Reading the signs of the times...

Fr Zbigniew Suchy interviews Archbishop Jozef Michalik, Metropolitan of Przemysl, President of the Polish Episcopate Conference

Fr Zbigniew Suchy - One often speaks about authentic and non-authentic experiences of faith. What does an authentic life of faith require?

Archbishop Jozef Michalik - We frequently speak of the grace of faith, which means that we see it as a gift of God, which a human being could accept, he opened himself to the Revelation and accepted new knowledge because he met God. From that moment this meeting exerts influence on my life, the life of a believer, life with reference to God. During individual or community prayer there is a special experience of God's presence. And thus liturgy becomes a school of faith and its fruitful experience is conditioned by faith. Without faith your presence at Mass or under the Cross of the Lord may be an aesthetical experience, a historical reflection, but not an authentic participation in the salvific mystery. It will not cross the threshold of transcendence nor enter into contact with the supernatural, i.e. a meeting with God. Apart from faith liturgical experience requires humility, admitting your own sins, saying that I have sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do.
How difficult is the school of liturgy! It is the way of humble confession of sins but without it any liturgical ritual would be a formal rite, only an external gesture, but it is to change us, to restore us, to cleanse us and fill us with the joy of spiritual experience.
The act of contrition is sometimes painful and even drastically painful, especially when the Lord's Word does not suit our thoughts, deeds and failures; when the Word demands something more and more or when it shows the consequences of our conduct; when it warns us or painfully falls silent before the threshold of our conscience. 'Therefore, the Christian call, in its fundamental and strictest sense, finds its unique meaning: to take part in the passion of Christ (to get involved...). It is not enough to hang a cross on the wall of some sanctuary to make it a church, or to place a cross on some banner in order to make certain world power Christian' (Jean M. Lustiger, Promise). The Christian call is to look at Christ, to contemplate the Cross of Christ with faith and life as well as to proclaim his values to the world.
Undoubtedly, in the times of present aggression against sacrum one should remind people that the Cross has the right to citizenship both in private and public lives, that it is impossible to separate a believer, a social being, from the state and international community, but at the same time one should remember that it is not enough to call Catholic some association, party, university or congress, and these would become really Catholic, Christian and Christ's. The content of the Cross should be revealed in life and deeds, in methods of work and election of Catholic parties. The efforts to seek the truth of the Gospel and to live a life according to the Good News, humbly confessing your own inabilities, failures or even escapes from the Cross, are more Christ like than a proud and conceited conviction concerning your own credibility, courage or innocence.
One of the temptations of the contemporary world and its thinking is to separate and omit the Cross and Christianity from earthly realities, from everyday life; to 'distil' faith and grace from the environment people live in. Another expression of the same temptation can be the desire to ascribe Christ and Christianity the role of creating culture or to limit their role only to an ethical dimension (the teacher of morality).
A few months ago Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger made a radical diagnosis concerning the present time, 'The West does not love itself any more (it rejects its own culture and chooses some multicultural character). However, the multicultural character cannot exist without respect for what others and we hold sacred' (14 May 2004). Yes. One must not violate sanctity in other countries and in our own country. One should defend sanctity at all costs.

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