I am just passing exit numer 9, coming in 10 minutes – says Bernard on the phone. There is a traffic jam on the highway. It is Thursday evening. We are waiting with Father Tomasz at a petrol station – he has his Honda Rebel, me – a car, and we are trying to see in the darkness the characteristic shape of the “Life Mobil”.
So far we have seen it only in pictures from the places the Mother of God had visited in Her peregrination “From Ocean to Ocean”. Today, covered from the wind and rain with a glass container, which had been made especially for Her, She comes in Her Częstochowa Icon to Strasbourg. She comes both with joy and anxiety because this is the town when the fate of all Europe is often decided.
This is Her! She is here! – the voice of Fr. Tomasz interrupts my thoughts. We can see the image of the Black Madonna coming round the bend. We cannot see Her clearly yet – in the secularised country The Mother of God is travelling incognito, without unnecessary lighting.
In front of the church of Our Lady of Lourdes we can see a big number of people. The parking place at the church is full and Bernard, helpless, pulls out at the main entrance. Immediately he has caused a stoppage in the street. Nobody hoots, however, - there is a poignant silence. The Black Madonna, carried by four strong men disappears in the entrance to the shrine of Her Son, while the faithful are singing. After the solemn welcome they start prayers led by the Brotherhood of the Living Rosary. It takes up to an hour. Absorbed in prayer we thank the Blessed Virgin Mary that She wanted to come to our community.
Before the Holy Mass, which will be presided over by Fr. Bogusław, a handful of other people join us. Some of them are here for the first time. In our prayers and in both sermons – the French one by fr. Tomasza and the Polish one by fr. Wojciech – two important words – life and family – keep being repeated. We hale prepared a lot of beautiful songs for our evening vigil. Polish and French take turns. We do not notice the passing of time. After the first part of the vigil many people leave. The faces of those who stay show emotion and seriousness. Some stay motionless looking into the distance ahead. Some joy is brought by the sound of the guitar of fr. Tomasz and his band. All sing “How great is the Lord”. Is it an illusion that I can hear the Frencz singing with us in Polish? Midnight approaches.
Placed in the side chapel, the Black Madonna seems to be even more majestic. Most people have gone. A handful of those who stayed raise their hearts in sincere prayer. On their knees, leaning over the glass walls of the chapel or sitting on benches we are trying to use this time well. It is all is taken care of by our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament. From time to time the silence is broken by the singing of fr Wojciech and fr. Wojciech Junior. We follow them willingly. In our prayers between the songs we dedicate to the Mother of God the souls of children who have been murdered in abortions, the victims of euthanasia. We pray for the weak and the suffering. From time to time we refresh with a cup of coffee prepared in the vestry. Only fr.Wojciech does not leave his place all night. About four in the morning people start coming to the chapel. Soon we will sing the hours.
It is almost 7 AM. Father Ryszard who prayed with us for most of the night tells me quietly that Bernard has woken up. The chapel is full. The priests are preparing the Icon for the next leg of Her journey to Epinal, 140 kms from here. We attach the trailer and install The Blessed Virgin Mary comfortably in it. Quite a big group of people are in front of the church singing “Farewell to You Virgin Mary”. After a while the morning Holy Mass begins. The face of father Wojciech is beaming.