|Mission Report: Poland: November 2011|
Missionary Trip to Poland—Reported by Dr. Ligaya A. Acosta, August-September 2011
My trip to Poland was an unexpected mission and gift from the Lord. Since I read the Diary of St. Faustina years back, I have had the secret longing to be able to trace her footsteps and visit the Shrine of Divine Mercy, where it actually happened. Tracing the steps of Blessed John Paul II was an added bonus!
Sometime last year, the Couples for Christ Foundation for Family and Life (CFC-FFL), an international association of lay faithful founded by a Filipino and started in the Philippines, asked me if I could speak at their European conference to be held in Warsaw. I actually did not take it seriously, because Europe is not part of HLI’s mission field for which I am responsible. But God always has a way of fulfilling the desires of His poor servants.
The European Conference
The European conference was a very special event. Most of the participants were Filipinos whose families have settled in Old Europe. This must have been why they wanted another Filipino to speak about pro-life issues! Some 800 participants from all over Europe came. The countries represented inlcuded Italy, Iceland, Germany, Denmark, Austria, Switzerland, Slovakia, Israel, Spain, Finland, Sweden, Poland, and many others. This was not your typical European audience, however, as most of the attendees were Filipinos! Seeing Filipinos carry the flags of the different countries of Europe on stage was a truly memorable image! With the demography of Europe well below replacement level, Filipinos, whom Dr. Brian Clowes of HLI calls “the yeast of the faith,” are having more children than native Europeans. And as we know, the future belongs to those who are faithful to God’s laws.
It was amazing hearing their stories. Many of them were from nursing and various other professions, and they told me how they are able to evangelize through their work. One ICU nurse from Germany told me how she regularly sings religious songs and prays over her patients every time she visits them. She added that when one of the comatose patients regained consciousness, he began looking for the nurse who had always sang and prayed over him! Today, this previously non-Catholic patient and his family are devout Catholics. Another Filipino working as a nanny in Italy told me she would teach the child how to pray each day, which also led to the eventual conversion of the family!
The Moving of the Holy Spirit
I was given one hour and 45 minutes for my talk, which titled, “Culture Wars: Sleeping with the Enemy.” During this time, I shared my conversion story and discussed the history and myth of overpopulation, the evils of contraception and abortion, and the culture of death and its peddlers. Using HLI’s global map on the state of abortion laws, I showed how pervasive the culture of death is in Europe! As usual, I had to do a lot of praying and fasting for my talk, especially considering the dire situation in Europe. I had a sleepless night before my talk, begging the Lord and the intercession of Our Lady and all the angels and saints in heaven for a most powerful anointing. With God’s amazing grace, my talk received a standing ovation. With my weak body and lack of sleep, plus my anxiety over the talk that I would give on my first mission in Europe, I knew it was only by the power of the Holy Spirit that people were touched.
My talk earned for me many bars of chocolates and more invitations to speak in the many countries of Europe. Also, I was able to arrange a mission to Israel in the Middle East through a Filipino priest present at the conference. This conference showed me once again how people hunger for the goodness of God and of the beauty of life, marriage, and the family, which godless peddlers of the culture of death are pervasively seeking to destroy.
In the hour of adoration that followed the conference, loud cries could be heard. I was to find out why in the days that followed, as many participants sought some private time with me. While Filipinos have indeed become the yeast of the faith, many have unconsciously been swallowed by the deception of the culture of death! One lady who spoke to me told me of her long-kept secret: she had been promiscuous and had aborted five babies! I also discovered that many employees in U.N. agencies in Europe are Filipinos who are also active in the charismatic community. Many came and hugged me after my talk, while at the same time sharing their guilt feelings. In my talk, I mentioned the United Nations and its agencies as the main death peddlers! And in the counseling sessions throughout my stay, I preached on God’s Divine Mercy and how He can make our crimson red heart as white as snow through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Shrine of Divine Mercy
After the conference, I was able to trace the steps of St. Faustina and visit the shrine of Divine Mercy, as well as the Holy places that were so close to the heart of Blessed John Paul II. Our first stop was the shrine of the Miraculous Image of Our Lady of Czestochowa, whose amazing story strengthened my resolve to continue with HLI’s mission no matter how formidable our enemies might be. Looking at the scar in her face inflicted by an enemy of the Church—which we were told could never be erased despite attempts at restoration—I realized all the more that our Blessed Mother will shield and fight for us if we call on her! Like many of the pilgrims, I proceeded up the stairs to the altar on my knees, as I earnestly begged Our Lady to bless the mission of HLI and especially to save the Philippines from the most diabolical reproductive health bill.
From Czestochowa, we drove to Krakow and finally visited the Shrine of Divine Mercy. We were fortunate enough to hear a touching talk by a nun from Sr. Faustina’s congregation. One of the things she shared was a story of the time Sr. Faustina was being stoned by people and thus had to run to the chapel. She found herself right behind the tabernacle, and she thanked God for her enemies, without whom she would not have been as close to the Lord! I realized then how thankful I should be that the death peddlers and their many deceptions have put me in this mission where I often see God’s amazing goodness and mercy. My prayer for them, though, is that God should open the blindness in their eyes so they too can feel God’s amazing glory. After all, all of us are called to go back to our Maker.
Early the next day, we came back for Mass at the small chapel where the first class relic of St. Faustina is—just below the image of Divine Mercy. Together with a fellow pilgrim, I practically ran to the chapel, which is behind the huge convent. As the saying goes, the early bird catches the worm. It was not a worm though that I caught, but the greatest opportunity of venerating the relic for a long time and getting a chance to beg St. Faustina’s intercession and for blessings and mercy for the mission of Human Life International, all of its pro-life missionaries around the world, staff and personnel, and most especially the many benefactors, who make the mission possible. I prayed for mercy for Asia, Oceania, and the world, and in a very special way, for my country, the Philippines, to be spared from the reproductive health bill. Finally, I prayed for the conversion of our pro-RH president, legislators, individuals and groups.
After the Mass, we drive to Wadowice, the little town where Blessed John Paul II was born and stayed till he turned 18. We toured and prayed in the beautiful church of his childhood and passed by the apartment where he lived, which was very near the Cathedral. Since it was under restoration, we could not get in; but we looked from outside. Then I understood why the beloved Pope became so holy: from childhood, he was literally always close to Jesus!
As I travelled back to my own country again, I had a long time to pray and reflect on my latest experience and to thank the Lord for using me and HLI as His instruments for bringing the Gospel of Life to the nations and for fulfilling another long-time desire of my heart. May God be glorified in everything we do.