Lord, show me your face. Let me hear your voice!
Fr Jan Gora, OP
The most important thing is my life is relationships. First of all, the fundamental relationship with Jesus who called me and saved me and thanks to whom I will not die but have life. It is him that bent over me – dust that I am – he noticed me, chose me and called me. Then there are my relationships with people that are the biggest riches in my life. People are the riches, concrete particular people.
Fr Jan Gora is a charismatic priest who initiated the national meetings of young people in Lednica. He turned 60 on 8 February. On that occasion, on Sunday 10 February, a special Mass was celebrated in the Lednica House (Dom nad Lednica). The Mass was presided over by Bishop Edward Dajczak of Koszalin-Kolobrzeg. Bishop Dajczak brought the crucifix before which John Paul II had prayed on the Good Friday of 2005, a week before his death. The hierarch called that wooden crucifix, which the seriously sick Pope had held in his hands, sitting in his chapel and watching the television broadcast of the Way of the Cross in the Coliseum in Rome, ‘the icon given as a task to the world.’ The solemn liturgy was concelebrated by Fr Gora and the auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Gniezno Wojciech Polak as well as several priests, including Fr Gora’s brothers from the Dominican Order. Archbishop Henryk Muszynski of Gniezno, the diocese where Lednica is located, sent Fr Gora a letter of congratulations.
Fr Jan Wojciech Gora was born on 8 February 1948 in Prudnik in the region of Opole. At the age of 18 he entered the Dominican Order in Poznan. In 1972 he took the perpetual vows in Krakow and two years later he was ordained. In the years 1974-76, he taught religious instruction in Tarnobrzeg. In 1977 he became a chaplain for young people in Poznan and 20 years ago he became a students’ chaplain. Fr Gora became famous over ten years ago when he built a fish-shaped steel gate in the vicinity of the Lednica Lake near Gniezno. The gate is the sign of the early Christians. Tens of thousands of young people from Poland and abroad arrive there every year at the beginning of June. Pope John Paul II was the patron of those meetings from the very beginning. He directed his messages to the young people who gathered there. His successor Benedict XVI has continued the tradition. The meetings in Lednica were not the first works of Fr Gora. First he had initiated students’ meetings on an ordinary meadow at the monastery in Ustron-Hermanice. Then in 1992, he restored the village of Jamna, located in the picturesque land on the Dunajec River. The village was burnt by the Nazis. He has organised patriotic celebrations called ‘The Feast of Reconciliation’ every August since in the vicinity of Jamna there are several dozen military cemeteries from World War I. People of various nationalities and religions were buried there. For several years Fr Gora has organised August meetings called ‘Gathering of the Mothers of God’ in the sanctuary of Our Lady of Jamna on the top of Jamna Mount. Representatives from various Marian shrines and worshippers of Mary bring her images and carry them in a solemn procession.
As far as I can remember there has been a musical school opposite my home in Prudnik. Music, which entered our apartment even through closed windows, has accompanied me since my childhood. But what I remember most is that the sounds of marvellous and ambitious compositions came out of the opened windows in spring afternoons and evenings. One could hear the low sounds of trumpets, bassoons and contrabasses coming from the basement, the sounds of oboes and clarinets as well as grand pianos coming from the ground floor whereas the upper floors were full of the sounds of violins and violas that were flying like pigeons. I was caught by that world of sounds and it spread my wings. It inspired me, evoked dreams to fly far into the world and glide in the sky. I spent my childhood and early youth dreaming. The charm of the music flowing from the school was so overwhelming that having no ear for music I enrolled in the musical school and completed it, playing the clarinet. It was such an unbelievable event that until recently I used to get up in the middle of the night and to check in my documents whether I had completed the musical school and played Dobrzynski’s concert accompanied by the pianist Professor Matylda Lachmann. Having checked by reaching the highest shelf where I kept my documents that I had the diploma, I went to bed again and blissfully fell asleep. It was very important that I spent my family life in the background of those sounds, which seemed to be dispersed, training and accidental, and that I heard my first words about love and faith in their background and that my heart and imagination were filled with dreams, being influenced by those sounds. I recollect those sounds of my childhood because of my 60th birthday. It is a great grace of God who called me and let me follow him. It is a big grace that he wanted to use me. If I dare to inform a wider audience today I do it to thank Lord God for my life, vocation, love and friendship; for all my relationships with numerous people. This is not only gratitude for what unites us but also for the fact that I have some place in the hearts of many noble people. When the clock strikes my hour it is time to think about yourself and the people who are around me and who deserve an ordinary confession of faith. A simple story about this inner pump that stimulates me and makes me an enthusiast. About the shape of hope that fills me up. And about love... You should say who you are and from time to time emphasise your image before God and people so that they know whom they deal with. Well, all the things I have done in my life are based on my trust in Jesus and they flow from my faith. Every brick has been put with faith in the sense of the endeavour; every nail was put with the intention to serve God and people. I did it in Hermanice and in Jamna and in Lednica, in Poznan, and in Poland. This is the foundation. A point of reference. I trust the Church that I love. The most important thing is my life is relationships. First of all, this is the fundamental relationship with Jesus who called me and saved me and thanks to whom I will not die but have life. It is him that bent over me, dust that I am, he noticed me, chose me and called me. There are my relationships with people who are the biggest riches in my life. People are the riches, concrete particular people. This is my treasure and my home. As I live in their hearts they live in mine. Apart from time people are the biggest gift of God. Therefore, my heart is filled with gratitude. I would like to mature and deserve holiness. This is the measure of Lord God, which he intended for me and for everyone. I would like to deserve the epitaph, which my fellow brothers wrote for a medieval friar:
He did not fear death,
Since his life was fulfilled before death.
he was not horrified by his death,
Because he had a beautiful life.
And he passed away from this world
Without slamming the door!
My guide is Christ and the Virgin Mother as well as John Paul II. I owe the shape of my life and joyful priesthood to them. They feed me with enthusiasm. My own jubilee is a wonderful occasion to thank all the people I have met on various roads for their love, friendship and mutuality. For the possibility to live in their hearts, for the possibility of rest. Living in other people’s hearts is my real home on this earth. How many people deserve my gratitude! Above all, this is an occasion to ask them for prayer. Well, my beloved, may Lord Jesus be on my ways. But may you always be with me! I have one desire – to be together with you in Christ.
Let us go together, being carried by Jesus’ love and the love of the people around us. Although numerous people surround me and I discern the music of each individual, the sounds of my childhood remain my unfulfilled longing. Although the sounds of the surrounding people are another generation of refinement the basic ones are the three: home, school and the Church – as the points that organise my space in childhood. That was a triad, of course, with an inversion. Following the traces of these sounds I am seeking my eternal home, my eternal job and my eternal temple. I am most deeply convinced that my hearing does not mislead me, that I am on the right way and that I will reach my destination. And when I reach it, will there be music as well? I believe it will. I believe that I will see Mr Roman Rypniewski through the window. He taught me to play the clarinet and he always caught me when I was not prepared for the lesson and I tried to steal under the windows of my musical school in Prudnik. Now I will go with more courage, playing the clarinet, which I have taken up after years, showing the way to those who want to go there with me.