Visiting the United States of America
Here is another story taken from my life. This one follows from the "Leaving Poland" part and follows through until we came back from the USA. This may be liked by those who are Catholic at heart.
The work of a holy man is never lost. However, a great deal of effort is needed before such work is noticed. The more sophisticated the work the bigger the worry of failing before the completion.
We, Moshe Szweizer and Rivka Schlagbaum, the authors of this article, would like to share some observations with the readers. Our notes are related to the notion of holiness among the lay Catholics. From the time of the Second Vatican Council, such holiness has been presented as accessible and appropriate to any Catholic who wishes to come closer to God. We embarked on that route, and now we would like to share our observations with the readers.
Our choice was not conscious. Rather, many years ago we were moved by life circumstances, and the great desire to find peace in God. Most importantly, we found ourselves in the situation similar to that of Joseph and Mary who had to leave the country of their birth in order to escape persecution. Likewise, we had to leave Poland more than twenty years ago, so to save ourselves from the looming doom.
We tried to pray at that time, but our prayers were
very simple. We also tried to read Holy Scriptures, but our
understanding of them was superficial. However, we felt very strongly
that the time has come for us to go, and not to look back. Where we were
going, we did not know. We were like Abraham in that we were gambling
with our future. This is a special form of faith provided to some.
In Rome, we entered the four great basilicas
through the doors, which open every twenty-five years. We visited the
Pope and later on went to confession. This was required in order to
receive the total absolution. We needed that.
Instead, a head of Polish society in Wellington met us at the airport. He explained the problem with the sponsor, and informed us about the place he arranged for us. That was with the Good Shepherd Sisters in Lower Hut. They would give us the logging until we find some other place. We thought we needed to learn the local language.
Surely, we were praying and hoping. We even had
dreams related to our situation. Most of all, we were terrified, as we
felt that we have found ourselves in deep water with very limited
abilities to swim. There was a dream, in which we were informed of
incoming test. The test came very shortly. One of us was requested to
work at a local factory. We wanted to learn English and to enroll at the
university. We wanted to study. We lost our unemployment benefit. One of
the sisters, who was with us at the time, cried for us.
One of the Catholics in Wellington allowed us to clean his factory one day per week. We could stay in that house and have something to eat. Throughout all of this time, we studied English. Before the Polish lady came back, we went back to the man who took our benefit away. He restored it and even gave us some allowance so that we could enroll at the university. We passed our exam. Our nerves were shuttered.
Thus, we became students. We learned and cleaned during the holidays. We stayed in a student hostel. We were provided with everything needed to finish our studies.
After finishing the studies, everything changed. We could not find work and could not effort accommodation. At the end of our search for a place to stay, Wellington City Council provided us with a flat. It was our responsibility to furnish it. There was a concrete floor, and not a single item of furniture in the flat. We stayed there for eight months. Sleeping on the floor like campers. That was the time of our religious strengthening.
We believe in poverty. Our motto is: “You are not
to be hungry, you are to be poor”. This is how we understand St.
Francis. We have never been hungry, even at the time when we chose
cabbage as the main ingredient of our cuisine.
We visited her often, and she would tell us the story of her life. She had a brother in Poland. When still there she helped him to become a Cistercian Monk. She bought the necessary clothing so he could be accepted. Thus, she had a brother who was a brother. He is stationed in “Jasna Góra”. This is the most important Polish shrine. The monastery is in the old fort located in Częstochowa, where the famous icon of the Black Madonna is kept. One of us had visited that shrine while still in Poland and saw the famous painting. How surprised we were when our friend told us that the painting displayed in Poland is just a copy. The original is kept in an underground place, where only the Cistercian monks have access to it. It is never brought outside as deemed too valuable to be endangered in this manner. How speechless we were when she showed us a photocopy of a photograph of the original painting. It was an A4 size page with the face so beautiful that we were unable to describe it. The woman on the painting looked like a child less than fourteen years of age. Her looks full of divine charm.
Most importantly the painting did not resemble any icons that we had known. The icons are stylistically incorrect. That painting was like a true likeness painted by one of the great masters of Renaissance era. We thought that Leonardo, if he had a really good day, maybe could rise to such level of perfection and beauty.
Thus, we stayed in our little flat. With bare
concrete floors, no furniture at all, and with the photocopy of the
Black Madonna fixed to the wall in front of our sleeping place. We
prayed to the Madonna and to St. Joseph, and we were accepted by one of
American universities. We have received a stipend and were going up
there to do a Ph.D. in physics. A friend of us provided us with some
temporary employment while building his shed, so that we could save some
money for the tickets. Another of our trials was over.
There is a reoccurring theme in our lives. We tend to leave everything behind and to go into some unknown place. We have done it at least four times already. We would give away all of our belongings. We would wear just the basic clothing, and would keep a small backpack on our shoulders. The backpack would contain our documents and otherwise it would be almost empty. Then, we would buy the tickets to another city or another country and we would go there. When we arrive, we do not know where to go, and we do not have the money to go there. This is supposed to be some form of faith.
This form of behaving also strengthens our faith. “God will provide” is the old saying. When we arrive God provides some form of accommodation, but most importantly, God strengthens the Spirit that is within us.
When we returned from America, the Spirit began to manifest herself in an open manner. This manifestation was so clear and direct, that we felt the interaction through conscious observation. We decided to write about that, or at least about the information that the Spirit was providing to us.
Again, after traveling through another faithful challenge we arrived in Auckland. When we were to write our text a highly paid employment has been provided as well. This was only to be dropped so that we could concentrate on the completion of our work. At this stage however we had our furniture, and most importantly an inexpensive computer, so that it would be possible to write a book. In that work we wanted to describe the power that brought us to such a place.