Facing this Europe

Sermon delivered at St Michael's Church called Na Skalce (On the Rock), Krakow, 9 May 2004

Card. Stanislaw Nagy

I shall speak of your instructions before kings and will not be shamed.
Your commandments fill me with delight, I love them dearly.

(cf. Ps 119:46-47)

Cardinal Stanislaw Nagy

We have gone along the historical route from the Wawel Hill, the sacred site of the triumphant burial of St Stanislaus, and reached Skalka, which was his Golgotha. No wonder that it is now time for deep reflection at this place and after this historical procession. And what happened here 900 years ago? There was a painful drama of two people who had two radically different faces. There was a clash of two juxtaposing powers, which resulted in two contrasting lots.
The uncontrollable, confused state authority, which was blind to citizens' good, clashed with the heroic sense of responsibility for the mission to serve the cause of salvation. The first figure of this clash won a pyrrhic victory, which led to a fall into tragic historical oblivion. The second figure suffered an apparent defeat like that defeat on Golgotha but just like the latter it bore fruit of triumph - living in the royal Wawel Cathedral and the final victory of the Cross in the country on the Vistula.

Before we return to the blessed layer of the drama on Skalka let us reflect for a while upon this gloomy dimension represented by the king, who was the killer. For it is a fact that this dimension consistently revives in the history of other nations and in our nation as well. Today the Polish fate is connected with the authorities, which have power and which fail to fulfill their duties. Nowadays this sense of being lost would not result in shedding blood of the righteous as it was on Skalka centuries ago or in the rapids of the Vistula near Wloclawek, but it casts a shadow over the life of the Nation through declining justice, blatant corruption, cheap and ambiguous cynicism in justifying committed errors, practical passivity about unemployment and unforgivable manipulation of the Nation's health.

We cannot remain indifferent towards those unsolved problems, which cause stupor, irritation and a feeling of shame when we see this grotesquely functioning state. One cannot remain deaf to the voices of the young generation, who does not often want to share their lot with their fatherland, who is ashamed of the policy of manipulation and who thinks more and more of leaving the country and falling into the darkness of immigrants' fate. The authorities in Poland must remember that it is not the Nation who is to serve them but they must be the Nation's servants honestly managing its affairs or else they will share the fate of the lost king - killer on Skalka. In other words, they will sink into historical oblivion and banishment.

In this sacred reflection it is time to pass to the second scene of this drama of Skalka, which is a martyr's blow rained on the Shepherd of the Church by sacrilegious hand of the lost ruler. It was a life defeat of the mortally wounded bishop, and a complete defeat in the eyes of men because it was a lost of an earthly, mortal life. But it was a defeat, which brought victory and fullness of a new life. A sign of this victorious good done by a temporary and partial defeat was the throne of the royal Wawel cathedral, at which the tortured body was placed.
However, this personal, material part of the victory through the defeat of the martyr's death of St Stanislaus had its spiritual, special and temporal extension. It became a blessed spark, which penetrated with salvific rain the petrified, astonished and horrified folk of Krakow, the capital, and the whole country. It aroused Poles' conscience with a tone of zealous faith and devotion to God they had just got to know, to Christ and to the Church, which embraced them with her motherly arms.

It was a defeat, the content of which was unshaken faith in Christ, confirmed by the bishop's death, which was sealed by his blood and tortured body. I shall speak of your instructions before kings - the introit of today's Mass summarizes these words and entitles to the glorious title defensor infatigubilis fidei. There was a second part of this astonishing defeat, which is expressed by another text, namely that of the Gospel according to St John, referring to the identity of the Master and Saviour: I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep (John 10:11). Thus the good shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep of the Krakow Church, which in those times was the Church of the capital of this country. Thus defensor Patriae. The Defender of the Fatherland and Faith, promotor fidei - the defender of the country's sons, the one who paid the price of his life for the sheep he was given.

And the sheep understood the sense of that high price he had paid. At first they were horrified by its value but afterwards they reacted with a zealous gesture of clinging to the undisputed and ultimate faith in Christ, which was questioned by a temporarily raised head of paganism, rejected not long ago. And this was a blessed result of that spark of God, which is the essence of the Skalka drama.
But this spark of God, yielding fruit of radiant and unshaken faith in the social organism of the Church, faith which sprang from here, from Skalka, from Krakow, from the Country on the Vistula, had its blessed continuation but it took the shape of flame reaching the furthest parts of the Country and with time crossing its borders. Grundwald, Varna and Chocim, Vienna and Warsaw of 1920 - these are the symbols of radiating Polish sacrifice made in defence of faith.

And this heroic sacrificial Polish radiating in defence of faith in the past had yet a greater and more heroic variant. The symbolic places are: Dachau, Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen, Stutthof and many other Golgotha places of Polish priests and laymen, who paid the highest price for faith they professed so heroically and for its defence. Is this variant not a premise that today the Church on the Vistula is regarded as a bastion of Christianity in Europe? Being far from believing in pride filled messianism and naivety we must rather treat this as a challenge of the Providence in order to endure and help others endure.

However, the brightest flame on the horizon of the contemporary Church burnt again here, on the Krakow Vistula, and lit up with a glow of zealous faith and deep hope on the horizon of the disturbed world. You may easily guess whom I am referring to. It is he, the successor of St Stanislaus - the martyr of Skalka: John Paul II, the Pope from Poland. It is him who with a spark of faith proclaimed with zeal in the paths of almost the whole world flashed as Angel of Peace and Hope on the Polish roads, from the Baltic to the Carpathians, from the Bug to the Oder and administered important confirmation of his fatherland. We can still hear his call from the Square of Victory in Warsaw: 'Let your Spirit come on this land' and the dramatic appeal from the Krakow commons nearby, on 10 June 1079, 'May you not scorn the love which is the greatest and which was expressed through the cross and without which human life has no roots or sense'.
We have no rights to close our hears to these holy echoes, which raise not only from the Warsaw Square of Victory and from our Krakow commons but are stuck, more or less deeply asleep, in almost all ends of our Fatherland. They embrace the always zealous concern of the great fatherly heart, the concern for faith of his brothers on the Vistula, the Oder and the Bug as well as both Americas, Africa and Australia, concern for faith, for God in one's life and an authentic model of Christian society.

And today this concern has something of that concern of Stanislaus - laying down his life for the sheep of his Church, which overcame the danger of the temporarily revived paganism. For today with our entrance into the structures of Europe this danger returns in a new robe, but actually is the same. It may not have courage to raise its visor of pragmatically intellectual atheism but is not shamed to serve more or less compromised idols, which let people live as if God did not exist. And this means uncontrollable adherence to freedom, pursuit of comfort and pleasure and follow lowest instincts. The Pope from the Vistula has constantly expressed his determined opposition to this oversimplified life philosophy of man, who was created in God's image and likeness.

We by no means belittle the event, which happened a few days ago, namely our access to the structures of united Europe. We want to emphasize that strongly: our access to the structures of Europe in the process of being united and not to Europe as a continent. For we, Poles, have always been in Europe and during the last decades wanted to enter the organized European structures, which appeared after World War II. In fact, it is the irony of fate that our desire was fulfilled in an official way by those who for many years turned their back on Europe, which was organized anew after the war. But the fact becomes a fact, memorable fact: we are in Europe with all the content of our Polish identity. And we thank God Almighty for that event and we rejoice at the great good we have accomplished.

However, we would be naive and insincere if we did not tell that this joy was mixed with doubts and fears. Various fears. But one of the most basic fears is the possible threat to lose what has functioned in this Nation as a most closely connected relation, as a spinal column of her existence and activities - Christian faith and national history, the fate of the Church and Poland.
Let us say it openly; the present spiritual climate of Europe and its formal inscription in the project of the constitution of united Europe make us feel anxious. We fear a criminal attitude towards life with abortion and euthanasia at its head. No, we do not panic - we faced much sinister designs on the philosophy of life of our Nation. With God's help we will overcome those leftovers of past threats, which are in the rubbish heap of history now. But we must be vigilant, extremely sagacious and prudent because the enemy is well armed and exceptionally cunning. Moreover, it has already crossed the entrenchments of our defence. And its garish example is the shameless provocation in the last days, which humiliates this city of 100 churches with its sacred places including Wawel, Skalka and the sanctuary of Divine Mercy. It is painful and shameful but it cannot choke the principles, formulated by authentic love of neighbour and evangelical prudence. After all it is only a short episode but it is very significant.

There still remains a general problem of Europe without God or Europe denying God. Such a Europe is at our threshold. The whole Polish Church, shepherds, her sheep, all family of God, and we all must face this Europe. And we should do it in the name of the Hero of Skalka, the Holy Queen from Wawel and Mother of the Jagiellonian University, the hosts of Martyrs of Auschwitz, Dachau, Sachsenhausen and Katyn. We must wholeheartedly adhere to the echo of the call from the Square of Victory and the Krakow commons, remaining faithful to our Fathers' faith, devoted to Christ and his Church. But this must be a faith transformed into an authentic Christian deed of faithfulness to the Church, fight for unborn life and the unfailing bastion, which is Christian family. And let this be the fruit of our holy reflection on this Stanislaus' Golgotha. And then the drama of Skalka will reply with the echo of Stanislaus' triumph of truth and good not only on the Vistula, but also on the Danube, the Rhine and the Seine, and it will blossom with a life of dignity in peace of our Fatherland and other countries of the European family.

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl