REFLECTIONS ABOUT POLAND AT CHRISTMAS EVE TABLE
FR. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ
Christmas is concentrated on the family, on family life, which has played an important role in our history. Although cruel neighbours decided to partition our country, destroyed our nationality, they did not manage to destroy our identity. Because it is in the hearts of Poles, full of love and nostalgia for their Polish heritage placed in the resources of faith and culture. This Christian faith and culture were built by our nation, when king Mieszko I received the holy baptism and when Poland entered the family of Christian nations of Europe. Building Christian identity in Europe took place at the same time as building the Polish identity, which was reflected, among the others, in culture. Developing Polish language became its base, and it was built by priests who had arrived in Poland, like St. Wojciech, and later those who had already been born on our land and who became great heralds of morality, like St. Stanisław, the Bishop and the Martyr. So, lifestyle of Poles was created by the environment of European and native clergy which somehow made the nation awareness fertile with its blood. It was described by chronicle writers, among the others, Gall Anonim, and later blessed Wincenty Kadłubek.
Nation identity combines with its history
An extremely valuable reason for creating our identity connected with faith is history of Poland. It was focused on kings and monarchs and was built by saints and the blessed. Great people of the Middle Age played an important role in creating both nationality and national identity. We cannot forget about St. Jadwiga the Queen who shone with brightness in the beginning of the Jagellonian epoch. The victory over the Teutonic Knights at Grunwald in 1410 was extremely important in building our identity – the greatness of our Homeland lit up then. Also the European forum of that time was full of great Poles (for example, Paweł Włodkowic at the Vatican Council in Konstancja). Polish awareness, emphasizing God’s law inscribed in the man over the law established by people, appeared in statements of king Zygmunt August who said: ‘I am not the lord of your consciences’ – this statement belongs to the most modern ones also today, considering civil freedoms, such as freedom of conscience and religion.
Time of reformation and the principle: ‘Cuius region, eius religio’ – whose country his religion – also threw a shadow onto life of Poles. Poland did not accept this brutal principle, breaching consciences, it was not a country which tamed its citizens. And although the world does not always know everything about us, our national identity is really built on great ideals.
Unfortunately, our history, also unsuccessful actions, defeats, noble playfulness and oppression of the ordinary people. It was understood by king Jan Kazimierz when he made vows in the Lvov cathedral. He noticed, among the others, that oppressed peasants wanted liberation from serfdom harm. We cannot omit the great act of Jan III Sobieski at Vienna when he saved Europe from the invasion of Islam. Europe manipulated this victory of the Polish king to its advantage, not showing gratitude to the Polish nation, but, on contrary – it ‘repaid’ to Poland with partitions, lasting for 123 years.
At the beginning of Poland independence, we also showed a great spirit in a fight with the invader from the east. Europe does not understand that it was Poland which saved the Old Continent from the Bolsheviks with the Miracle at the Vistula and introducing godless atheistic order on its area. The genius of Józef Piłsudski and bravery of the Polish army, when considering the presence of the eastern enemies in Europe, led to a kind of a balance.
Time of independent Poland brought fruits in the greatness of our Homeland. It seems that we are not completely aware of achievements of the 20 years of the interwar period. How the industry developed then, as well as universities, economy and everything proved our great success. Unfortunately, we were attacked by our enemy again. The Nazis Germany and Soviet Russia conspired against Poland and using the Ribbentrop-Mołotow pact, they made another partition of our country. What is astonishing, is the fact that the president of Russia Władimir Putin justifies the rightfulness of this treaty. It seems that the co-creator of the pact – Józef Stalin would be afraid to admit to this criminal act today.
Schizophrenia of Europe?
So, if we are thinking on what Poland we are to build, on what we are to base, what should be the fundament of our national and political thought now, when we are a member country in the European Union, then we cannot doubt that the EU is pursuing its own policy, not respecting the identities of nations included in it. After all, it did not accept the fact in its assumptions, that Europe was a Christian area, that this culture has got its basic roots in it and has been richness till now. New guidelines, of laic and even atheistic character, are respected. And EU supports some trends which attack faith and Christian morality, among the others, the gender ideology. Two-level activities somehow appeared: on the one hand in its particular membership countries, like the national identity, but one can also see other worrying tendencies, somehow hidden inside various EU dispositions. Here I mean, among the others, an act about violence in the family, which enters a traditional way of perceiving family life, smuggling an attack at the previous world of values, including Christian morality and the Decalogue. One must emphasize that the tendencies included in various dispositions of EU, have a delicate and careful character, but inside, they are dangerous for Christian normality in Europe. These dispositions, prepared for membership countries of EU, are developed and include thousands of pages, and, surely there are not enough people who know them wholly in order to evaluate them and oppose to what the EU is preparing for nations of Europe, and somehow for the world. So, we must maintain the common sense and much carefulness towards these assumptions, and, we must, first of all, look at the Polish raison d’etat. However, it is not easy, as we are involved in the structure which has a modern, practical dimension, which makes life easier in many sections. So, the situation is not explicit and it is seen that EU assumptions are not friendly to Christian religion, although its fathers – like Konrad Adenauer and God’s servants Robert Schuman and Alcide De Gasperi are great Christians. Looking at the ruins of the Second World War, they wanted to create a state in Europe, which would not allow for new dangers. Unfortunately, EU is aiming at atheism and secularism. We are witnesses of the fact that there are attempts of discouraging us from faith, the Church and God completely.
Pope John Paul II favoured the European Union built on Christian values. He noticed that Europe is the land which is becoming secular and where countries, which used to be strongly Christian, play an important role. Hence these were the words addressed to the French: ‘France, what did you do with your baptism?’. Whereas, looking at enthusiastic compatriots welcoming him in a warmhearted way in Homeland, he thought that Poland, with its faith in God and the strong Church, was facing an important task among the nations of Europe. We hope that our mission will be an essential support for Christianity on its territory. But if we want it to happen, we, as the nation, must guard our identity and culture, marked by the cross and the current Church in Homeland. Unfortunately, in our country we observe cases of hostility towards the cross and Christian religion in the public life, some people, wanting to exist in some structures, are trying to transform Poland into a laic country. With help and supervision of bishops, clergy, and first of all, pope Francis gifted with an unusual charism, we must go towards much higher faithfulness to Christ, the Cross and the Gospel.
Let’s return to sources
When we are looking at the European Union, in fact it is difficult to say that it is a democratic structure. Various pressures and propositions, benefits which are not unconditioned, incomprehensible principles, punishments for exceeding some conventional limits (for example, the issue of the so-called milk quota), fragments of various pieces of information which come to us from EU – all this makes us lack good knowledge about its basic purpose and functioning and many issues should be explained. Having many questions about EU in particular countries, including Poland, we must be aware of our base, point of support. For us, the Christians, there is our faith in it, which has a universal dimension. In this respect we are united, we can say that we are one nation which has its program for the future. We only need to be aware of it and in solidarity as we were in the 80s of the previous century in Poland, in order to bring about needed changes without any violence.
How can we look at our future? Sometimes we are at the crossroads and we need constant renewal. In Poland we are in a situation of demographic decline. An enormous group of young, educated and talented people left their country and support other countries with their intellect and intelligence. But there is no situation without a solution. We must only think in a Polish way, recall ourselves the teaching of St. John Paul II and many thoughts he gave to Poles during his pilgrimages to the Homeland, supporting the truth. His heritage is often reminded – in his beautiful strong voice – by the Television Trwam. He speaks about the Polish countryside, about the importance of rural environment for Poland, about the system of some ideas, based on the Gospel, about the teaching of the Church, that is, about the Social Catholic Teaching, so important for national normality. It is also protection of the Polish family which is not appreciated today. This is a system of moral values. It is also a relationship between our nation and other nations of Europe. We undertake this reflection of our saint Compatriot on the Homeland, on strengthening our national identity.
It requires mainly reflection from us and also a deed. We believe that we will manage to do it with God’s help.
I think that on this base an interesting and promising political thought, concerning building a better future, should develop. We should deepen our search for the common good for our and other nations, search for areas of a dialogue, convincing that it is possible to create a much bigger general good – all this should characterize the way of thinking of those who want to deal with politics in the world. This kind of thinking is the way of thinking of the Church which is universal and whose purpose is the good of not only an individual, but also the whole humankind. This is the Church of a dialogue, and in its greatness there is also the greatness of Poland.