Religious Relic, Black Madonna, on Display in KC Area

Area residents will have the chance to see the traveling version of a famous image of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, Our Lady of Cz?stochowa. Commonly known as the Black Madonna due to the darkened figures it depicts, the famous icon will be on display in St. Benedict’s Abbey on the Benedictine College campus during the evening of Friday, April 11.

The third class relic, which has been in contact with the original in the Jasna Góra Monastery in Poland, can be viewed in the Guadalupe Chapel, on the lower level of the Abbey Church, after the 5:15 p.m. Mass in the main sanctuary. At 7:00 p.m., there will be a prayer service and presentation on the history of the icon. The event, sponsored by Benedictine College Ministry and St. Benedict’s Abbey, is free and open to the public.

“This icon will be displayed as part of our John Paul Days leading up to the canonization of St. John Paul II and St. John XXIII on April 27,” said David Trotter, Director for Mission and Ministry at Benedictine College. “Each day will highlight a theme of Pope John Paul II’s pontificate. April 11, with the icon, is our Totus Tuus day, especially important in this year of the consecration of Benedictine College to Our Lady.”

The icon of Our Lady of Cz?stochowa was a favorite of Blessed John Paul II, who made three pilgrimages to the shrine as pope. One in 1979 came just months after his election. The international popularity of the icon is largely due to John Paul’s personal devotion to Mary and this particular icon.

The replica has traveled from the Pacific Coast of Russia, throughout Europe, and now to the United States as part of the Ocean to Ocean pilgrimage, an unprecedented effort for the international pro-life movement sponsored by Human Life International (HLI). The icon will continue to travel throughout the Southern Hemisphere before returning to Poland.

The work is a traditional display of classic Eastern European iconography. In it, the Blessed Virgin directs attention away from herself, gesturing with her right hand toward Jesus as the source of salvation. In turn, the child extends his right hand toward the viewer in a blessing while holding a book of Gospels in his left hand.

The darkened complexion of the figures comes from soot, either from votive candles that burned near the icon for hundreds of years, or from a fire in the church where it was housed. In any instance, the earliest work has been largely lost, as medieval restorers simply removed the icon and repainted it on the original board, which is thought to be a relic and holy itself. While the icon has been intimately associated with Poland for the past 600 years, its history prior to its arrival in Poland is shrouded in mystery. Numerous legends trace the work's origin to St. Luke the Evangelist, to whom Mary appeared while he was writing the icon. Luke then incorporated what she told him of the life of Jesus into his Gospel. Legend also holds that the wooden plank on which it is painted was once part of a table in the house of the Holy Family.

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.

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