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Center for Catholic Education at UD

Living the Adventure: Lessons from the Polish Saints

By Elena Niese

I firmly believe that the human person is attracted to stories. From fairytales with fire-breathing dragons to moments that expose the depths of human vulnerability, each one of us revels in sharing adventures that are not our own, of getting lost in a story and, in turn, being changed because of it. Stories are a part of us. In fact, stories are us. Perhaps, this is why the stories of the Saints have always had a particular resonance with me. For, these living stories remind me, inspire me, and encourage me of the adventure I truly long for: the adventure of a life with Christ.

Going on pilgrimage this past summer to Poland, put me in touch with the stories of the Saints in a very real and powerful way. Walking in their footsteps, praying where they prayed. It was a powerful experience unlike anything else I have ever encountered. But, what made these experiences so moving was not so much their transcendent essence. Of course, this spiritual element was palpable and so very present. Rather, it was meeting these Saints, these living stories, incarnate, amidst this earthly journey, that reminded me that my own humanity, my living story, can be holy, too.

I heard words of freedom and hope from one of Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko’s recorded sermons echo off the walls of the museum dedicated to his life in Warsaw. At 37 years old, this young priest was martyred by the Communist regime for daring to openly celebrate mass and minister to the workers in the Solidarity movement. He met unimaginable evil with charity and peace. That’s living the adventure.

I attended mass in the chapel where Saint Maximilian Kolbe nurtured his Franciscan vocation. It was this place in Niepokalanow, a simple monastery where Kolbe lived in community with other brothers and managed his printing apostolate, that grew in him the virtue needed to offer up his life in place of another prisoner at Auschwitz. He practiced sacrificial love in the face of his suffering brother. That’s living the adventure.

I prayed before the original Divine Mercy image in Krakow and stayed five nights on the grounds where Jesus appeared to Saint Faustina countless times. She was a simple sister from a poor family, who on the outside did not appear to be doing anything extraordinary. Yet, the Lord chose her to reveal His message of Divine Mercy to the world. She deeply trusted despite her weaknesses. That’s living the adventure.

I walked the same trails and paths of the Zakopane Mountains where Pope Saint John Paul II used to take young people on retreat. It was here that they shared stories and laughter, encountered the beauty of creation, and deepened their relationship with Christ. He gave himself completely in service to young people. That’s living the adventure.    

Just like Jerzy, Kolbe, Faustina, and John Paul, each of us is a living story. And, each of us is capable of living the adventure in small ways that manifests in great glory for the kingdom, too. Often, we tell ourselves that it is not possible to be a saint, that it is out of our reach. But, we can meet unimaginable evil with charity and peace like Jerzy. We can practice sacrificial love in the face of a suffering brother or sister as Kolbe did. We can deeply trust despite our weaknesses just like Faustina. And, we can give ourselves completely in service to other people just as John Paul.

Sainthood is a call for each of us. We, too, can live the adventure.

How is God calling you to be a saint, too?


Photos taken by Eliza Canevari

Edited by Ava Gravino

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