ZAKOPANE, POLAND - Bishop Richard J. Malone once again met up with diocesan pilgrims who flew to Poland for World Youth Day. Although much of the bishop's time in Poland was spent at catechesis sessions for other dioceses, he managed to meet up with pilgrims from Buffalo on several occasions. One of which was a Mass at the Church of Our Lady Revealing the Miraculous Medal, a Vincentian-run parish, in the mountain town of Zakopane on Aug. 1.
Apologizing for not being able to spend more time with his flock, the shepherd of Buffalo told the 150 pilgrims that he looked for them and felt their presence during the closing Mass of World Youth Day, which he concelebrated with Pope Francis the day before at Campus Misericordiae with an estimated 2.5 million pilgrims present.
"I knew in my heart that in that sea of people somewhere, so you were very much in my prayers," the bishop said from the pulpit.
The Gospel reading, Matthew 14: 13-21, told of Jesus seeking out isolation after the death of John the Baptist, but when approached by others seeking seeking His healing.
"The Gospel readings tell us so much of what our pilgrimage is about," Bishop Malone said. "We hear several things we must always hold dear, that God always restores us when we feel the need to be restored in life."
The bishop then compared Jesus trek to the quiet felt by the pilgrims after the closing of the World Youth Day festival.
"Zakopane isn't deserted, but you must feel that way coming from Campus Misericordiae with 2.5 million other people. Here we our in the mountains. We come to a quieter place and the Lord always attracts Himself to us," he said. "You see what happens. Jesus was in that place. He wanted to get away for a while. He was mourning, grieving the death of John the Baptist. He had to get away for a while. The people knew it and wanted to be with Jesus. And as soon as they arrived, Jesus began to teach them and heal them and He knew they were hungry. The same thing goes on with us all the time."
The bishop also told the pilgrims that the Bible holds invaluable parables that hold as much power today as they did during their original occurrences.
"Whenever we hear the Gospel reading, by the way, make sure you don't get distracted by the fact that this is a story from 2,000 years ago, because these things are as relevant and meaningful and present to you now as in the time when they actually happened. Jesus is the same, doing the same things. So, He restores them. He attracts people to Himself. He notices what we need - healing, community."
After Mass, the bishop and his secretary, Father Ryszard Biernat, had lunch with the diocesan pilgrims.
Throughout the July 22 to Aug. 2 pilgrimage to Krakow, Poland, that included trips to other Polish cities of Warsaw, Czestochowa, Zakopane and Ople, Bishop Malone was able to share some of the experiences with the Buffalo pilgrims and offer Masses for them, beginning with a send off Mass on July 22 at Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna. They met again in the Auschwitz concentration camps and at Kalwaria Zebrzydowska Park monastery.