During the pope's homily about Christ's birth, a woman's strong, unexpected contractions began...
Sylwia was not planning to meet with the pope in Częstochowa. At the end of the day, however, she decided to visit the Jasna Góra Shrine because friend Beata really wanted to participate in the Holy Mass celebrated by the Pope. Beata was in her ninth month of pregnancy, but not yet due to deliver.
The friends met in Częstochowa, taking a tram to the central street of the town (named after the Blessed Virgin Mary) where huge crowds had been gathering since dawn. The faithful were anxiously waiting for the most important guest, Pope Francis, who would be escorted by the officers of the Government Protection Office and police patrol cars. Due to Beata’s advanced pregnancy, the two friends did not try to push their way closer to the Jasna Góra monastery, but chose a quiet spot, far from the excited crowd of the pilgrims.
Suddenly, Beata felt a contraction, and then another one, and became anxious. Discussing it with Sylwia, both women decide there is nothing to worry about, that these could be normal Braxton-Hicks contractions, and even if it was a sign of true labor, there would be a lot of time passing between these first contractions and the delivery.
The Holy Mass began. During the first and second readings, Beata felt another contraction. Finally, after the Gospel, the pope’s homily, which they had been waiting for. The pope, referring to the words of St. Paul, spoke about the advent of the fullness of time and about God, who sends His Son, born of a woman.
Beata tried to quip that even Pope Francis speaks about deliveries, but Sylwia was not laughing as her friend was wincing in pain. Beata was no longer listening closely to the sermon because her head was spinning. She shivered to hear Francis’s words — “God comes to us as a child born of a mother” — and thought, this is happening right here and right now! God comes to us in another person! Now! In this baby who wants to be born!
The friends realized that Beata was fully in labor. Fortunately, an ambulance was waiting nearby. At the sight of a visibly pregnant woman, her face contorted with pain, the medical team immediately recognized what was going on. After a quick examination, they recognized what was going on; after examining Beata they made a decision to head to the nearest hospital.
Reflecting on it all later, Sylwia said, “Normally I am prone to panic but at this time I was filled with so many wonderful emotions that there was simply no time for panic. I kept looking at Beata and at the Image of Our Lady of Jasna Góra, alternately, and thought that the two have come to better understand each other.
“When in the ambulance, we were both joking with the paramedics. I do not remember a single serious sentence. No sweat at all. Beata wanted to delay the ambulance in order to receive Holy Communion yet the doctor suggested that I should do it on her behalf,” recalled Sylwia in an interview with Aleteia’s Polish edition.
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Sylwia stayed near the shrine. As requested by Beata, she received Holy Communion while praying for the safe delivery of the child. She cannot explain how it happened, but the pope learned about the delivery that began during the Eucharist (possibly because he was notified about any the pilgrims hospitalized during his Holy Mass). He asked his spokesperson to tell Beata that he conferred his blessing on her and her newly-born child.
The baby was born in a Częstochowa hospital at 2:31 pm, just a little before the Hour of Mercy, the focus of Pope Francis’ teaching. The parents named her Klara, as planned but — as Sylwia tells us — they also decided to add a second name, Franciszka. “We quipped that the Holy Father should actually be her godfather,” says Sylwia.
Aleteia asked Sylwia how she feels about it all. Was this a miracle for her? A grace? A sign? She laughed and answered, “For me this is an incredible ocean of grace. July 28, 2016 will be a red letter day for me. I will be telling my grandchildren how I went to assist at my friend’s delivery during the visit of Pope Francis in Częstochowa.”
She adds: “I am certain that the whole day was one huge gift from God. He saw that I had been down in the dumps for some time. Yet I did not expect God to offer me such an invaluable present which has transformed me.
“Before leaving Częstochowa, I returned to the main street leading to the shrine and, raising my eyes to look at it, I said out loud with growing thankfulness: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. I kept smiling on my way back home; my heart was full of joy.”
*Sylwia described her incredible adventure on blog na Bosko.pl, where I learned about Klara Franciszka. Fortunately, I was able to interview her for Aleteia.pl :)