A HUMAN BEING CAN NOT EXPLAIN IT
Fr. inf. Ireneusz Skubiś talks with Fr. dr. Jerzy Tomziński – a Pauline father, a general of the Pauline Order twice, a prior of Jasna Góra for three cadencies, a witness of entrustment of the Polish Nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on 8 September 1946
FR. INF. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ: - Father’s surname is a symbol of post-war history of the Church connected with history of Poland. Certainly, it is also a very important symbol of Jasna Góra and everything what has been happening here since the Second World War. Could I ask Father for some reminiscences concerning 8 September 1946, that is, just after the war, when cardinal August Hlond, the primate of Poland at that time, entrusted our nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Father was a custodian of Jasna Góra at that time…
FR. JERZY TOMZIŃSKI OSPPE: - Yes. The function of a custodian stillhad a different meaning in the Church at that time…..What was atmosphere at that time like? There were not any Catholic newspapers, but a lot was said about the revelations in Fatima (1917). After the war we realized the fact that pope Pius XII had asked bishops of the world to fulfil the demand of Our Lady of Fatima about entrusting nations to Her Immaculate Heart. This was the message with which cardinal Hlond returned to Poland from exile, for whom Jasna Góra had always been extremely important. Many Polish bishops got involved in this undertaking with their whole hearts, among the others, the bishop of Lublin at that time, Stefan Wyszyński. In his letter to diocesans he wrote the famous words: ‘Who is alive – to Jasna Góra’.Before the war, the main ceremony had been the feast of the Birth of Our Lady. After the harvest time, people from the countryside in the district of Kielce or Lublin were going to Jasna Góra. I remember, on the eve of the feast, it was raining and the nation was going. It was the first year after the war and Jasna Góra was flooded with the human wave. Priests were reporting their participation – we had to prepare a list of the Holy Mass – there was not any concelebration at that time. 56 altars were prepared for Eucharist. We made a list for 2 thousand priests who could celebrate the Holy Mass every half an hour.
On the eve of the day of 8 September, 5 minutes after 12 o’clock at night, cloisters were opened and 50 priests set off to altars. As a custodian, I entered to a sacristy – earlier between the basilica and the chapel there was not any passage, everybody was passing by the cross through one door – in order to see what was happening, and this human wave caught me. After 15 minutes I had to wring my frock out of moisture.
It was only preparation. In the morning bishops had already come, there were cardinal August Hlond, cardinal Adam Sapiecha, bishop Stefan Wyszyński and a few others. Nearly since my childhood I have been at Jasna Góra, but I have never seen such a crowd. People were moving like a sea wave, man by man. It was so till the church of St. Barbara.
Ceremonies started with the Hours at 6 a.m., and later there was the Holy Mass – a sermon was preached by bishop of Włocławek Karol Radoński, who had also returned from exile.
A curiosity: during an evening Holy Mass and the following morning, all people were still at Jasna Góra and they had not left yet; the first sermon was preached by bishop Stefan Wyszyński, he was liked very much and was invited for the following year – and he arrived. So, although we owe everything to cardinal Hlond here, also the later cardinal Stefan Wyszyński is related to Jasna Góra vows.
It was a great devotion oneself to Our Lady the Immaculate. The Polish Church was the first to fulfil the papal wish, and in fact the wish of Our Lady of Fatima. It was a real merit of cardinal Hlond, because we must know that even cardinal Sapiecha was careful about it, wanted more discussions, more investigations into Fatima revelations. And cardinal Hlond arrived with great faith and zeal and it turned out to be providential. Later, certainly, Fatima novenas appeared in Poland – even a bit competitive with the Jasna Góra ones – in many parishes Fatima religious services, Fatima Saturdays, rosary prayers were implemented – they were also undertaken by the Pauline Fathers.
– Does Father remember cardinal Hlond?
– Yes, very well. He often arrived at Jasna Góra, he was, among the others, during the synod (the First Plenary Synod at Jasna Góra in the year 1936). As novices, at that time we were for assistance. I was in the main refectory then. I remember breakfast and see bishops of that time.
– Was the Cardinal a cheerful man?
– Yes, in personal contacts he was a really ordinary man, with a great sense of humour. Once he said to me: Show me how you wrote Sapiecha: with ‘ch’ or ‘h’? – and he patted me on my shoulder (laugh). He was our confrere. He was a prominent preacher. I remember his sermons, especially the one for the New Year – it was something beautiful. He had a great style. Moreover, the very vows: ‘Great Mother of Human God…’ – and one could feel at once that it was August Hlond.
– How did Father read out the vows of the nation then? Was it a recovery of faith and hope?
– It was a big relation of Poland with Our Lady. Therefore, I mentioned cardinal Wyszyński here, because he accepted what cardinal Hlond had said before his death that ‘if a victory comes, it will come through Mary’. These were people of real faith, adoration and love to Our Lady. One could feel it. They were like children. Here it is the beginning of the Marian road in Poland. And the motto was just given by cardinal Hlond - a man of great good manners and great faith. If it had not been for it, for entrustment to Our Lady, I do not know what life in Poland would be like. Therefore, we often returned to it.
– How did the Polish clergy settle at Jasna Góra then?
– It was the first time I had seen so many priests at Jasna Góra. It was a big mass movement! We were sleeping in monastery corridors, as so many priests had arrived. When before vows I had sent a letter to 8 thousand parishes, with an invitation to Jasna Góra – everyone reacted. It was an impulse, a real breath of the Holy Spirit. If it had not been for his help, Poland would not be the same now as it was.
– 10 years after that event, in 1956 at Jasna Góra, we were taking Jasna Góra Vows made by cardinal Stefan Wyszyński. Does Father think that there was a difference between the vows of the year 1946 and the ones of the year 1956?
– On 8 September 1946 there was devotion of the Polish Nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Vows taken on 26 August 1956, which were written by cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, included commitments and were a pastoral program. It was the beginning for the Great Novena – a pastoral program prepared for nine years. When in 1936 cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, as an editor of ‘Priestly Ateneum’, published an article about vows of academic youth in which he wrote that vows should be fulfilled with a program. He was worried about it all the time, was in his soul, hence these famous words, which he said as a bishop of Lublin in 1946, encouraging for participation in Jasna Góra ceremonies on 8 September 1946: ‘Who is alive – to Jasna Góra!’ So, these only devotional vows gave the beginning to a program of consistent and hard pastoral work.
– Thank you for reminding the year 1936, when there was the first academic pilgrimage to Jasna Góra. At that time, I was browsing texts printed in ‘Częstochowski Dzwonek’. So, it is necessary to see a kind of continuity and also a difference of vows in the years: 1936, 1946, 1956 and later in the year 1966.
– Yes. These were decades. In 1936 there were about 20 thousand students at Jasna Góra. At that time, it was the first time when the general allowed for bringing the Miraculous Image onto the defensive walls – it was brought by students…At that time I was a cleric I remember the special atmosphere but I do not remember who wrote the vows: cardinal Aleksander Kakowski or bishop Antoni Szlagowski.
– We are celebrating the Year of God’s servant cardinal August Hlond, especially in Silesia, but also in Częstochowa. Could you tell us what these vows were for him?
– Cardinal Hlond was experiencing a real drama. During the war he left Poland, which was considered as something bad. I remember as the writer Jan Wiktor made an accusations against him: ‘You were saying the Litany of the Saints and you ran away…’ He was forced into it. He said that he could not be a hostage of the Germans and he had to go away with the government. He was not allowed to return, he was arrested by the Germans in France. He was praying on knees for the nation and emigration all the time, asking Our Lady in Lourdes for help. Archbishop Giovanni Battista Montini (the later pope Paul VI), as an official of the Vatican Secretariat of the State, questioned all documents, prepared against him, against any laws. London respected cardinal Hlond and he reminded emigrants about Poland, he was its representative. He was an interrex, and was respected all over the world. And here God’s Providence helps cardinal to return to the country. The vows were also apogeum of his gratitude towards Our Lady.
There were so many people then and I saw this all…2 thousand priests arrived….How? Arrived? Were they going on foot? And this was thanks to Hlond!...He said: we do not talk with the communists. He had his own opinion about them and he was sticking to it.
– The Primate of Poland cardinal Hlond had so-called specialist faculties – he was a kind of the Holy See for Polish lands, for new dioceses being organised…
– Yes. We should remember that life was different in Poland then, everything was being controlled. So, the presence and the word of cardinal Hlond meant nearly the presence and the word of the Holy Capital city. It was the only escape for our nation. After all, Catholic newspapers did not reach everywhere and all important matters were decided by cardinal Hlond and everything was addressed to him. And ‘specialist faculties’ were thanks to Montini, who as a worker of the Secretariat of the State had a perfect political knowledge and knew what it would mean for the tormented country.
– Not everybody knows that in Fatima Our Lady said that Russia would be converted….
– ….Yes. However, it is going to be related with our prayer and penitence.
– Thank you for the interview. Father proved us a beautiful moment of great prayer and devotion of the nation to Our Lady at Jasna Góra with the participation of God’s servant cardinal August Hlond…
– I still see and hear everything – and certainly I experience everything. I am in the centre of what was happening here, I was conducting preparations, I even ordered a professional orchestra from Kalisz. Emotions were great. In the beginning of the communist times there was such a great spurt! Thanks God that it happens so. I will say one thing: we do not understand God’s works. God is doing his works over the human ones. We must only see this all and find relations among them. Who does not see it, is blind. In the history of Poland there is something which is difficult to understand without considering God’s intervention. It is simply impossible to explain…