and later joined a beautiful nighttime procession through the campus with a group of students.
On Friday, the icon visited Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Linwood, NJ, not far from Atlantic City. On Saturday, I joined Fr. Edward Kelly from St. John the Evangelist Church and the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants at a peaceful prayer vigil at Planned Parenthood in Philadelphia.
That weekend the icon was venerated at all the Masses of the Cathedral-Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. Many of the people I met were visitors from other parts of the country who asked about the possibility of the icon coming to visit their area too. One little boy, said “That picture is staring at me!” He would not likely be able to understand the concept of reverse perspective of icons, but I do believe that he sensed the spiritual presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her Divine Son Jesus.
Please pray for the City of Philadelphia that the visit of the pilgrim icon will bear fruit; that the City will live up to its name and truly be a city of brotherly love and that our nation will live up the noble principles expressed in our Declaration of Independence, recognizing our God-given rights, especially the right to life upon which all other rights are based.