Homeland should be considered in the first place
Mira Bodak talks to Bishop Stanislaw Napierala, a member of the Polish Bishops’ Conference Commission on Catholic Education, the assistant for Catholic schools.
Mira Bodak: - How do you think we can multiply the treasure called homeland? How to root young people in patriotism?
Bishop Stanislaw Napierala: - First of all, we should incline pupils to think about their homeland. There is a certain kind of man’s identification with his homeland. Karol Wojtyla noticed that by his poetic intuition when he wrote, ‘Homeland, when I think I image it, I immerge, I begin getting to know myself, who I am, in what values I am rooted...’ One must know one’s homeland in order to love it. A young man must first get to know the legacy defined as homeland in order to love it; he must get to know its culture, land, and people. Thoughts about one’s homeland lead to discover one’s identity.
- Are you not afraid that in the light of such a big wave of immigration of young people such understanding of love for your homeland may be old-fashioned, that perhaps we should focus on getting to know cultures and nations that our young people encounter?
- Your homeland must be always put in the first place as common good of Poles, as law and duty. Only real love for our homeland opens us to see the variety and richness of other nations. We should not cut ourselves from all things that constitute our homeland, what our homeland’s contribution to the European community is. The way to form the international community is to exchange goods and enrich one another. John Paul II always spoke about his homeland and stressed that he achieved everything at Polish schools and universities.
- Polish patriotism has always been connected with religious upbringing. What is the situation today?
- As far as patriotic education is concerned we should quote the words that John Paul II directed to us in Blonie on 10 June 1979, ‘You cannot understand Poland and Poles without Christ.’ We must not omit the religious aspects, especially the presence of Jesus, in patriotic education. One must not distort the historical truth for the purpose of wrongly understood diplomacy. One cannot do that when we face the danger, which John Paul II called ‘silent apostasy’. I will answer your questions by asking questions: Can we reject Christ and all the things he contributed to human history? Can we say ‘no’ to the things that we have experienced for 1000 years, to the things that created the foundation of our identity and what has always constituted it? I think that everyone will find the answers in his/her heart.
- In the contemporary world young people, who are stupefied by freedom and a wide scale of options for life, find it more difficult to choose proper values. Will they get lost in this freedom?
- We should teach young people to benefit from this freedom. John Paul II encouraged us, ‘When I think about my Homeland, I still ask how to multiply this treasure that my homeland is...’ In order to use freedom to create good one should combine it with responsibility and truth. Man, especially in the sphere of freedom, always goes towards anarchy, addiction to the weakness that is in him, when he loses responsibility and truth. Liberalism, which does not want to acknowledge weakness in man, which does not want to acknowledge inclination towards evil, is a threat. It shows a model of a successful human being, full of strength. It causes incalculable losses because it is based on a false concept of man. It gives young people total freedom. It says that they need no leading since they themselves know what to do. They are not obliged to do anything. Therefore, the concept of man, especially in the sphere of freedom, in the code of values of Catholic schools, should be clearly stated. One should speak about marriage, which can be contracted only between man and woman. One should speak about family that is based on God’s law. We should restore normality through a proper concept of man.
- You have also been an assistant for Catholic schools in Poland. Please tell us what patriotic education programmes should look like in schools?
- Patriotic education in schools means first of all teachers’ testimonies. Teachers whose attitudes speak about love for their Homeland, who have an ordered system of values, become the best models. And such themes as Homeland, Nation, and Country should be priorities in schools.
Our geopolitical location is very difficult. We have very difficult history, especially the history of the last centuries. The painful historical experiences have sharpened our sensitivity in the sphere of fundamental human rights and the rights of the nation, especially the right to freedom, to sovereign country, to respect the freedom of conscience and religion, the rights of human labour. (John Paul II, Jasna Gora, 19 June 1983).