As we entered this Door of Mercy at Krakow Cathedral, we found ourselves processing, or at least moving at a processional speed, pressed in on every side. It seemed that half of Poland was there, visiting the national shrine, site of royal coronations, resting place of saints, Poland’s Westminster Abbey.
Is a royal shrine the place to look for mercy? This Church is a baroque fantasia: silver, gold, marble wherever you turn. Where could I sit quietly to pray, as I can do in Canterbury Cathedral crypt?
Later I noticed this inscription along the external wall below a golden dome:
This comes from Psalm 115:9:
At the presence of the Lord the earth was moved, at the presence of the God of Jacob:
Who turned the rock into pools of water, and the stony hill into fountains of waters.
Not to us, O Lord, not to us; but to thy name give glory.
For thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake: lest the gentiles should say: Where is their God?
But our God is in heaven: he hath done all things whatsoever he would.
The idols of the gentiles are silver and gold, the works of the hands of men.
They have mouths and speak not: they have eyes and see not.
They have ears and hear not: they have noses and smell not.
They have hands and feel not: they have feet and walk not: neither shall they cry out through their throat.
Let them that make them become like unto them: and all such as trust in them.
Puzzle this out: Glorify your name for the sake of your mercy – or for Israel to earn the respect of the gentiles? Would we not be better channels of mercy if we were humbler than that?
Saint Jadwiga, a young Queen of Poland buried within this church, was called the spiritual mother of the poor, weak and ill: where she has passed is therefore a Door of Mercy. We can learn mercy from her, getting alongside the poor, weak and ill. And that is half an answer to the conundrum; do what we can, where we are. And ‘non nobis, Domine’ indeed!