The Catholic Southern Front

Chapter 9/30 – Other Victories of Our Lady of Czestochowa

The City of Chocim is in the region of Chernivtsi Oblast, in western Ukraine and once part of Poland. For the past five hundred years various foreign powers including; Moldovia, the Ottoman Empire, Romania and Russia ruled this region. The Chocim Fortress is strategically located over the imposing Dnieper River crossing. Both the Fortress and the crossing were a scene of many battles, the most famous of which occurred in 1621 and 1673. In the first instance the Ottoman Empire attempted to wrestle the city from the hands of Hetman Jan Karol Chodkiewicz of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. During the second attempt of 1673, the Ottoman forces were defeated by the future Polish King Jan Sobieski on November 11, the Feast of the Patronage of Our Lady. Both victories bear witness to the intervention of the Blessed Virgin.

During the reign of Polish King Zygmunt III, Jan Karol Chodkiewicz was appointed Grand Hetman of the Polish Army, a post equivalent to a General. Jan Karol was a well-trained soldier and a veteran of many battles. Like so many other sons of Poland, he nurtured a great devotion to the miraculous Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa. During this time, King Zygmunt III died and was replaced by King Ladislaus IV, who had a hard time defending these regions from the Ottoman Empire. The Empire experienced a victory at the battle of Cecora; this encouragement furthered the ambitions for conquering both the Countries of Ukraine and Poland. The Ottoman Sultan Osman II, led an army of 200,000 Islamic warriors in person from Adrianople. His forces invaded the South regions of these countries and reached the City of Chocim. Following the Treaty of Deulino, Hetman Chodkiewicz was recovering from the battle, however, in September of 1621 he was quickly dispatched to arrest the relentless advance of the Ottoman army, at the southwestern regions of Ukraine. In September 1621, Jan Karol Chodkiewicz prepared for the impending battle at the Chocim Fortress, upon the Dnieper River. He chose this position as it was in the direct path of the Ottoman march. Hetman Chodkiewicz had at his disposal 35,000 soldiers, later joined by 40,000 Cossacks, under the command of Hetman Petro Konashevych. Were the invading forces victorious, the Ottoman Empire would have successfully extended into Christian Europe. The outnumbered coalition faced a tough challenge, so the Hetman obliged his soldiers ‘on order,’ to fervently seek with prayer, the favor of Our Lady of Czestochowa. He was confident that with the help of Our Lady, victory would be wrought from heaven.

The Battle at Chocim was in full swing, the Poles fought bravely and their enemies suffered heavy losses. Soon fatigue and exhaustion tormented the battle weary troops, however, the heavily pressed Poles, held ground for one whole month of steady resistance. On October 10, as one barrel of ammunition was left, Chodkiewicz was on the verge of surrendering the Fortress to the enemy. He urged his men to redouble their efforts of prayer to Our Lady, under the title of Our Lady of Czestochowa.

At this point of dire necessity an evident miraculous intervention occurred. The Ottoman forces were dealt a severe defeat, on the very day of the fervent supplication and prayer. The Ottoman troops who originally intended to invade the rest of Europe, were dismayed that the Fortress caused way too much resistance for their army. The Siege at Chocim Fortress was too costly and their plans of European invasion had to be aborted. As the first snow falls occurred, Sultan Osman III pleaded for peace terms. The siege was raised, a treaty was established and the Ottoman forces departed back to Turkey. Hetman Jan Karol learned that on October 10, a certain Jesuit Father Oborski beheld a vision during prayer. The Jesuit witnessed Saint Stanislaus Kostka beseeching the Blessed Virgin Mary, to grant a victory for the Poles. His vision concurred with Chodkiewicz’s orders urging his soldiers to redouble their praying efforts. In thanksgiving for her intercession and victory, Hetman Chodkiewicz and King Ladislaus IV, offered votive offerings to Our Lady of Chestochowa. Both Ukraine and Poland were for the moment spared and the merit belonged to the Blessed Mother and her courageous sons.

On September 24, 1621, following the events at Chocim Fortress, Jan Karol Chodkiewicz died; it was the Feast dedicated to Our Lady of Mercy. Following the victory at Chocim, Stanislaw Lubomirski, a Commander of the Commonwealth forces and Anna Lubomirska Branicka, offered as a votive offering of thanksgiving, the financing of a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows at the Dominican Convent in Krakow.

In 1717, there occurred the coronation of the Icon of Czestochowa and in 1770-1772 Jasna Gora was a fortress of the anti-Russian Bar Confederation insurgents, led by Kazimierz Pulaski, who later became an American hero during the American Civil War. The occupying Russian power was well aware of the reactionary forces which issued from Jasna Gora. During the times of the ‘January Uprising’ of 1863, Russian officials recognized Our Lady of Czestochowa as the “main revolutionary.” According to the chronicles, Russian soldiers “battled with hymns, fired at prayers” and therefore confiscated holy pictures and medals of Our Lady of Jasna Gora. This oppression, in the manifest form of persecution, kidnappings and deportations to Siberia, contributed much to the spread of veneration and devotion to the Queen of Poland and strengthened the national resolve. Following World War I, the Polish-Russian/Bolshevik War witnessed many battles were the Slavic Christian brothers warred against each other. This particular war began in 1918 and ended at the Treaty of Riga in 1921. The battles fought at Warsaw are remembered as the ‘Miracle of the Vistula,’ for apart from a miraculous victory, supernatural events occurred on the Feast of the Assumption.

The first series of battles took place all over Poland between the 13th and 25th of August 1920. The Bolshevik Red Army forces commanded by Mikhail Tukhachevski, approached Warsaw and the Modlin Fortress. On August 15, the Poles experienced a victory at Radzymin, which boosted the Polish morale. On August 16, the morrow of the Feast of Our Lady’s Assumption, a counter attack commanded by Jozef Pilsudski, forced the Russians to withdraw as far as the Niemen River. Eventually, the Poles defeated the Bolsheviks; seventy thousand Russian soldiers were taken as POWs and most of the Red Army fled into Germany and Russia. This event was later referred to as, ‘the Miracle at the Vistula River,’ for it was said of having been a victory granted by Our Lady’s intercession. However, many did not agree to this fact and thought that the phrase ‘Miracle at the Vistula’ was ironic. Our Lady though, would intercede ever more evidently in September of the same year. On September 15/16, 1920, the Poles once again prepared themselves for battle by praying throughout the night, organizing night vigils and processions in the churches of Warsaw. The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows occurs on September 15 and on the morrow, at the Battle of the Nieman River, the Polish forces invoked the help of their champion, ‘Our Lady of Czestochowa,’ who did not tarry to assist with her motherly aid. The Russian Red army was to become the main witness of Our Lady’s miracle, as the Image of Our Lady of Czestochowa, appeared in the sky. The Bolshevik army retreated in fear. The Feast dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows was officially granted to the Order of the Servants of Mary in 1667. In 1814, the Feast was incorporated within the Roman Calendar, to be celebrated on the third Sunday of September and in 1913 the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows was assigned to September 15.

The apparition of Our Lady was also claimed to have occurred during the August 15th battle. Our Lady appeared in the sky, certain historical sources claim that the apparition was cloud like, a cloud in the shape of Our Lady appeared or Our Lady appeared on a cloud. This affirmation of both Polish and Russian forces, is reminiscent of the scriptural allusion to Our Lady as being a ‘little cloud appearing on the horizon.’ In 1 Kings 18:41-46, the little cloud appearing on the horizon and gradually enveloping the whole sky was, according to the Prophet Ezekiel, the representation of the future Virgin and mother of the Messiah. Elijah’s servant witnessed the little cloud from atop Mount Carmel in the Holy Land. Digressing a little bit from the Battle at Warsaw, it is helpful to mention that the Blessed Virgin’s last apparition at Lourdes on July 16 occurred on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Even at the end of the Fatima apparitions, on October 13, 1917, Our Lady appeared as Our Lady of Mount Carmel. True to the prophet’s words, the little cloud is enveloping the whole world with her maternal protection.

The Polish Marshal Jozef Pilsudski, armed General Zeligowski of Vilnius. Zeligowski defeated Bolshevik Russia in battle in 1920. The Polish-Russian War (1918-1921) ended on October 12, 1920, on the eve of the last apparition of Our Lady as ‘Our Lady of Mount Carmel’ at Fatima, the same day of the miracle of the sun. An Armistice was signed, which was officially proclaimed by the Peace Treaty of Riga, Latvia on March 18, 1921, and again ratified in Minsk, Bellarussia on April 30, 1921. Following the final victory at Vilnius in Lithuania by Zeligowski, Marshal Pilsudski became the sole leader of Poland for the years 1925 to 1935. In this region of the world the expansions of Bolshevik/Communist ambitions were arrested. However, in later years, the rise of nazism and the violation of the Treaty of Versailles understandably troubled Pilsudski. He offered France with a joint invasion of Germany, which would have arrested the Third Reich’s aggressions leading to the Second World War. However, Pilsudski died on May 12, 1935, on the eve of May 13 the Feast dedicated to ‘Our Lady of Fatima.’ The joint French-Polish invasion of Germany was not meant to be.

Due to his association with the miracle and victory at the Vistula River, an interesting account of the life of the Polish Jesuit Father Andrzej Bobola should be recounted. The Jesuit was born in 1591 and ordained in 1611 in Vilnius. He was murdered by Kosaks on May 16, 1657, and appeared to a fellow Jesuit priest on April 16, 1702. Father Marcin Godebski was the Rector of the Jesuit College in Pinsk. The Jesuit revived the memory of the martyred Father Bobola, who was made Blessed by Pope Benedict XIV in 1755. Accounts also exist of the apparition of Saint Andrezj Bobola predicting the victory of the Poles over the Russian Bolsheviks. In 1819, Father Bobola appeared to Father Alojzy Korzeniewski at the Dominican monastery in Vilnius, today Lithuania. The apparition predicted the revival and autonomy of Poland, which was in those days partitioned, and also predicted the fact that the martyr, would become one of the patron saints of Poland. On October 30, 1853, Pope Pius IX beatified Father Bobola. In 1920, Cardinal A. Katowski ordered the besieged Poles in Warsaw to organize a procession. The procession carried the relics of Father Bobola and of Blessed Father Wladyslaw Z. Gielniowa, this was organized between August 6 – 15, 1920. On the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, the Poles were victorious over the Bolsheviks. The relics of Father Bobola are today kept at a sanctuary dedicated to him in Warsaw, Poland.

Previous to the Polish-Russian battle, all European diplomats in Warsaw fled for fear of a Polish defeat. The Apostolic Delegate to Poland during the August 15, 1920 battle, (Poles vs Russian Bolsheviks), was Cardinal Achille Rati, who would later become Pope Pius XI. He was the only diplomat to remain in the city. During this period the Cardinal particularly prayed for a speedy victory for the Catholic Poles to Our Lady of Czestochowa. Certainly his prayers were heard. The Polish Nation invoked the help of Our Lady of Czestochowa, in an era shadowed by the Marian apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, both devotions intimately associated with solar phenomena. On May 18, 1920, Marshal Jozef Pilsudski defeated the Soviet Union at the Battle for Kiev, Ukraine. On this very day of Polish victory, was born Karol Jozef Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II who consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Thus fulfilling Our Lady of Fatima’s request and initiating the beginning of the Russian/Communist conversion. Interestingly, Pope John Paul II was born on May 18, 1920, during a solar eclipse and during his funeral on April 8, 2005, a solar eclipse was seen in the Americas. These events compliment Our Lady’s solar phenomena of Czestochowa and Fatima, John Paul’s consecration to her and his filial trust in her guidance and the evident indication that the Blessed Virgin is indeed the woman of Revelation 12, who is clothed with the sun. Could this also mean that the world is living through the particular stage of Revelation, and that Pope John Paul II is indeed Saint Malachy’s one hundred and eleventh Pope, referred to as ‘De labore Solis’ meaning ‘of the eclipse of the sun’ or ‘from the labor of the sun?’ the fulfilment of Fatima? (For the explanation of Saint Malachy’s prophecy refer to Chapter 58 Auxilium Christianorum).

During the Second World War the German Nazi occupation damaged the chapel enclosing the Icon. Herr Hitler personally prohibited pilgrimages to Czestochowa as he felt a great aversion to this custom. An aversion, which can only be justified by the fact that he himself was possessed and under the control of the Blessed Virgin’s enemy, the Dragon/Devil. Many still visited and prayed before the Icon, albeit in secret. In 1945, when the World War II was over, in thanksgiving for the destruction of nazism, five hundred thousand pilgrims visited the shrine. On September 8, 1946, approximately one million and five hundred thousand people visited the shrine once again and the Consecration of the Polish territory to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was repeated. Following the end of nazism, communism under Joseph Stalin, had its turn at harassing Poland, however, Stalin himself had expressed the opinion that converting the Catholic Polish to communism was like placing a saddle upon a cow. In 1947, a crowd gathered at the Shrine of Czestochowa to pray for protection against the Russian Communists. In fact the terrible Communist era with its abductions and deportations to Siberia, till the late 1970s, did not overcome the spiritual tenacity of the Polish people. Cardinal Wyszynski and Pope John Paul II, who both fought beneath Our Lady’s banner and were her great devotees, visited frequently the Shrine in Czestochowa.

Our Lady of Czestochowa is acclaimed as being the mother of the Polish Nation, she was repeatedly sent by God to defend her Polish children from every “confrontation” that “…lies within the plans of Divine Providence”(1) on August 3, 1924, Stefan Wyszynski was ordained a priest, in the chapel of the Blessed Virgin in Wloclawek’s Cathedral. He immediately set off to Jasna Gora to celebrate his first Mass and pledge the Virgin to grant him strength to live for one year. This due to the fact that he was severely ill. His ordination and trip to Jasna Gora coincided with the Marian Feast of Our Lady of the Snows, August 5. During the war he was ordained Bishop and spent these years escaping and hiding from the Nazi Gestapo. During the Warsaw uprising, which witnessed 240,000 people dead, he ministered to both allied and enemy soldiers alike. He would lie prostrate on the floor of the chapel, praying for both the dying and the survivers. Wyszynski attributed his survival to the “Beautiful Splendid Star, Mary of Czestochowa.” Cardinal Hlond, the Primate of Poland, informed Fr Wysznski that His Holiness Pope Pius XII had nominated him as Bishop of Lublin. This occurred on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25,1946. His consecration occurred on May 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Grace and eve of the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, at Jasna Gora. The Bishop now adopted the symbol of the Madonna of Jasna Gora ‘Virgo Auxiliatrix’ in his coat-of-arms. His motto was ‘Per Mariam Soli Deo,’ or ‘Glory to God through Mary.’ His first pastoral letters were issued in August, on the day of the dedication of Poland to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Bishop worked to spread the devotion to Our Lady especially through the recitation of the Holy Rosary. Cardinal Hlond wrote to His Holiness Pope Pius XII that Bishop Wyszynski be made his successor, on his death bed Cardinal Hlond said: “Keep working under the protection of our Blessed Mother. Victory, when it comes, will be the victory of the Most Blessed Virgin. Nil desperandum!”(2) Or ‘Never despair!’ Coinciding with Cardinal Hlond’s funeral in Warsaw was the beginning of the Communist five-year-plan to communize the country. On the Feast of Our Lady of Ostra Brama, November 16, 1948, Stefan Wyszynski was by Pontifical investiture, named Archbishop of Gniezno and Warsaw and Primate of Poland. The veneration of Our Lady of Ostra Brama was his mother’s favourite devotion. On his way to Warsaw the Communist authorities stopped his car several times, his ingression into Warsaw occurred on Candlemas, the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary on February 2, 1949. He rebuilt fifty churches in Warsaw, which had been destroyed during the war, the Cathedral was named after the Blessed Virgin the Queen of the Crown of Poland.

The Communists demanded the separation of Church and State and initiated their persecutions, deportations and assassinations. On the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God, January 1, 1952, the communist polish press accused the Vatican as being unhelpful towards the needs of contemporary Poland and of giving in to the NATO Alliance. On July 1, 1952, while on a retreat at Jasna Gora, the Primate came to know that the communist government was liquidating the minor seminaries. Amidst the persecution by the Polish Communist government, which intended to destroy the Church, Wyszynski was elected to the College of Cardinals on January 12, 1953. He was imprisoned for three years. The Soviets next plan was to build a city which had atheistic ideals as its cornerstone. They named the city, Nowa Huta. The young newly appointed auxiliary Bishop of Krakow, Karol Wojytla, courageously celebrated an open air Midnight Mass in Nowa Huta in 1959. “The great symbol for Nowa Huta’s soul was the building of what became known as the ‘Ark Church,’ which arose from the field in the Bienczyce neighborhood, where Wojtyla had celebrated Midnight Mass since 1959.”(3) On December 25, 1972, hundreds of Krakowians gathered for the customary Mass celebrated by Cardinal Archbishop Wojtyla of Krakow, at Nowa Huta. On May 15, 1977, the Cardinal consecrated the new ‘Ark Church’ to Mary, Queen of Poland. The Ark Church was therefore consecrated to the Eternal Ark of the New Covenant. This explains the victorious outcome. The cornerstone of the church was taken from the tomb of Saint Peter, donated by His Holiness Pope Paul VI. Evidently this church became one of the symbols of the peaceful Rosary resistance carried out against the Soviet Communist take over of Poland.

In the encyclical, ‘Redemptoris Mater’ (March 25, 1987) Pope John Paul II wrote: “The piety of the Christian people has always very rightly sensed a profound link between devotion to the Blessed Virgin and worship of the Eucharist… Mary guides the faithful to the Eucharist.” As Vicar of Christ, the Pontiff’s motto ‘Totus Tuus Ego Sum’ or ‘Surrendering all to Mary,’ revealed the influence of Marian Devotion in the life of John Paul II, centered on the devotions of the Marian mystic, Saint Louis-Marie Grignion De Montfort. In an interview with Vittorio Messori in ‘Crossing The Threshold Of Hope,’ His Holiness Pope John Paul II says that: “During the Second World War, while I was employed as a factory worker, I came to be attracted to Marian devotion. At first, it had seemed to me that I should distance myself a bit from the Marian devotion of my childhood, in order to focus more on Christ… Thanks to Saint Louis of Montfort, I came to understand that true devotion to the Mother of God is actually Christocentric, indeed, it is very profoundly rooted in the Mystery of the Blessed Trinity, and the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption…. And so, I rediscovered Marian piety, this time with a deeper understanding. This mature form of devotion to the Mother of God has stayed with me over the years, bearing fruit in the encyclicals Redemptoris Mater and Mulieris Dignitatem…. Another chapter in my life is Jasna Gora, with its Icon of the Black Madonna. Our Lady of Jasna Gora has been venerated for centuries as the Queen of Poland. This shrine belongs to the entire country. The Polish Nation has sought for centuries, and continues to seek, support and strength for spiritual rebirth from its Lady and Queen. At Jasna Gora a special evangelization comes about. The great events in the life of Poland have always been tied to this place in some way. Both the ancient and modern history of my nation have their deepest roots there on the hill of Jasna Gora… Jasna Gora became part of the history of my homeland in the seventeenth century, as a sort of ‘Be not afraid!’ spoken by Christ through the lips of His Mother. On October 22, 1978, when I inherited the Ministry of Peter in Rome, more than anything else, it was this experience and devotion to Mary in my native land which I carried with me.”(4) October 22, is the Orthodox Feast of Our Lady of Kazan, was this an indication that the Polish Pontiff was to effect Russian politics?

In August 1980 the representatives of the workers at the Lenin Shipyard, Lech Walesa, upheld the principle of solidarity against the pay rise, which the Free Trade Unions were to accept from the Communist Russian leadership in Poland. Together with Anna Walentynowicz and Ewa Ossowska, he drove slowly around the Lenin yard on an electric trolley and shouted through his megaphone to rally the discouraged workers who were leaving the yard, abandoning the strike and giving in to the Communist bait. It was August Friday 15, the Feast of the Assumption and of Our Lady of Czestochowa. Yet as the days followed, the Solidarity Movement convinced the ever-growing number of workers of diverse factories and institutions to joine Lech Walesa at the Lenin Shipyard. Father Henryk Jankowski obtained permission from the Bishop of Gdansk to celebrate mass at the yard. A cross was put together by the ship carpenters and on Sunday August 17, Holy Mass was celebrated inside Gate Nr. 2. Flowers adorned the gates, a large picture of Pope John Paul II was brought for the occasion and a small picture of Our Lady of Czestochowa was pinned to the Cross. In this manner the Solidarity Movement brought rights for the workers, giving birth to new democratic movements and initiating the political shifts in Eastern Europe. During the Communist era and a few months following his Pontifical election, Pope John Paul II visited the Icon of Czestochowa in 1979 and a second time in 1983. How symbolic the figure of Lech Walesa must be for the Poles, his name ‘Lech’ is actually the same name of the original mythological Slavic brother who settled in Poland, while his other two brothers ‘Russ’ and ‘Czech’ had settled in Russia and to the South in Czech Republic, respectively. Lech Walesa was a chosen ‘hero figure’ while Pope John Paul II a true ‘Christ figure,’ bearing the sacrifice till the end.

Despite modern day’s liberalist attitude in most countries, the modern Catholic pilgrim visiting Poland can view representations of Our Lady and Child in virtually every church. However, most worthy of veneration is an ancient miraculous Icon kept within her fortress upon the ‘hill of light’ Jasna Gora in the town of Czestochowa, Poland.

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