Rescuing pagan Europe
A hundredfold crop from the blood he shed
Sermon delivered at Vespers on the Feat of St. Adalbert, Gniezno, 24 April 2004
Bishop Stanislaw Wielgus
Bishop Stanislaw Wielgus
Although St Adalbert died a martyr's death 1007 years ago his cult has still remained vivid in the awareness of the Polish nation, and what is more, it has become considerably more important within the last several decades. It is not only because we could, thanks to the local Church, celebrate solemnly the 1000th anniversary of the great Saint's death and the jubilee of the famous meeting in Gniezno, but also because the whole life and work of St Adalbert, inseparably connected with the history of Poland and several other Central European countries, express universal spiritual values, which have formed and united the most important elements of European culture for two thousand years, and its Christian, Gospel born spirit as well.
The awareness of the significance of the values St Adalbert represented and of his deeply Christian attitude has a special meaning for us now, at the moment of the important act of Europe's unification. The figure of St Adalbert united Europe one thousand years ago. The German Emperor Otto III and the Polish King Boleslaw Chrobry (Boleslaus the Brave) met at St Adalbert's tomb and became friends. Our nations and their rulers met first of all on spiritual level. In this sense St Adalbert is also today a promoter of European unity. For Europe's unity becomes real and brings about universal growth of all Europeans only when it is built on spiritual ancient European values. Europe has its own identity and spirit, which differentiates it from other civilizations.
Religions practiced by given peoples and nations have always had a decisive influence on the formation of every civilization. Christianity has played such a role in the formation of European civilization regardless some people, living within the circle of Christian influence, did not believe and do not believe in Christ. This truth was nicely stated by the well-known French historian Braudel, who said that even a European atheist carried the ethics and way of perceiving the world, being deeply rooted in the Christian tradition. And his background is still Christian; he is a Christian who lost his faith. The process of separating culture from the Christian tradition, which the influential atheistic writers of the Enlightenment (especially the French and English ones) began has continued and even increased in some European societies, which were once deeply Christian. Despite this fact these societies are still living up to the Christian heritage, not only in the sphere of external festive traditions. All moral concepts of contemporary Europeans, all principles which justify these concepts, all attitudes - individual and social - are still connected with Christianity although in some cases the relation is completely unacquainted. Such values as inviolability of human life, respect for every person, protection of human rights - the right to life, the right to own property, the right to equality, the right to liberty, brotherhood, respect for the word, command to comprehensive development of skills, the right to accessible education at all levels, the command to share acquired knowledge, to keep agreements and many other values - are the results of the influence of Christianity in Europe, America and in other continents over many centuries. It was Christianity that abolished discrimination and rejected the Greek-Roman classification of people into barbarians and non-barbarians, into citizens and non-citizens, into freemen and slaves. It was Christianity, which united all people in one community of brothers and sisters as children of one Father - God. Christianity developed science and preserved the treasures of the ancient pagan culture. Thanks to Christianity universally accessible education was created as early as the 6th century and then numerous high schools and universities were founded. It was Christianity which in the 14th century, through its openness to knowledge, accessible to everyone, not only the initiated, laid the foundations of modern science, which gave a mathematical explanation of the world.
This enormous influence of Christianity on Europe is still lasting. But the relationship of many people towards orthodox Christianity is weakening. Christodoulos, the Archbishop of Athens and All of Greece, has said recently that many Europeans' attitudes, which are contrary to humanity, have become more and more common and justice is being replaced by cynicism and primitivism. The influence of forces which want to reduce mankind to some grey mass, capable of producing and consuming with a short break for entertainment, after which man is a mere 'empty bag', is increasing considerably. Aggressive chariots of neo-Marxist educational theories, formed in the 1960s, sow destruction in education, which is devoid of any ethical order. They put good on the same level as evil, meanness on the same level as generosity, truth as deceit, perversion as virtue and thus lead numerous young people to complete moral chaos. They use ruthless political and media attack causing break-down of the people who still oppose totalitarianism of atheistic libertarianism. It consistently aims at replacing the Judeo-Christian ethos in the life and consciousness of Europeans by the so-called political correctness, with its complete ethical relativism, egoistic hyper-individualism, extreme hedonism and cosmopolitanism, which fiercely chases any trace of patriotism. It is accompanied by omnipresent propaganda of consumerism, in which the sense of life comes down to one thing: to work hard and spend money as much as you can, to think as the post-modernistic and neo-Marxist media suggest, to have fun, and even to laugh loudly only at the sign of the director of films, cabarets and programmes, which insult the level of human mind and which have sex as their god, and which have as their main aim the attack of Christian and patriotic values, mocked and humiliated as fundamentalist ones, completely unsuitable for the new Europe. Recently one of the Russian intellectuals has written in Izwiestia that the European community is hastily preparing a common constitution, which does not contain even one sentence or one word about the Judeo-Christian roots of European civilization. Instead we have only a description of bureaucratic procedures and general formulations about liberty, equality, solidarity and human rights. This journalist asks: On what foundation is the European philosophy of liberty, individualism, human rights based? In what name would the Europeans be ready to fight and risk their lives? It is not in the name of the Commission in Brussels. And if there is no answer, there is no power. If the European bureaucrats can confront all the threats in the world, which are increasing instead of decreasing, including the horrible danger of Islamic terrorism, with post-Christian ideological helplessness, nihilistic moral anarchy, euphemistically called freedom, as well as bureaucracy and ancient, never realised, myth about paradise on earth, which awakes us some day, the fate of Europe, the fate of united Europe, Europe controlled by such people, will be miserable.
Return to values
The fate of future Europe will be miserable and its planned development will be impossible if, as the director of the Polish Forum of Lisbon Strategy stated a few weeks ago, 'Europe does not change itself in its foundations - in the sphere of values and mentality'. This is the centre of gravity of the whole European transformation. It is not enough to originate new commissions in order to solve arising difficulties. The whole legal system should be changed and based on constant values, independent of any group of voters or members of Parliament. The values should not be based on politicians' conformism, on the whim of administration or on the egoism of some lobby. The system should be based on fundamental values, which have been proved throughout millennia. One should begin improving the European economy, the author continues, with a reflection on the condition of the spirit and morality of both individuals and social groups. In the last 50 years in Western European societies there was a plan to devoid systematically the public life of higher values and to spread by all means the egoistic hedonism, which does not take into account other people. Secularisation and political correctness were forced. Now we ripe their fruits: fall of every authority, nihilism, lost of the sense of life, extreme egoism as well as disappearance of citizen's activity and responsibility of the majority who have been active in social and political lives. Gradual elimination of ethics and religion from schools and universities in Europe and America led to the appearance of extremely serious global threats, e.g. devastation of natural environment, explosion of crime, abortion, euthanasia, murderous experiments on human embryos, corruption occurring even in academic circles, hunger, threat of war and various weapons, aggressive consumerism, including objectification and deification of man.
Rescuing the youth
In the education of the youth, living in societies that undergo atheistic secularism taught in many schools, and most of all in various libertarian media, the main command is consumption, which is to satisfy unquenchable, hyped by omnipresent advertisement, hunger for things. There is a compulsion to entertain, to have fun, and the so-called happiness at all costs, compulsion to do what gives the maximum of experience. The youth are offered the so-called instant culture, assuming that the youth do not want nor can wait. According to the motto 'Only today is ours' the youth are persuaded to sex, risky experiences and shopping. The civilization of supermarket is overwhelming. It treats reality as one big department store. Ethical and intellectual authorities are pitied. Successful showmen, pop stars, sportsmen or leaders of peer groups gain the respect of the youth. They are substitutes for values and ideals. The so-called culture of risk and adrenaline rise, cult of body and violence are promoted in curricula. The ideal of those contemporary media educators is the so-called global teenager: without religious, national, civic, cultural and traditional values. Those who are well educated and well off but devoid of any moral principles hold a domineering position in the contemporary civilization. For years this model of youth education has been promoted in various magazines, television and radio programmes, the Internet and cabarets, which jeer at Christian values. This happens in Poland, too. Let it suffice to mention the programme Bar, running for many months, some cabaret, which are broadcasted every several weeks and many other programmes. They all provide, in a more or less open way, post-modernistic education of global teenager who will soon mould family, social, political and academic life of societies in united Europe.
'Stones will cry out'
Each of us, every Christian, must face all these threats. We are obliged to oppose all kinds of evil as far as we can, especially through the testimony of our Christian lives, our individual and family lives. There is a lot of good in our Fatherland. Certainly there is more good than evil, evil which has been stubbornly promoted, spread and trivialized by the followers of political correctness. In Western Europe there are also many wonderful Christians living according to the Gospel. They are waiting for our religious and moral help. They are also waiting for our active and en masse participation in the approaching elections to the European Parliament and our votes for those candidates who want to build life of future generations on the foundation of Christian values. They are waiting for our testimony about God. In the Gospel according to St Luke we read the shocking words of Christ, 'I tell you, if these keep silence, the stones will cry out' (19:40). Unfortunately, in many western populations only the stones of old churches and cathedrals cry out about God. People do not cry out any longer. Let us not allow similar situations happen anywhere in Poland because so many martyrs shed their blood for its conversion. Let us cherish faith in our hearts and the hearts of the neighbours whom God has placed in our lives: in our marriages, families, schools, places of work and many other situations. Let us show our faith with power and fortitude in all those places; the faith St Adalbert offered his life for. Recently, in one of his interviews Cardinal Ratzinger, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has said that in the contemporary world, yielding to atheistic secularisation, every bishop, every priest and every Christian should find in himself the strength and courage to oppose political correctness, which has been so much promoted by today's media and which destroys faith, morality and Christian culture. In the not so distant past two evil totalitarianisms attacked Christianity: the Nazis and the Communists. At present post-modernistic totalitarianism of lack of values, in the form of political correctness, is pursuing similar aims. We, children of this Fatherland, which has been inseparably connected with Roman Christianity for a thousand years, must not submit to this totalitarianism. Let us have strength and courage to follow the commands of the Gospel in spite of the ideology of consumerism, secularisation, relativism and betrayal of God. Let St Adalbert be our example. He lived in times when many bishops were dignitaries, had large estates and great secular power. He himself, prince's son, bishop of Prague, could live as they did. However, taking literally Christ's call to evangelical radicalism, humility, poverty and sacrifice in the service for others he opposed the spirit of his times. Barefooted, in moderate robes, having given away to the poor all he had possessed, he was installed a bishop in his cathedral. After several years of strenuous pastoral work, being tired of struggling with the proud and greedy Czech magnates, he asked the Pope to let him enter a monastery. Then as a monk he went on missions to the pagan and aggressive Prussians. He did not accept the guards King Boles3aw offered for his protection. Armed with the Word of God and love for neighbour in whom he always saw Christ, Adalbert, together with several companions, went to meet the pagan Prussians. He was killed soon, dying a martyr's death for his faith. 'No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends' (John 15:13). For which earthy goods we possess are more precious than life, which we have been given only once and which is unique? St Adalbert offered the sacrifice of his life for those he wanted to lead to the light of faith. He followed Christ to the full. Thus his mission, apparently unsuccessful, yielded great fruits for the whole Church, and especially for the Polish Church, being her great patron.
Protect Europe against itself
In the present Europe's struggle with dechristianization and atheistic secularisation, which weaken the foundation of its identity and lead it astray with no option to return, we, Christians, need Adalbert's evangelical radicalism to confess faith and follow the principles of faith in private, family, social, political, school life, etc. The same applies to us as Poles. The fate of Poland, the fate of Europe and the fate of the whole world remains in God's hands. But God needs our minds, our hearts and hands, and our zealous faith so that this world and this Europe, yielding to paganism, can be protected against itself. Be aware of this. And let us proclaim the Gospel everywhere the Providence has placed us. Let us be dynamic signs of God's transcendence, living arguments about God's existence, God who is eternal Love and Wisdom. Amen.