This past August, while contemplating the beauties of the Ottawa River from the deck of my family’s cottage on Allumette Island, Father Raymond de Souza, the Canadian commentator and a former-student-become-friend-and-colleague, offered an interesting take on World Youth Day 2016, which will be held in Cracow. When you think about it, he said, “the 20th century happened in Cracow.”
I think I know what Father de Souza meant. Cracow and its people suffered terribly under both Nazi and communist occupation; the murders at Auschwitz took place a few dozen kilometers away; the city-without-God, Nowa Huta, was built outside Cracow, as payback for the city’s failure to vote correctly in a bogus communist election. Yet the bad news was not all the news there was, in Cracow. For in this same city, the divine answer to the unprecedented human wickedness of the 20th century was given, in the visions of the divine mercy that seized the religious imagination of an obscure Polish nun, Sister Faustina Kowalska. And it was from Cracow that there came a man who brought Sister Faustina’s message of divine mercy to the world.