The congratulation on the jubilee of Púť radosti (Pilgrimage of Joy) taken place in the village of Vysoká nad Uhom also means to look, or better said, to follow the growth and the development of this place breathtakingly (as we monitor children, pupils or students). I was attracted to come there thanks to my personal experience and experience of people who were fascinated by something new and yet unknown. This is the first interesting attribute of „spiritus loci”. The objectivity and straightness of a young man whisper me also now to make some points that I perceive as a big blessing and gift instead of long sentences.
- Young people need faith and good quality impulses for their personal growth. They can find them there – in a new and more attractive form. Once in a blue moon, it is not bad to experience something extraordinary and glorious. When they return home, they may – or even – they have to confront everything experienced. The book of testimonies you hold in your hands is the proof of this.
- This place is built mainly on the prayer and sacramental life, so without the fear of any difference. This is the place where you can deepen youur spiritual life within the community. (Many young people longing to live their faith authentically live in the places where they are tested very deeply.)
- In addition to the special idea of purity via the story of Anka Kolesárová, the universality of the Church can be experienced there. The common celebration of the Eucharist, the frequent visits of the bishops and many priests, young married couples and others who don’t hesitate to witness (naturally and without any restraints, many of them are becoming the silent and authentic ideals!) give a dynamic but excellent and necessary unifyinge line to the pilgrimages.
- The media age presents us, in a very sophisticated way, what is supposed to be „normal” – what „everybody does”. The astronomical increase of the pilgrims, especially in their beginnings and, to a certain extent, the homogeneity of their structures (the balance of prayer, discussions or sharing with personal experiences in groups and the joyous social program) gradually created an environment where several tens of hours (from Friday to Sunday) are used to pray „normally“, to share the views and problems, to believe the gospel in all its beauty, dynamism, but also radicality. In other words, when the teenager returns from this Pilgrimage, he is different because he realizes that the pure relationship is possible, that the prayer on the knees to his God and by his own words is not only a matter of a few naive girls but also of a few dozen or hundreds of boys, and that the village at the end of the world – where there is only one store and one pub, in the middle of nowhere – can mean (and it has been so for many years) the beginning of the change of a man.
- The Gospel means good news. „The saint, who is sad, is a sad saint.” (St. Philip Neri). The joy in the name of the pilgrimage is a key and decisive moment that inspires the young person and brings immutable „credits”and benefits into his soul. All this comes at a time when a man is still open to the formation. The ten-year existence of the pilgrimages and also the well-known „Because the tree can be known by the fruit” (comp. Mt 12: 33) are the immediate verification of authenticity: many have found a spouse in Vysoká and they are united not only in a group or in the Saturday adoration during the pilgrimage, but also in the education of their own children and in the experience of common values. I have no doubt about the fruits of such families in the Church.
- Vysoká as a „town of youth” offers an important experience of service and engagement in the Church – animators, technical assistance, prayer team and many others – during these meetings . Everything leaves the traces and if this effort is well guided and directed, then it increases the sensitivity to God and leads to the change. Young people find out what they are capable of and what good is hidden in them because they are motivated to offer it to the other people.
Once, on my way home from pilgrimage, I travelled by train with an undergraduate from Košice who served as a sound engineer and technician. It was his only point and reason why to be on the pilgrimage. They needed him. They trusted his humanity and reliability, even though he was not a total believer. Everything he saw and experienced there was his first contact with the spiritual world. I don’t know about his next steps. God knows it. Even on the example of this boy and many others who came „by chance“ there or were accompanied by their friend or girlfriend, the important evangelistic dimension of this „God’s project“ is obvious.
- The dimension of pilgrimage is present in Vysoká . If I set off on a long journey, the sacrifice itself and the certain effort associated with the wandering prepare my inside for the acceptance of the precious values and graces.
- Vysoká is a place of reconciliation. The atmosphere of „purity“ invites. As a confessor on several pilgrimages, I realized the splendor of the young man’s desire for the truth and beauty that God puts into us. Young people respond to the offer of a sacramental reconciliation with honesty, truthfulness and intention to work on themselves.
- Openness to something new. The beginnings of the Taizé community during the Second World War in the south of France were very simple. Brother Roger came to the small village with the aim of intensely living communion with God and praying. For a few decades, youth groups have begun to come to this place. Today, it is a community of over hundreds of brothers who welcome around two or three thousand young people from all over Europe and the world in the summer each week. The original intention was different, but they were opened to the new one. Similarly to this, I see the openness of Vysoká and its development: the Pilgrimage of Maturity and the Pilgrimage of Family join to to the Pilgrimage of Joy for the year-olds, the Pilgrrimage of Transformation is being prepared, too.
- We can see very interesting changes of people in the gospels following the Christ: „Teacher, where are you living? Come and see!“ (comp. Jn 1: 38n). The man affected by God suddenly changes his plans, his direction and he wants to stay. He doesn’t know why yet, but he wants to go deeper and deeper with the Master. The existence of Domček is, I think, the important answer to this desire. The free experience of community life, the possibility to join more intensely to the service and the work in Vysoká is very valuable opportunity to know your way, to experience the God’s presence and to intensify the sensitivity to God, to the spiritual world and values. The atmosphere of welcome and love is therefore absolutely necessary.
What to say in the end? In one issue of PR @ SK (Bulletin of Pilgrimage of Joy), I have named this place as the one of the most unique. It was because of this fact: Vysoká nad Uhom lies only five and a half kilometers from our eastern Slovak-Ukrainian border. It means that the young pilgrim will see the sunrise in this place as the one of the first in Slovakia – with a ten or twelve-minute head start over Bratislava. The Easter liturgy compares the resurrected Christ to the coming sun, to the morning star. When you come to Vysoká, it means you can have a head start: the astronomical one, but I am convinced that hundreds or thousands of young people coming there have also the personal and spiritual one.
I wish this place to stay the same – in the cooperation with God, with His graces, the treasure of His words and the appeal of Anka Kolesárová – with its Spirit. Spiritus Christi.
ThDr. Juraj Sedláček, PhD., College Chapel in Trenčín, 2009