Thursday, April 27, 2006

Revolutionary Scheming

Supporters of Gay Rights at the 2004 March in Krakow

And the corresponding reaction of Polish conservative youth.

April 28th in Krakow marks the celebration of the “Day of Democracy.” Who declared this day a holiday remains a mystery, and the use of the word “democracy” in relation to the planned events is questionable. Namely, for the second time in four years, there will be a protest march through the streets of the Old Town, which is being organized by the “Social Democratic Party” of Poland, self-advertised as the “new leftist party of a young Poland.” In reality, the party does not represent anything new, for it was formed by a few former members of SLD, the dominant post-communist party that had been in power until the last elections, when a young Polish anti-communist conservative party swept the elections.

The Law and Justice Party is headed by Lech Kaczynski as the president, even though many people claim that the real power lies in his twin brother, Jaroslaw, who is the head of the party. The party has taken upon itself to purge the government and all government institutions of former members of the PZPR, the Polish communist party, many of whom have high positions in the state-run media, and in the various branches of government. Naturally, a post-communist, liberal media has not been sympathetic to a conservative, anti-communist, pro-life, pro-marriage, Catholic president, whose Prime Minister wears a Rosary ring and is seen regularly at public Masses (I have been to four with him in the past few weeks). Perhaps they also fear that the purge is coming their way, with the passage of a new bill on media reform.

As in the United States, and in Western Europe, one of the major debates in Poland right now is the debate about the “persecution” of homosexuals. Three weeks ago, the Human Rights Watch, a New-York based group, declared that an official “homophobia” exists in Poland. Statements such as this, and extreme pressure from the pro-homosexual European Union, of course, only further encourage the Polish minority of homosexuals to “battle” with the Polish government, the Church, and with the traditionally Christian culture of this country. The most notorious “fighter” is Robert Biedron, the president of Poland’s Campaign Against Homophobia, who thinks that the Kaczynskis are “medieval conservatives.” Of course, he seems not to recall the fact that homosexuals would have been tortured or burned in the Middle Ages, while now they enjoy full rights as citizens, and nobody is harming them in any way. Kaczynski’s justification of banning a homosexual parade as president of Warsaw, when he stated, “sexual orientation is a private matter and should be kept as such,” has been perceived as, “homosexuals should be kept silent and denied their rights.” Either way, there is great pressure in small sectors of society to make Poland a place “safe for democracy,” a country of “tolerance,” because the Polish constitution gives equal rights to all people.

Tomorrow, the march of gays and lesbians, and their supporters, will begin at the Barbakan, the old gate to the city, and then proceed along the streets, ending on the market square. In an ironic and perverse reversal, the famous gate that led to the royal city and the capital of Catholic Poland, will now be the gathering place of anti-Catholic liberals and homosexuals. To make things even more exciting, at the same time, the city authorities have issued a permit to the “All-Polish Youth,” an ultraconservative group of young people, often misrepresented as fascists and homophobes, who will also be gathering tomorrow on the market square in support of traditional Polish values. While the group is not a fascist group, as they are widely called, the group is not exactly known for its “peaceful” demonstrations. It will be interesting to see what will happen when the two groups meet on the main market square. As one blogger, clearly fed up with the debate, wrote, “I hope all of those idiots from both sides beat each other up.”

On the one hand, I see the justification of such a comment, since the debate in Poland has been present in the media for a few years, with the Gazeta Wyborcza, a Polish paper similar in political outlook to the New York Times, publishing at least two or three articles daily about gays and their battle for rights in Poland. Nobody mentions the fact that, when in a country of forty million people, five hundred show up at a rally, it is a good turnout. I wonder how many will come tomorrow. From posters that hail “Krakow: City of Tolerance,” to newspaper announcements, the planned pro-gay “rights” protest has had a lot of media hype. Of course, there have also been posters calling for “STOP Deviations and Disorders.”

On the other hand, I think that the issue cannot be dismissed so cynically, and is very important to consider. This whole state of affairs reveals to us the workings of revolutionary groups, which seek to undermine established order. In his brilliant novels, and particularly in Demons, Dostoevsky’s characters give the reader much insight into the workings of revolutionary groups in Russia during the nineteenth century. Socialism, nihilism, rationalism, and other revolutionary philosophies were exported to Russia from the West, particularly France and Germany, and implanted into important and influential circles of the academic elites. Small groups of intellectuals gathered, having adopted these ideals, and planned to overthrow the existing social order by spreading the revolutionary ideals to the rabble, who would be responsible for carrying out the bloody changes.

Rather than seeking to dialogue with the established social order, and with the powerful Orthodox Church in Russia, the revolutionaries naturally saw religion and the traditions of their country as their number one enemy:

Firm the people stood,
For liberty, equality, brotherhood…
And when rebellion once was sparked…
To hold property as one,
And take their just revenge upon
Marriage, church, and family ties—
Evils in which the old world lies.

Here, Pyotr Stepanovich, in Demons, presents the plan of the revolutionaries. It seems that not much has changed in the modern culture war. In the name of “tolerance,” of “democracy,” and ultimately, in the name of “liberty, equality, and brotherhood,” the homosexual agenda is pushed. The Church, the family, and the marriage are all seen as “evils of the old world,” and are flatly rejected and undermined by radical activists. The people who actually struggle with homosexual tendencies, and feel the deep inner hurt and longing for love and fulfillment, have become victims of a few activists in a system which is proposed among the intellectual elites, based upon a faulty notion of “freedom” and human “rights.” This is evident in the invention of an entire discipline of studies to support their movements—studies in “gender” and in “queer theory.” These ideas are implanted into the ideas of young people, and then spur some, who may already have homosexual tendencies, on to live a homosexual lifestyle, while others are encouraged to fight with the traditional social order in order to make culture and society are more “welcoming” place, to create a pluralistic post-modern society of many individual truths.

The modern secular humanism that is prevalent in the West, and whose claws are tearing their way into Catholic Poland, does not differ much from the nineteenth century revolutions of which Dostoevsky speaks. There is an ingrained, unfounded, and prevalent suspicion of the Church and of traditional values. The homosexual movement in Poland argues its position by referring to the European Union. If the EU is progressive and enlightened, the guarantor of human rights, then Poland must be a country of the Dark Ages, a clerical theocracy in which the Church rules the state and tells people what they must do. Of course, the homosexual movement is not the only movement that insinuates distrust against the Church and misrepresents it. Other examples are the Da Vinci Code phenomenon, the rise of the New Age and interest in eastern religions, as well as the media bias. This of course, is no surprise. Four hundred years ago, Pascal observed, “Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid that it is true.”

It is quite astounding that the homosexual movement has so much media coverage, much to the credit of these minorities of people who often dedicate their whole energies to “fighting for the cause.” This is true at Notre Dame, where professors such as Gail Bederman can be found everywhere, questioning the traditional teachings of the Church, and seeking to fight for “equal rights,” with the full support and encouragement from the staff of the Observer and the liberal establishment. Professors such as Ed Manier correspond regularly with the Progressive Student Alliance, and ask advice of liberal students as to how best go about an issue on campus. In reality, then, we find ourselves in an absurd situation, where liberal students have a great say, and even Notre Dame Philosophy Professors take advice from the grassroots activists. In Poland, it is also a small group of radical activists who have the support of Gazeta Wyborcza, the largest newspaper in Poland, as well as the state-run television, which is headed by former communists. When a homosexual march took place in Krakow two years ago, EU member countries, such as the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany, sent homosexual activists to Poland to “educate” the Polish homosexuals about how to successfully create a lot of noise and attract a lot of attention.

What these people do not understand is that their movements have been proved wrong throughout the centuries. In fact, their fight for “equal rights” is not really anything new or progressive. Already two hundred fifty to three hundred years ago, the Enlightenment directed its attack against the Church, against marriage, and against the family. “Man was born free, but is everywhere in chains,” stated Rousseau, who fought against the “chains” of the Catholic Church and of the establishment. Voltaire hated the Catholic Church with a passion, and his one goal in life was to defeat it. Fundamental human institutions were also a target of his attack. “The teaching on the indissolubility of marriage is the most brutal and de-humanizing” form of limiting people’s freedom, wrote Voltaire.

Thus, what we see in this manifestation that is being organized by the party of the new “young Poland” is actually nothing new at all. The methods used by the homosexuals to push their agenda are not unfamiliar to us throughout at least the past three centuries. Dostoevsky noticed one hundred and fifty years ago:

We are assured the world is becoming more and more united, is being transformed into brotherly communion, by the shortening of distances, by the transmitting of thoughts in the air. Alas, do not believe in such a union of people…they distort their own nature, for they generate many meaningless and foolish desires, habits, and most absurd fancies in themselves. They live only for mutual envy, for pleasure seeking, and self-display.

In this world of the twenty-first century, we are confronted by arguments in favor of “equal rights,” of “brotherhood,” (Oops, forgive my non-inclusive word. Perhaps I should say, “solidarity,” a more “gender-neutral” word). Compassion is misunderstood, and becomes interpreted as something that gives one the responsibility to support any view whatsoever, as long as it is in the persecuted minority. “Love” is raped, and the idea of a self-giving sacrifice is violated by the concept of pleasure and fulfillment. Perhaps most ironically, in the name of “tolerance” for homosexuals, we must be intolerant of those who support traditional values. Dostoevsky warns that the more one gives into these revolutionary ideas, “the more he sinks into suicidal impotence.” Impotent or not, definitely not fruitful.

Fast Week

Once again, another week has flown by since the last time I wrote anything. It has been a week filled with a lot of work, after my return from Rome, but also with a lot of interesting and unique opportunities.

This past weekend, George Weigel was in Poland to receive the “Gratia Artis” award from the Polish Minster of Culture, Minister Ujazdowski. He is only the second non-Pole to receive this medal, which is given for a unique and significant contribution to the preservation of Polish history and culture. Norman Davies, the British scholar who is a Polish historian (and happens to live next door), is the other non-Polish recipient of the award.

After receiving the award in Warsaw, Mr. Weigel came to Krakow in order to be present at the awards ceremony for the Papal Knowledge Contest, which was organized by the Tertio Millennio Institute, and whose aim was to continue the interest in the study of the life of John Paul II. High school students from all over Poland were able to partcipate, and the winning student received a trip to Rome for two people. Many of the finalists received books about the life of John Paul II, and George Weigel was there to also autograph the new Polish edition of Witness to Hope. I was very blessed to have been able to meet him and to spend some time with him, talking about the American Church, as well as about Polish history. Of course, he will be here again in the summer, as one of the lecturers of the annual “Summer Seminar Tertio Millennio,” organized for students from around the world. Its lectures and seminars focus on the role of a civil society in the modern world, and discuss the ideas in Centissimus Annus.

My classes have been going well, and I am realizing that I have a lot of work ahead, since final exams will begin to take place in the first weeks of June. Of course, May will be a very busy month, and the time for exams will come sooner than I expect. Next week is another week free from classes, since the first of May and the third of May are both national holidays. May 3rd celebrates the anniversary of the Polish Constitution of 1791, the second written constitution in the world, and the first in Europe. May 1st, though established as a holiday by the communists, has remained traditionally, and the two holidays have been connected by a day free from classes on the 2nd, creating the “longest weekend in Europe.” I am looking forward to traveling a little bit, with some Notre Dame friends, who will be coming to Warsaw and Krakow.
I am still adjusting to the system of education here. Whereas in Notre Dame, and most American universities, the student has tests and papers throughout the course of the semester, here, the final exam is the only determining factor of one’s final grade. Some of my exams will be oral finals, and some will be written. Though it provides greater freedom in planning out one’s own work, it is also a danger, of course, that one will procrastinate until the very end. We will see what the exams will be like, and how I will be able to talk about theology in Polish in front of my professor!

This weekend, I hope to be able to tour the Warsaw Uprising Museum in Warsaw, which is one of the newest and best museums in Central Europe. Though it may currently be under expansion, I would recommend to anybody that ever travels to Warsaw to see it. It tells the tragic story of how a city fought for its freedom, with the promise that it would receive western aid, only to be betrayed by the Red Army, and destroyed by the Germans. It is a story of great valor and heroism, as well as of tragedy and of disgust. If anybody would like to familiarize themselves more with the Uprising, Norman Davies recently published a book, Uprising ’44, which tells the story in much detail. I have yet to read it.

The weather here I Krakow seems to have jumped from winter to summer. This week, within the course of three warm days, all of the leaves have sprung forth on the trees and bushes, and all of the flowers have begun to bloom, creating a very green, fresh, and colorful environment. Though I am sure that we can still expect some rain and cold weather, the weather has been a temptation to do anything other studying. After the short, gray days of a Polish winter, the sunny and long days of a Slavic Summer are here. Only, I wish I had the time to be outside and enjoy it like I should! With the above-mentioned friends, though, we may be going to the mountains next week, in order to enjoy some free time and rest, for them, after their exams, for me, before my exams.

I do have a few more thoughts on an event going on in Krakow tomorrow, but I will gather those thoughts and write a separate entry…

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Divine Mercy Sunday

Happy Feast of Divine Mercy (at least over here in Europe)!

May our Merciful Lord watch over us and may we always rejoice in the great mercy that He has shown us, by suffering for us in order to reveal to us His glory, and the joy that we are called to!

Even though it's been over a year, let's pray for the quick and speedy canonization of Pope John Paul II, who passed away on the Vigil of this feast last year!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Blogger is having problems with images, so please be patient as I will put more up later.


Click here to see some of my pictures from Rome. I will be updating them with time.

De Castitate

Forgive my long silence on this side of the Atlantic, but the past few weeks have been incredibly busy, as the longing of Lent changed into the Easter joy, when we celebrate the redemption of man, and the profound truth that “God is love.”

The week before Holy Week, I took part in a symposium at the Jagiellonian University, sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Theology, entitled “Man as the path of the Church: John Paul II’s Theological Anthropology.” I cannot even begin to explain how amazing the lectures were.

With introductory remarks by His Eminence Cardinal Dziwisz, and participation from famous Catholic priests, such as Fr. Jacek Salij, OP, Fr. Maciej Zięba, OP, as well as lay professors, such as Marian Grabowski, the symposium was a serious, scholarly attempt to discuss and continue the thought of John Paul II. Professor Grabowski, a nuclear physicist who, in the words of Fr. Kupczak, decided to “occupy himself with more important things” and become a theologian and philosopher, gave an amazing lecture entitled, “Between Excitement and Being Moved: The Originality of the Image of Marital Love in John Paul II’s Writings.” Here are some thoughts, both based on his lecture, and on my own reflections.

John Paul II’s view of chastity is truly revolutionary. In our culture and in our Church, too, chastity is so often seen as a denial, as a negative expression of the person’s sexual life. It involves a “saying no” to sex, a limitation of freedom, and an “imposition” of a rigid rule. Not many teenagers are eager to go to a “chastity talk.” Why is this so?

Wojtyla’s understanding of chastity focuses on an “account of tenderness,” or an account of “perceptiveness of emotion.” In Love and Responsibility, Wojtyla seeks to combine the traditional Thomistic understanding with his phenomenological account of the “entire man.” Traditionally, the understanding of chastity has been removed from the deepest and most authentic desires of the human person, providing only intellectual and rigid definitions. There has been a lack of definitions in which the worth and depth of the human person have been taken into account. One cannot talk about chastity, about its true and beautiful meaning, without taking into account the feelings and the tenderness of the human heart. There has been a lack of phenomena that take into account the inner worth of the human person, and the mere account or idea of chastity, as it is commonly understood, does not move a human person’s heart or emotions. There is a lack of the “tenderness” that every human being needs.

Wojtyla argues that this impersonal understanding does not speak to the whole man, who is also made of feelings and emotions. He perceives that there needs to be an account of chastity that speaks not only to the mind, but also to the heart, which is the source of tenderness and emotions. It is in the heart that man can be fully convinced of the truth, about himself, and about the meaning of his sexuality. However, these emotions and tenderness cannot be a “soft tenderness,” but must also have a certain degree of firmness and steadfastness. A love that is full of “soft tenderness” is an immature love, a love that is inexperienced and out of touch with the human person. This is a love of emotions that are not tempered by the will. Rather, the model of tenderness is found in motherly tenderness. Paradoxically, this motherly tenderness is precisely the tenderness of fatherhood, of God the Father who loves his children as a “jealous lover,” and as a “bridegroom,” of which the Scriptures so often remind us.

Accompanying this emphasis on the human heart and the steadfast tenderness that is necessary when speaking of human love, Grabowski also focused on the distinction between “excitement (podniecenie),” and “being moved (wzruszenie),” the latter being a very difficult word to translate, due to the depth of the meaning it carries. It could be described as “being moved in the interior depths of the soul.” The difference between the two, as is seen in the very definition of the words, is that excitement is something shallow, something “sharp.” “Being moved,” on the other hand, describes a deep interior experience, a “tenderness” that is affected in the depths of the human being.

These two reactions can reveal to a person the state of his inner being, and allow him to understand the level of his own tenderness. Upon seeing a naked human body, a person can be both excited and moved. The difference in his reaction depends on the indescribable, interior dispositions of his heart. It seems that the common understanding of chastity, in the negative sense, seems to address this “excitement.” Rather, what is needed is an understanding of chastity whose subject is the tenderness that results from being moved. A person who truly lives chastity realizes that it is not about saying, “no,” but that it is about saying “yes,” to the entirety of the human person. In our culture, nakedness is not seen as something that individualizes the human person, but rather, sees him as an object. It is to this objective understanding of the human person that chastity in the negative sense can be applied. But in the positive sense, the chaste person sees another human being and is moved. Truly, how many things can evoke a feeling of tenderness in a man? Freckles on a female face, the weaknesses and fatigue a woman experiences at times, the reflection of the sun’s rays radiating from a woman’s hair--these are all situations that speak to the inner depths of a man, which stir up sympathy and tenderness in a man. The things move a man, and not merely excite him. They are evidence that there is an inner beauty hidden in each person, a beauty that cannot be explained through mere objective standards.

It is precisely in this concept of tenderness that Wojtyla can provide the answer to this deep mystery, the question of “What is it that moves me in these common situations?” The concept of tenderness is also the answer to the accusation, that ethics is simply a series of norms and rules that have to be blindly followed. How can one explain the “way it should be” without providing a concrete image or picture as an example? Wojtyla cannot provide the example, but points to the love of Christ as the example. In Him one can see Truth, Beauty, goodness, humility—but is there tenderness? It is hard to imagine a moment in the Bible where Jesus would exhibit the marital tenderness that husband and wife, lover and beloved, are called to. So where does this idea of tenderness come from?

Jesus is very intimate and tender, but He speaks the language of ordinary human gestures. He gives up the specific language of romantic love, and elevates every ordinary human gesture into an expression of love. His goodness speaks as a language in and of itself. How can one not see the tenderness of Jesus at the Wedding in Cana, when his mother comes to Him and asks Him to do something to help the bride and the groom, who risk embarrassment at their own wedding reception? Though it was not yet His time to perform miracles, Jesus is moved interiorly out of love for His mother, who places her entire trust and confidence in Him. He is moved because of the intimate confidence that His mother place in Him, which leads Him to fulfill His mother’s request.

How can one not see the language of tender love at the foot of the cross, when Jesus is moved by the presence of His mother? In the worst moment of his life, in the midst of his suffering and death, Jesus is excited and comforted, moved that His mother has come to share in the agony of His last moments on the earth. She who brought Him into the world will now accompany Him as He leaves to His Father’s house. His tender affection and his interior movement result in his entrusting his mother to his beloved and most intimate friend, and in giving His disciples to His mother. His suffering and death become an occasion to speak the language of love by entrusting to His mother the future of the entire Church, because he loves her tenderly.

One can also see this “firm tenderness” in the love that St. Joseph showed to his child. A father’s love for his son is not expressed through feminine tenderness, but rather, it is expressed through challenge. A man’s tenderness is apparent in his compassion for the weak and those in trouble. A father expresses his love to his sons by placing before them challenges, and thus enabling them to confront their weaknesses. Throughout these difficulties, when a child’s weaknesses are apparent, the father’s loving gaze rests upon his son, who tries to overcome the challenge on his own, all with the support and love of the father. Fatherly love helps the child to mature, and to gaze on the world with hope and with love, because of the confidence of love.

Perhaps one of the most moving moments in the Scriptures, which illustrates the tender love that moves the inner depths of the human person, is the gaze of Jesus upon Peter in the Gospel of St. Luke. In his First Letter, St. Peter describes the “patience of God.” This insight is no doubt the result of the heart-wrenching and self-revelatory look of Jesus, after Peter denied him three times. Jesus’ loving gaze revealed to Peter the true meaning of a patient love, and convinced him interiorly of the truth about Jesus, and about himself, which he already knew, but was too weak to live up to. Peter saw Christ and he remembered, he grieved for his denial, and became more convinced of his love.

Being convinced of love--this is the love and chastity that every man is called to. It is a love that is beyond mere excitement, but rather, it is a love that moves the very interior of a human person. This applies to all stages of one’s life, whether to a married couple or to a single person. Excitement, a natural human reaction, is only a shallow component of the true depth of the encounter between one human person and another. The language of tender love, spoken through ordinary human gestures, moves the person who is living chastity. Chastity sees the inner beauty, and moves one in the very depths of his being. For a chaste person, every encounter becomes a Petrine encounter, an encounter with the living God, Who convinces man of his highest and most noble calling, and “reveals man to himself.”

Roman Spring

Scott Hahn once wrote a widely read book, Rome Sweet Home. Well, I feel like I can say “home sweet home,” after coming back from Rome. This is obviously not to deny the fact that, as a Catholic, Rome is my spiritual “home,” but rather a sigh of relief that the crazy week of traveling and seeing the most amazing churches and museums that I have seen in my life has come to an end. Now, I will have some time to reflect upon and soak up all of the experiences of my Holy Week in Rome!

First of all, and most importantly, our trip was a pilgrimage, to spend the holiest week of the year with the Holy Father. And did we! I went with a group of guys from Poland to the UNIV conference, a conference that has been sponsored yearly since 1968, whose focus is to provide university students from around the world a chance to meet each other, and discuss important topics facing the Church. This year’s focus was on the “Role of the Mass Media in Shaping Catholic Culture,” and was very interesting. As part of the conference, the UNIV participants are traditionally granted a special audience with the Holy Father. Ok, so I won’t be falsely humble—I GOT TO TOUCH POPE BENEDICT! I only share this because it was an amazing experience. In fact, as it turned out, it was one of the three times that I would be within one or two feet of the Holy Father, but it was the only time that I was able to shake his hand. There was definitely an outward “radiation of sanctity” which emanated from Pope John Paul II, when I was able to be near him. This charismatic gift inspired many to go out and evangelize, to “not be afraid” to “open wide the doors to Christ,” and to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth. This radiation of sanctity from John Paul was the Holy Spirit, the gift, who then led others to make gifts of themselves to the world. What struck me when I was near Pope Benedict was his simple humanity, and the silent, peaceful longing for interiority and contemplation. In a get-together with Bishop Javier Echevarria, the Prelate of Opus Dei, aware of the Pope Benedict’s character and personality, told us that he apologized to the Holy Father that so many people were trying to touch him, and that he understood if he felt overwhelmed. To this, Pope Benedict replied that he didn’t mind, because he know that the young people were reaching out, not to him, but to Christ, who is in their midst. How true—Christ is present in such a different way in this pope. One looks upon him, and having been sent on a mission by John Paul II, he is now reminded of the need for contemplation and prayer, which is the foundation of everything. It is only through prayer, and particularly in the Liturgy, that one can meet Christ in an ever-new way, and be refreshed to participate in the modern cultural dialogue the John Paul II called us to.

Of course, I refuse to play the game of “compare the popes,” and none of these reflections are meant to somehow say one pope is better than the other. They are simply personal reflections of the differences I have noticed in their personalities, and how their personalities both show us different aspects of the Christian life that must be emphasized.

What I never cease to be amazed by the mind of our Holy Father. Before the audience, we watched a video clip of his meeting with youth, on the Thursday before Pam Sunday. In this new tradition, the Holy Father met with youth and answered their personal questions about vocation, sexuality, and the crisis of culture. I was amazed by the Holy Father’s answers, which were not prepared before hand, but improvised on the spot. Or rather, they were the fruit of years of prayer and contemplation, as well as theological study. In his usual manner, he responded with flawless paragraphs of eloquent and deep prose, and left now question unanswered from a variety of different angles. We are so blessed to have a Holy Father who is a man of incredible prayer, deep reflection, and amazing intellect and wisdom!

In addition to the audience with the Holy Father, we were able to participate in all of the Papal Liturgies of the week—the Chrism Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, the Mass for the Institution of the Eucharist on Thursday Evening in St. John Lateran, the Good Friday Liturgy at St. Peter’s, the Papal Stations of the Cross, as well as the Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica. (Oh yeah, and the Urbi et Orbi on Sunday on St. Peter’s Square). Though we didn’t have tickets to get into anything besides the audience, thanks to my awesome Notre Dame architecture friends who just happen to “have to” study in Rome for this year, we were able to get into everything, and have great seats, as well.

The week was definitely a crazy time of commuting to and from Via Aurelia, comparable only to the Las Vegas Strip, except with the amount of Catholic hostels, instead of casinos. On every block, there are at least a few houses or hostels run by one order or another. We were able to visit all four of the major basilicas, as well as a number of the famous churches in Rome. I’m sure that I will forget some, but right now I can remember the Gesu, Santa Maria Ara Coeli, San Agostino, San Luigi Re Fracese, San Stanislao Kostka, Santa Croce in Gerusalemne, Santa Trinita dei Monte, San Andrea della Valle, Santa Magdalena, Santa Maria Sopre Minerva, the Pantheon, and many others. These are most of the churches that we visited that house the relics of great saints, such as St. Ignatius in the Gesu, Saint Catherine of Siena and Blessed Fra Angelico in Santa Maria Sopre Minerva, Saint Josemaria Escriva in Santa Maria Della Pace, and the relics of the True Cross and the cross-beam of the cross of Dismas the Good Thief in Santa Croce. I forgot to also mention Santa Presetta, the 8th century basilica that houses the pillar upon which Christ was scourged. Obviously, a lot of people argue that these relics are a fraud and that they are not the actual ones.

First of all, even if they are not “the real thing,” they are places of veneration of the Passion of Christ that have been sanctified by the prayers of pilgrims throughout the centuries. There are man miracles associated with them, so whether they are the actual relics or not, they are still places of special grace. Secondly, it is very likely that these are the actual relics from Jerusalem, since Jerusalem was under Roman control in the late period of antiquity. Thus, if an emperor, such as Constantine, who was a Christian, was in control of Jerusalem, he could have easily brought the remnants of the relics associated with the passion of Christ to Rome. Hence the reason for the existence of the Scala Santa, as well as the other “artifacts” associated with the death of Jesus.

In addition to seeing many of these famous churches, I was also able to see many cultural and historical masterpieces, both works of art and architecture. Of course, we saw the Fontana di Trevi, which shocked me with its size. I never imagined the fountain to be so huge—the figures in it were at least twice life-size. In the Villa Burghese, a museum in the former family mansion of the famous Roman aristocrat Burghese family, we saw the most famous and well-known statues by Bernini, as well as paintings by Raphael, Caravaggio, and other masters of the Italian Renaissance. Bernini’s expression was absolutely amazing, particularly in his Apollo and Daphne, and in his David. Having never seen Bernini’s David, before, I was extremely impressed, and decided that I like it better than Michelangelo’s masterpiece. Whereas Michelangelo focuses on the idealism and sheer strength of man, by portraying David as a muscular and towering force, Bernini is more focused on the tension of the moment. He captures David in the split-second before he releases the sling with which he will slay Goliath. This produces an incredible tension and expression that is visible in the tense muscles of a young man, slender and realistically built. He is about to exert all of his strength in the one chance that he has to either save his people or be killed. The strength of the human spirit, of perseverance, will, and determination are all captured in this block of marble, which has been chiseled into perfection.

Of course, the Musei Vaticani also made a huge impression on me, where I was able to stand face-to-face with pieces of art, sculptures, and masterpieces that I have been reading about in textbooks since at least high school. I realized that it is one thing to read about a sculpture, or a painting, and another thing to stand in front of something that is 2500 years old (here, I am referring to the Lacöon Group). I was struck by the way that people more than two millennia ago were already able to express their spirit by creating masterpieces of art, which have lasted until today. Perhaps modern artists could learn something from these ancient and beautiful masterpieces, which have lasted for ages and are still admired for the beauty, because of their ability to capture and explore the fundamental truths of human nature!

It was quite frustrating to see all of the “tourists” in the Vatican Museums who had absolutely no clue about history or the tradition of the Church. Until one learns the medium, or at least about the medium, through which to view these works of art, it is as if he were only looking at the tip of the iceberg. It was sad to see all of the people who had no clue about what was painted in the frescoes, such as in the room with the Triumph of Christianity (I forget the name of the room). The most frustrating thing that I encountered there, and which I also often encounter here in Krakow, is when an English tour guide who is clearly not Catholic, and really has no clue about the tradition of the Church, seeks to explain to Americans or British about the art they are looking at, and has the job simply because he can speak English. Art is a dangerous thing, and one can either leave a place, having been brainwashed and misled to believing the half-truths which are so popular these days in pop culture, or he can truly seek to learn about what a painting really portrays, and the depth and importance of its meaning. Of course, which is easier?

In addition to seeing all of the beautiful churches and the works of both ancient and Early Modern Art, I was fascinated and greatly moved by my visit to the places of importance to the Early Christians, namely, the Via Appia Antica, and the Catacombs of St. Priscilla, in northern Rome. Entering into the catacombs, I was filled with images from the book Quo Vadis, by Henryk Sienkiewicz, probably one of Poland’s best-known modern authors, and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. In this novel, which I think every Christian should read, he provides a fascinating account of the life of the Christians during the reign of Nero. Though the story is fictional, the book and the situations described are historical, and essentially, he was the creator of the historical novel genre.

As we descended into down the spiral staircase from the sunny courtyard, I was filled with anticipation—I would be visiting the tombs and meeting places of those who preceded us in the Christian faith by 1700 years! In this huge complex of tunnels and various levels (more than 13 km of tunnels on all levels!), we stopped at the tombs of various wealthier Christians, as well as those of the poor, who were provide graves by the Christian community. The rich and ancient heritage of our faith was here before my eyes. We saw the oldest image of Mary in Christianity, holding the child Jesus, much like in the images of Our Lady that we see today. We also saw one of the oldest images of Christ, the Good Shepherd. Accompanying the images of Christ and of Mary, we saw many images of Susanna, from the Book of Daniel, who was a symbol of the early Church. Just as she was unjustly persecuted and accused of crime, so were the early Christians persecuted and accused of many false crimes. Often, there images of the three young men, Ananias, Azarias, and Misael, also from the Book of Daniel, who, though tried by fire by the pagan king, survived due to the protection of God, present in an angel in their midst. Likewise, the fires of the pagan Roman emperors tried the early Church, but the suffering Christ accompanied them in their trials.

One of the most interesting places in the catacombs was a large crypt, where the Christians would gather around the tombs of their relatives, and celebrate the Eucharist. Near it, there was a niche in the wall, with graffiti from US GI’s from the Second World War, who surely used the place as a hideout during the war. I was walking through history, but I was also touching the lives of thousands of people. Forty thousand people had once been buried in this cemetery, and thousands had come there before me, to be buried, to venerate the dead, or to seek shelter from dangers above.

In the same way, St. Peter once sought to leave the city of Rome, because of the persecution of the Christians. He believed that it would be safer for him to leave Rome and to guide his flock in safety, than to risk being killed and leave his flock abandoned. He decided to walk out of the city on the Via Appia, a seek shelter among the Christian outside the city. Here, in the midst of the green Mediterranean fields and the hot Roman sun, a bright light appeared, and Jesus stood before him—walking toward the city. “Domine, Quo Vadis?” (Lord, where are you going?), asked the shocked and dumbfounded Peter. “I am going to be with my flock,” replied Jesus, walking towards Rome. At this moment, Peter realized that he was not called to abandon his people, but that he was called to return to Rome, to suffer with them, and to die with them, should it come to this. To this day, the spot on which Jesus appeared is commemorated by the Capella Domine Quo Vadis on the Via Appia, near the catacombs of St. Sebastian. Inside, there is a rock in which are imprinted the footprints of Christ, to which faithful have come throughout the millennia, to venerate the spot which led Peter to his martyrdom for the glory of the cross.

I’ve been to this spot. It is true. This is the beauty of the antiquity of our faith. “The Church is alive,” Pope Benedict reminds us, and her liveliness comes from the centuries of Christians who have come before us, to witness to the faith and truth of Jesus Christ, and who have not been afraid to suffer and die for Him.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Krakow...From Above

Yes, Krakow has the largest market square in Europe. Pretty amazing, for not such a big city, especially when the population was around 20,000 in the Early Modern Period.

Monday, April 03, 2006

We Remember


Thousands gather in front of the Metropolitan Curia's "Papal Window" in memory of John Paul the Great, who was tangibly present

The city is back to quasi-normal after an entire night of festivities and a vigil in memory of our beloved Holy Father. Last night, three of us left from our residence to go to the Stations of the Cross, which were to begin at 8:00 p.m. outside of St. Ann’s Church. Though we arrived outside of the Church around 7:40, there was absolutely no way to get to the front of the Church, were the procession was to begin. So, we decided to go straight to All Saints’ Square, in front of the “papal window,” where the procession would be ending, and Pope Benedict was to address the youth of Rome and Krakow at 9:37 p.m. Arriving at the square at around 8:15, we found the place packed full of people already. The usual pushing, shoving, and frantic scouting for a good spot accompanied the vigil—it seemed like the “Krakow version” of World Youth Day. I am not sure how many people were actually there, in the end, but the square is quite small. It probably fit nearly 20,000 people, while the others were forced to stand on the streets leading to the square.

After all the stations, beginning with the eighth station, were broadcast onto the speaker system, we eagerly awaited the end of the procession. Taking part in it were students from the various parish and campus ministries in Krakow, as well as Cardinal Dziwisz, bishops, and the Prime Minister (who actually carried the crucifix himself for the last station)! At 9:30 p.m., the procession finally made its way to our area. However, it seemed to pass in an instant.

Accompanying the lit candles, altar servers, and boy scouts, was a huge group of secret service agents, as well as soldiers, who formed a perimeter around the procession. I barely got to see over the tops of their heads, through all of the commotion. However, I finally did get to see the entire group once they ascended to the stage. The text used for the Stations of the Cross was the text that John Paul II wrote for the 2000 Good Friday procession in the Coliseum in Rome. Between each station, traditional Polish Lenten hymns were sung. Upon finally concluding the Stations of the Cross, Cardinal Dziwisz’s deep voice came over the loudspeakers, “And now, please, a few minutes of absolute silence as we remember the passing of our Holy Father.” The moment was surreal. I was overcome with emotion—I remember so vividly those last moments when the world kept watch, when he “looked for us, and we came to him.” Suddenly, the sound of applause broke out, and the thousands of people, who had gathered, celebrated and gave gratitude to the Father for the gift of this saint whom we knew and whom we cherished.

Zygmunt, the 500-year-old, eleven-ton bell in Wawel Cathedral began to toll, to remember the passing of the Holy Father from this life of suffering into eternal bliss with the One whose road to the cross he had traveled. Joining in a harmonious chorus, all of the bells in the more than one hundred churches in the old town area, and bells in churches of the entire city, began to ring their bells. The chorus was a sound of bells of sorrow, yet filled with the joy and peace of the knowledge that John Paul II is with us—and was there in a special way last night! Here, in the midst of the thousands of Poles, this family, gathered to remember him, pray to him, and pray with him, he looked down, from the “papal window,” and told us to “not be afraid.”

Immediately after the bells began to ring, the Polish applause joined that of the 100,000 gathered in Rome, who applauded for John Paul the Great, as his successor, the Vicar of Christ, Pope Benedict XVI, appeared to greet visitors and acknowledge the immensity of the occasion. He first addressed the pilgrims in Italian, mentioning that Cardinal Dziwisz was connected from Krakow live via satellite feed. After a few minutes of listening to the translation of the Italian text, he began to address the Poles in their own language. Now, I was at World Youth Day in Cologne, and Pope Benedict’s Polish was not nearly as clear. His improvement and our ability to understand him was yet another testament to this man’s great intellect and amazing mind. He reminded the faithful in Poland of the two words that can “sum up the life of our beloved Holy Father—faithfulness and complete abandonment.” He asked Poland to always remain faithful, to be “strong with the power of the faith,” citing John Paul II’s famous quote from his Krakow pilgrimage in 1979. Awaiting eagerly his pilgrimage to Poland, in the footsteps of his predecessor, the Holy Father asked Poland to always keep alive the great gifts that John Paul left behind.

I was stuck by the absolute intensity, the greatness of the occasion—the true, tangible, and real presence of John Paul, who was with us! Though he has passed to our Father’s house, he remains alive in his teaching, and through the witness of his radical life of holiness, of being open to the Holy Spirit at each moment of his life. Thousands of Poles joined over 100,000 Italians, and millions across the world, to remember the death of one man. One man who captivated, yet challenged, the heart and mind of modern man, and particularly the minds and hearts of young people. He has left to go home, and yet he is even more present universally, through the power of his intercession. People who have never seen each other before, and probably never will see each other again, united together, held hands, sang, and prayed together in the presence of a gigantic portrait of the Holy Father—the one used in Cologne in August, made of the thousands of individual pictures of people from around the world.

I recalled the Holy Father’s pilgrimage to Chile in 1982, when the atmosphere was especially tense in that country, where the Church was challenged by a repressive government that terrorized the people, and by liberation theology and Marxist movements within the Church. The power and fortitude of the Holy Spirit were physically, visibly manifest in the speech and demeanor of the Holy Father. In the front of a huge image of the Holy Face of Christ, John Paul II asked the people, “Who do we see when we look at that face? Do we see a reformer? Yes, but more. Do we see a holy man? Yes, but more. Do we see…yes, but more. Mucho mas. Mucho mas. Mucho, mucho mas! We see Life Himself!”

We can no longer see John Paul the Great the way we were so used to seeing him, and perhaps even too accustomed to. When we look at the face of John Paul, on the multitude of pictures, holy cards, books, and videos, whom do we see? We see a political figure who changed the history of Europe and the world forever, through his pressure on totalitarian systems. We see a man who sought unity among the many sad divisions among Christians throughout the world. We see a man who loved the outdoors, who felt at home, worshipping the Creator in the sanctuary of the natural world. We see a man who showed compassion for the poor and the suffering of the world, and fought for basic human rights wherever they were repressed. We see a scholar who was not afraid of pursuing the Truth through his teaching and academic pursuits. Yet, this is not all!

When we look at his face, we can see the face of Christ Himself. We see humanity in its fullness. We see the “glory of God—man fully alive.” Truly, John Paul revealed to us the true meaning of humanity, of participation in the life of the Triune God, in the Father through the Son and with the grace of the Holy Spirit. We see a man who was not afraid to say “yes” to Christ, without counting the costs or calculating the necessary sacrifices. We see a saint, somebody who was abandoned to the Will of God. His ordering his will to the Will was what led him to experience the radiant joy of Christ’s love. How can we not look to him and see the very presence of Christ emanating forth from him? Even the most secular person can see “something” in John Paul II that allowed him to be a charismatic leader and a great world figure. Christians call this “something” the “joy and peace of Christ Jesus.” And unless we heed this example of his, we will never truly know just “what” it was about the late Holy Father that was so inspiring. He revealed to the fallen world the redemptive power of the cross. He called people of all nations to live lives of radical holiness, in the midst of the world, transforming it from within.

It was just this that Pope Benedict reminded us about yesterday. We never have to be afraid to “open wide the doors to Christ,” for we know, and can see in the life of John Paul II, that Christ “takes nothing away,” and gives us gifts beyond anything that we can imagine. As we finish these final days of Lent, leading to the celebration and recollection of the great mysteries of our redemption, let us never forget what John Paul has shown us. Let us always imitate his example, and embrace the cross of Christ in our lives.

Cardinal Dziwisz blessed the gathered youth with the “reliquary cross,” the crucifix which John Paul II held in his hands one last time, during his final days on Good Friday of last year. Arturo Mari remarked that this was the “defining picture of his pontificate.” The suffering pontiff united himself with Christ, faithful unto death, on the cross that he has now entrusted to us, to be carried into the streets, workplaces, parishes, and all spheres of life in the whole world. Dziwisz reminded that the Holy Father, “both showed us how to carry the cross, and carried it for us. Now it our turn to answer his call of faithfulness to the cross.”

John Paul the Great, pray for us, and continue to teach us how to embrace the cross in our lives. Thank you for the gift of your life of radical holiness, filled with complete abandonment and faithfulness to the end. Intercede for the “John Paul II Generation.”

Sunday, April 02, 2006

JPII Lives On

JP II Lives On

Mass at the Divine Mercy Shrine for the Beatification of the Servant of God John Paul II

Candles Line the Street in front of the Metropolitan Curia


Cardinal Dziwisz Concludes the Rogatory Stage of the Beatification Process


Celebrations of the anniversary of the passing of the Holy Father are still going on right now. All of Poland seems to be here, as well as many people from outside of Poland. All Saint’s Square, in front of the “papal window,” at the Metropolitan Curia, is filled with flowers, candles, prayer cards, and people. Young people, old people, priests, nuns, tourists, and locals have all come and are all coming to “see” John Paul. Some come because it is interesting, and some come to pay homage to and remember the man, whom many here personally knew. In addition to the huge “Thank You JPII” picture that was also present at WYD in Cologne, a whole collection of photos has been set up along Franciszkanska Street, which has been closed to all traffic. This evening, there will be a student Mass celebrated in St. Ann’s Collegiate Church, near the tomb of St. John Cantius. After the Mass, there will be a citywide celebration of the Stations of the Cross, based on John Paul II’s Good Friday reflections from the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.
This morning, I was among the more than ten thousand pilgrims from across the country, who came to the Shrine of Divine Mercy in order to celebrate a Mass for the Beatification of John Paul II, concelebrated by the Papal Nuncio to Poland, Cardinal Dziwisz, Cardinal Macharski, Cardinal Nagy, and other cardinals and bishops. Also in attendance was the President of the Republic of Poland, Lech Kaczynski, as well as Prime Minister Marcinkiewicz, and many other government dignitaries.
It was amazing to be at Mass in a Basilica that was dedicated less than four years ago by the Holy Father himself. Though I have never been a fan of the new basilica, which is very modern and quite plain, I was once again filled with awe and wonder at the greatness of the Holy Father. It was he who, as Bishop of Krakow, was instrumental in the spread of the Divine Mercy devotion throughout the world. Here I was, at the very back doors of the basilica, filled to capacity, looking at the portrait of John Paul II, the bronze letters on the white wall, which depicted John Paul’s Act of Entrustment of the World to the Divine Mercy, as well as the globe-shaped tabernacle. The universality of the church could be felt, since the shrine is the second most-visited shrine in Europe, and if it continues to grow at the same pace, it will soon surpass even Lourdes. The Mass began with sixteenth century polyphony, Laudate Domine, by somebody who sounded a lot like Palestrina. (There were no programs). Cardinal Dziwisz, as the homilist, focused on the words in the Holy Father’s Will in the light of this Sunday’s Gospel. “We want to see Jesus,” the Greeks told Philip. “How often our beloved Holy Father encouraged us to look at the face of Christ.” He encouraged us to look at the face of Him who suffered and died for us. It was He Who taught us the true meaning of love. Just like the “grain of wheat,” which must first die in order to produce fruit, so “John Paul II taught us that the vocation of the Christian is the vocation to sacrifice. To die to oneself in order to experience the height of love, the love of Christ on the cross.” So often, in our “complicated world, man tends to fill his life with distractions, with excuses,” with reasons to flee from Christ. Yet, John Paul Ii cried out to us, from the beginning of his pontificate, “Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors to Christ.” The saint is the one who experience the love of Christ on the cross, through death to oneself, and then is spurred on to share this love with others. This love enters into one’s life and becomes an infectious joy. Why was John Paul II, for us, such a charismatic and attractive personality? Because “a great saint lived among us. Yet, so often we became accustomed to his presence. We often overlooked his holiness.” Yet, the cardinal reminded, we “must look to him as somebody who opened wide the doors to Christ,” a saint among us who “relentlessly followed the will of God” at every moment of his life.
As if intentionally focused toward the government officials present, Cardinal Dziwisz reminded of the love that John Paul II had for his country. He was a “prophet of freedom,” who constantly reminded us “not to be afraid” to work towards a just society, a society which respects every human being, a society that is committed to serving the poor, a society that continues to be immersed in its Christian tradition. “The death of the Holy Father brought about a unity among us, a unity of prayer and love,” that we who experienced it will never forget. In his Will, John Paul wrote of the importance of always being prepared for the coming of death, to always live every moment as a gift from God. Quoting from John Paul’s Will, “serve one another through love,” (Galatians 5:13), Cardinal Dziwisz called each person to remember the true “vocation of the Christian—to love.” We must allow that unity of love and of our spirits which “we experienced in those painful moments one year ago today” to live on each day, in our lives, and in the life of our nation. More than ever, in this world of individualism, egocentrism, and chaos, we must “love one another,” which is the greatest commandment of all.
The Mass was televised live on Italian (and Polish television), and Cardinal Dziwisz also addressed the Italians who were watching in their own language. “Italy and Poland, Poland and Italy. Together we experienced those sad and tragic moments of the final hours of the Holy Father.” Yet, we knew that it was a cause for joy and for celebration, that the man who had given his entire being to Christ, the man who had responded to the graces and become “Christ Himself,” was finally at home, looking down from the “window of the Father’s house.”
More news to come…


Cardinal Dziwisz Processes Out after the Solemn Ingress Mass

Cardinal Dziwisz gives the Body of Christ to the concelebrating Bishops.

Christus Vincit, Christus Regnat, Christus Imperat!

With these words, Stanislaw Cardinal Dziwisz made his solemn entrance (ingress) into the Royal Cathedral on Wawel Hill, the one thousand-year-old seat of the bishops of Krakow. As a result of a very interesting and unexpected meeting with a priest, I was able to attend the ceremony, which was open only for those with invitations. The Solemn Mass was attended by the “cream of the crop,” “who’s who in Krakow and Poland,” with many government dignitaries (again, Prime Minister Marcinkiewicz), as well as Church bishops, cardinals, and other members of the hierarchy. Somehow, I was able to find a spot very near to the main nave, near the front, by the high altar. Finding this spot, I had to make sure that I would not move, since the hundreds of photographers, and cameramen from newspapers from around the world, were acting in their typical journalist manner, trying to shove through to get the best possible spot to take a picture!

After the official ingress of Cardinal Dziwisz into the cathedral, he processed around the outer naves, and then into the sacristy, where he, Cardinal Macharski, Cardinal Nagy, and other cardinals and bishops prepared to celebrate the Mass for the Beatification of the Servant of God John Paul II. Since I was near the sacristy, which is located in the front of the basilica, near the high altar, I was able to be in the front row as the procession came by. I was overcome with emotion, and the only way I can explain it is to compare it to the emotion that I felt when I was able to be about five feet away from John Paul II at World Youth Day in Toronto. I was filled with so many thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and only after the procession came by, was I able to notice that I had stopped breathing and my heart was pounding. Here, about a foot away from me, passed Cardinal Dziwisz, the humble priest from the village of Rabka Wyżna, faithful servant of the Holy Father, and now elevated to the ranks of a Prince of the Church. And here he was in front of me, in all of his humble majesty. Donning the traditional “Vestment of St. Jadwiga,” the traditional vestment of the Archbishops of Krakow, which was placed over the Metropolitan’s Pallium, as well as an eighteenth century Roman chasuble, the cardinal passed by me.

Yet, I was struck by his humility, which I am sure that his short stature emphasized. I was surprised that, unlike Cardinal Macharski, whom I was able to greet and who is over six feet tall, Cardinal Dziwisz is a very short man—only about 5’8”, or a little bit more, but definitely not taller than me. (Of course, the medieval miter he was wearing made him look taller). Though he was next to me for about two seconds as the procession came by, the moment seemed like eternity. My mind was filled with thoughts of the late Holy Father, of the fact that this holy man who was in front of me, served a modern saint for over forty years! The aura of the sanctity of John Paul radiated from his personal secretary, who passed by in front of me, and reminded the congregation of Church officials and government dignitaries that “Pope Benedict has given a great gift to the Church of Krakow, a cardinal who is in great need of prayers and recommends himself to all of the faithful of the local church, asking for prayers.” Just as Pope Benedict XVI was called by the Holy Spirit to continue the radical call to holiness left behind by his predecessor, so Cardinal Dziwisz has been called to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, to shepherd the Church of Krakow and never cease to preach the Gospel of Modernity.

The Mass continued with a few opening statements from Cardinal Dziwisz, who was the homilist for the Mass. The Gospel for yesterday’s Liturgy could not have been better for the occasion. “Some in the crowd who heard these words of Jesus said, ‘This is truly the Prophet.’ Others said, ‘This is the Christ.’ But others said, ‘The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he?’” (Jn 7:40-41). Just as people could not believe that the Messiah would come from Galilee, so also people could not believe on October 16th, 1978, that the Successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ, would come from Kraków, Poland. And yet, he came and he reached out to the entire world, drawing from his experiences of suffering, of persecution, from his Polish experience, and sharing the liberating message of Jesus Christ, of the Word Who was made flesh, in order to truly reveal man to himself. In Poland, Wojtyla was forced to deepen his understanding of man, to struggle to understand the condition of man’s fallen nature, and the depth of the liberating redemption that only Christ can offer. In Poland, he realized the true meaning of a life in the Spirit, where he saw God the Father changing the lives of young men and women during an era of repression and intolerance of religion. In the darkness, he saw the light. And then, this same Holy Spirit with Whom Karol Wojtyla was filled, chose him to share the truly liberating message of the Gospel with the entire world, to go to the very far corners of the earth and to “teach all the nations.” Cardinal Dziwisz then reflected on his humble call to service to live alongside this great saint.

Though it was hard for me to see at times, since I was pushed out of the way by a French photographer (who decided to wear jeans to the occasion, and kept asking who was who among the bishops and cardinals), I was simply caught up in the greatness and historicity of this moment. Here I was, participating in the official ingress, or “installment” as Cardinal in Krakow of a man who has been forever entered into the pages of the book of history, as he “whom served John Paul the Great,” faithful unto his death. As archbishop, he is determined to make the legacy of the Holy Father continue in Poland and in the world, and has requested for the construction of the “Be Not Afraid John Paul II Center” in Krakow. The center will combine all of the elements of John Paul II’s teaching; a hospital will serve the sick and suffering, schools will form young men and women in the light of the Gospel, a museum will ensure that the Holy Father’s cultural legacy lives on, and classrooms and auditoriums will provide a place to carry on dialogue on important social and ecumenical issues in the modern Church and society.

At the end of the Mass, which was celebrated at the High Altar of St. Stanislaw, Bishop and Martyr, the cardinal and all of the bishops processed out. Once again, the procession encountered a “traffic jam,” forcing Cardinal Dziwisz to stop right in front of me! I felt like the moment lasted forever, again, and I wanted to reach out, to touch him, to grasp the hand which cared for John Paul II, the hand which John Paul II blessed in his dying moments. Yet, I felt that all I could do was to simply bask in the presence of the glory of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. I felt like I was the only one there, with the Cardinal, who emanated such grace and humility (even though I was practically trampled by a four-foot-tall older Polish lady, who wanted to give the cardinal a bouquet of roses!)

A few minutes after the recession, the second solemn event of the evening began, with the procession of the bishops, priests, and cardinals involved in the beatification process in Krakow. Yesterday marked the 29th and last plenary session of the Rogatory Tribunal in the beatification process, which was instituted in order to help the Diocese of Rome to gather information, testimonies, and the necessary legal requirements for a speedy beatification process. The delegate judge, Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, officially closed this first process with the announcement that an 800-page book of proceedings was complete, and now the beatification process could continue much more easily and swiftly. The official documents were signed by Cardinal Dziwisz, and then sealed in a special white container, in the presence of the notary, Fr. Andrzej Wojcik. After the documents were placed in it, the container was sealed with candle wax, stamped, and sent to the Archdiocesan archives, not to be opened in the future without specific permission of the Holy See. With the following words, the process was sent to Rome for the final stages before the Beatification can take place:

Et ego Notarius deputatus fidem facio ac testor supra relatas subscriptions, nempe illam Archiepiscopi, Iudicis, Iudicis Adiuncti, Promotoris Iustitae, Notarium Adiunctorum et Postulatoris, fuisse et esse an ipsis propiis minibus factas et sriptas in mea praesentia; atque ita testor et fidem facio hac die prima, mensis Aprilis, anno 2006.


And so our beloved Holy Father is one step closer to being “officially recognize as a saint,” since “we already all know that he is in the Father’s house, looking down on us,” reminded Cardinal Dziwisz. After the official closing of the process, spontaneous applause broke out within the cathedral, acknowledging and thanking both the many, many people involved in the beatification process, but more importantly, in an act of gratitude for the great gift of John Paul to the Church.
In usual Polish fashion, the entire evening was filled with a mix of Polish patriotism and Roman Catholicism, as was evident in the closing hymn, “Boze Cos Polske,” which speaks of Divine Providence watching over Poland:

Oh Lord,
Who hast filled Poland with the splendor of Your power and glory throughout the centuries,
Who hast shielded her with the shield of Your might,
From the tragedies which were to dishearten her,
We bring before Your altars our cry:
Bless our nation with freedom, Lord.

The hymn was a solemn reminder to everybody of the necessity of living in true freedom. As John Paul II reminded in 1991, on the threshold of a new post-communist Poland, “Poland has found herself once again at an important moment, a unique moment, and perhaps even a decisive moment, which cannot be wasted for any reason whatsoever…This is a great gift from God, a kairos of our history, which has both been given, but also entrusted…I pray for you and with you for this ‘examination in freedom’ which lies before you…Dear brothers and sisters, I am one of you…I always was, and still am. I love my nation, and I was never indifferent towards its sufferings, its limitations of freedom, its plight. Now, I am not indifferent towards this new ‘trial of freedom,’ before which we all stand…I repeat to everyone: Be grateful to God, and never put out the flame of the Holy Spirit!”

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Krakow Pomp and Circumstance

Just a regular Sunday (Novus Ordo Latin) Mass at St. Mary's Basilica. Note the height of that miter!! No, he's not a bishop--just a mitered prelate.


More of my pictures can be found here.

Entry to Wawel cathedral, seat of the Metropolitan Archbishop.


Be patient as I try to learn the ins and outs of blogging. Pictures are coming soon!

Pray for Cardinal Dziwisz today--I am attending his official installment as the Cardinal in the Wawel Cathedral; in attendence will be President Lech Kaczynski and Prime Minister Marcinkiewicz!