In the school of the new Blessed
Archbishop Jozef Michalik
This year's Mass of the Holy Chrism was very special to me. It was caused by the approaching beatification of the Pope who used to write a letter to priests every Holy Thursday to help them deepen the beauty of priesthood - gift of Christ's love in the upper room. Now I recollect my meetings with John Paul II, the great and small ones. Before his beatification we had no doubts that he was a holy man. However, the fact of this solemn confirmation by the Church gives a new dimension to this event.
Thankful for guidepost
I remember the first speech of the Pope who said, 'Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors to Christ…' and then during the meeting with his fellow countrymen he added, 'Do not leave me alone!' It reveals the human dimension of the Pope, his longing for his homeland and its people.
Then on the second day after the election there were unforgettable visits when we brought him his things from the Pontifical Polish College from where he had gone to the conclave. The Holy Father told us to visit him. It was clear that his leaving Poland was a sacrifice for him but he accepted it with full dedication to his new mission. He also mentioned the visit of Cardinal Wyszynski and his question, 'How do you feel in these new apartments?' 'I answered him' - the Pope recollected - that I felt like I had always lived there.' Then commenting on that event the Primate stressed the Pope's great love of the Church. He felt at home everywhere in the Church, both in Krakow and Rome, everywhere the Holy Spirit sent him.
He was always interested in Polish matters
Whenever he saw me, among people or at some audience, he invited me; he wanted to meet me and talk about Polish matters. I think that the Pope's rootedness in our national traditions, matters, language, culture, literature, the world of arts created in the Polish land, was a great value for him. When he visited UNESCO he spoke with dignity; he was proud of his Polish culture and of such a painful history. By the way he did so in many places, which in my opinion was a very important message of the Pope for the world and for us, too. The Pope made us realise that we were to fathom this culture, that we should not be ashamed of it. I am convinced that through the beatification the Pope is returning to Poland in a new way; he is returning to the world and to the Church. It is worth using this return, i.e. to reflect on his lifestyle and his teaching.
Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski is said to have learnt the Homeland from Reymont and the Pope - from Norwid and we are to learn Poland from John Paul II anew. It is not easy in this very difficult 'today' for our nation - like John Paul II would have said quoting Norwid - when the nation is divided, when the number of those living at the margin of social and political life is increasing and the majority of the nation leaves ideals aside and escapes into temporariness of life. It is hard to immerse into such an assumptive vision of his pastoral ministry in our times since we have had so many years of transformations. Undoubtedly, the most important conviction, and even belief, for him was that the Homeland was a gift and a special place, which was given to us and which was our task. The task is constant activities in honest, based on the Decalogue, efforts to transform this land, good experiences of the reality, skill and courage to preserve faith, life of faith, Pole's dignity, Christian dignity, in the reality we are to live. He struggled with problems when he was a bishop, Krakow cardinal, very creative member of the Polish Bishops' Conference. He collaborated with Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski to increase the level of priestly education, to stop the plague of alcoholism, the plague of divorces, breakage of marriage life (promoted by official factors), stop abortion and save people's conscience. Many people heard that call, shared his concern and realised it in the world. Therefore, one should ask what the most important problems in Poland are today.
Time to examine conscience
Certainly, the sickness of the Polish elites is serious pain and we all share it: we run away from the truth and think that certain things can be falsified, retouched, left unanswered. The symptoms of this sickness vary and can be seen on various occasions, for example when some people cannot say 'I am sorry' and the others cannot say 'I forgive you.' At such moments we all feel disgust. In the dialogue with the Germans the Polish bishops made the first step and accepting the odium of hatred of the contemporary political world, they said, 'We forgive and ask your forgiveness.' Thus they opened a wide road to reconciliation that has been respected among nations until now. Today we need such words, too. One should show faithfulness to the Gospel. One should try to build together and not separately. One should increase the fields of successes; one should eliminate evil, negligence and help one another as well as defend the fundamental ethical principles, which are important both to social life and economy. It is the fundamental thing for our concern for the nation and state. In the context of this beatification one should humbly admit that we are not without guilt and negligence - we surely have many vices.
I am concerned about the problem of transmission of faith in the new situation when the borders are open. Observing Polish immigrants in Europe and America one must admit that the old Polish diaspora managed to embrace a considerable part of newcomers from Poland and made them follow the Polish traditions, feel proud of being believers. In Europe only a small number of Polish immigrants have found their ways to the Polish churches (only 8-10 % of Poles regularly go to the Polish churches in Germany, England and France). We can observe the disappearance of the Polish and Christians elites, immersion of the national elements in cosmopolitan fashions and styles of behaviours. Poland needs its elites abroad very much. They made great contributions for the several past decades. Without them the contemporary young immigrants will not be themselves and Poland on the Vistula will experience spiritual poverty.
Coming back to our country, we should ask, 'Is our mentality Christian? Do we, Catholics, think in a Christian way?' During these days of thanksgiving it is worth asking about our faithfulness to the teaching the Pope gave us during his visits to Poland. As if the Holy Father experienced pain that Poles had received his reminder of faithfulness to the Decalogue in a cold way. Is it better now? It is an important question.
The papal pilgrimages included meetings with people of culture and science. One should constantly ask about the level of our universities - the scientific level and the one that forms attitudes; one should ask about the ethics of student's and teacher's work. One can have justified doubts concerning this matter - if a graduate cannot speak and write properly what were his studies and who was his supervisor?
This beatification cannot be only euphoria and emotions - one should reflect on it, speak about the need to fathom our humanity, our rootedness in the Gospel. And one should build Poland, Europe and the world on this foundation.