In reference to the Roman persecution of the Church, the third century Christian author Tertullian invoked: Semen est Sanguis Christianorum; that the blood of the Christians is seed. In our times, Blessed Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko noted that “The only thing a Christian should fear is the betrayal of Christ for a few silver pieces of meaningless peace.”
It is estimated that one Christian dies for their faith every six minutes. In one way the suffering of our fellow humans can be perceived only in a historical dimension, otherwise it might fuel anger or sympathy. The parable found in Matthew (7:14) “How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life” demonstrates the safest route which martyrs, virgins and the righteous follow. It is a path that clearly needs to be pursued by everyone nowadays in order to attain salvation. In a long essay Benedict XVI pointed out to the set of values which must never be cast away by man, even at the cost of one’s life, emphasizing that ”Martyrdom is a basic category of Christian existence”; although it can take many different forms. Meanwhile, the wide gate and the path leading to eternal death symbolize the comfortable, luxurious and carefree life. The worst thing is that the sin of the one man affects the many. Australian census data presents a decline in those identifying with the Catholic faith, but this might not exclusively be associated with sexual abuse, purported or actual.
Regrettably both in the Universal Church as well as in the local Australian Church it seems exceedingly rare to come across a bishop or a priest who dares to break through their fear, silence, despair, indifference, and decides to imitate Jesus by joining the struggle for the truth. Few are willing to stick their neck out and speak openly. Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli uttered that he would rather go to jail than report a person who confessed committing child sexual abuse. The archbishop of Krakow, Poland, Marek Jędraszewski declared that his country is under siege from the “rainbow disease” of LGBT activism. Bishop Joseph Strickland, Texas, blatantly articulated Church teaching on the immorality of homosexual acts to the U.S. Bishops’ Conference. Only the truth will set us free.
Far distant Poland is steeped in the blood of martyrs. The most renowned ones in Anglo-Celtic culture are probably St. Maximilian Kolbe(†1941) and Bl. Jerzy Popieluszko(†1984); the latter as it turns out, in fact was not killed on October 19, 1984. In October 2019, Dr. Leszek Pietrzak on the air of Radio Maryja, in a column devoted to the case of the murder of Fr Jerzy Popieluszko, said ”…Everything is a whooping great lie. And the findings made by the state prosecutor Andrzej Witkowski have been confirmed.” According to prosecutor Witkowski, he was cruelly tortured for 6 consecutive days. The evidence collected indicates that after his abduction Father Popieluszko may have been held at a Soviet military base near Kazuń, about 37 km to the north of Warsaw. An interesting fact is that on the 22nd of October the officers of the MO police questioned closely Dr. Barbara Jarmużyńska-Janiszewska, Father’s GP, about ”the medicines which he regularly takes.” On the 25th of October 1984 his body was thrown into the water above the Vistula dam at Włocławek. “It is a massive fraud, there is an absence of will to clarify the circumstances surrounding the murder of Fr. Jerzy on the part of both the Church and the State authorities. […] These are hard facts which challenge the previous findings of the Toruń trial, […] Indeed Fr. Jerzy was kidnapped on the 19th, however he was not tortured to death within two hours – from that time till the midnight […] but was passed on to another group of security service agents, the SB, who for several days greatly tormented him and finally murdered him on the 25th of October… .” This was firmly stated in a TV interview by Fr. Stanisław Małkowski, a close friend of Fr. Jerzy. Hence, it is a long-standing belief that Blessed Jerzy is a powerful intercessor and intermediary before God.
The Servant of God, Archbishop of Poznań, Antoni Baraniak(†1970) was a Salesian who acquired the meaningful title – ”A steadfast soldier of the Church.” During 825 days of incarceration (1953-1956) he was severely beaten, starved, brutally interrogated (over 145 times) and kept in a dark room. Archbishop Baraniak is said to have been extremely reluctant to recall memories of his stay in prison on Rakowiecka street, Warsaw. Nevertheless what is certain is that he must have sustained several deep injuries because many years later, large scars were still visible across his back. “Were it not for his uncompromising attitude, the return to Warsaw of the Primate Wyszyński (†1981) would not have been feasible after the imprisonment, whereas without Cardinal Wyszyński there would not be Cardinal Wojtyla and then the Pope John Paul II” – solemnly stated Archbishop Jędraszewski. Cavalry Captain Witold Pilecki (†1948), who went into a concentration camp as a volunteer, and was also imprisoned by the Communists in the infamous X-pavilion of horror and death on Rakowiecka St., told his wife that in comparison to this place ‘’Auschwitz was only child’s play.” To preserve through his trials the Venerable Servant of God, Antoni Baraniak, like blessed Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko, drew strength from his intimate union with Christ and His Immaculate Mother. It is worth noting that the beatification of the Ven. Servant of God, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, is scheduled for June 7, 2020, in Warsaw, Poland.
On the Sunday preceding the 13th of October, the day of the Polish parliamentary election in 2019, in churches across the country an appeal was read out in which the President of the Polish Bishops Conference, Archbishop Stanislaw Gądecki, urged the faithful to participate in large numbers in the elections and warned against voting contrary to the principles of the Catholic faith. ”Catholics must not support political agendas which promote abortion, moral corruption of children and youth; seek to redefine the institution of marriage, attempt to restrict the parents` rights of the responsibility for child-raising.” Oddly, some Catholic media glossed over any news of this occurrence. Hitherto, making a similar appeal seems quite unthinkable in churches of Sydney, Brisbane or Adelaide, for fear that they will suffer grievously at the hands of the priest-hunters. Concurrently, St. Mary MacKillop (†1909) spurs us to greater things: ”Have courage no matter what your crosses are” and not to endlessly repeat, “No worries mate, everything will be all right”.
By a number of Catholics in Australia, Cardinal George Pell is deemed an icon, as likewise, Jesus Christ, who was wrongfully accused and sentenced. It is not by sidestepping or escaping suffering that we are healed but by our capacity for accepting and finding meaning through union with Christ. I believe it is not only my personal conviction that the faithful expect profound faith and particular courage from the pastors of the Church, especially when total war is being waged on earth as in heaven for the salvation of millions of souls. Just as the toxic Culture of Death takes its heavy toll high and low, how beautiful is the sight of a priest kneeling in front of the Eucharist, adoring and saying a Rosary or hearing the confessions of nuns from a nearby convent. Yet, my heart aches seeing a clergyman regularly playing golf for several hours a week or spending long afternoons behind a steering wheel of his Holden solely to get away from life’s adversities. Among Franciscan friars, there used to be a saying ”a good friar is never well-rested”; that’s the sort of person Fr. Jerzy was.
On the 15th of February 2002 came a strong message: ”Christians and the Church must be crucified to fulfill my sacrifice and to make the resurrection of humanity in the Holy Spirit happen. I will die in my people so that humanity can be reborn by the Holy Spirit. The present time is a time of sacrifice – for the Church and for Christians. The time of the sacrifice of the cross of my body which is the Church. There is a great demand for the testimony of faith, prayer and mortification for the intention of saving humanity and the world from everlasting destruction.” This was passed on to Alicja Lenczewska (†2012), a contemporary Polish mystic and stigmatic. Her powerful spiritual account, similar to that of St. Faustina, was collected and printed as two separate books “Testimony” and “Word of Instruction”. Bishop Henryk Wejman conferred the Imprimatur on both of them.
Listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit in this Lenten time of mercy and endeavoring to read Signa Temporum we all must respond to the new challenges that appear. Through the special gift of Blessed Father Jerzy God grants us the grace of unique discernment. As Fr. Jerzy wrote in 1984 “The priest is called to bear witness to the truth, to suffer for the truth, and if need be to give up his life for it.”
”Proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching”. (2 Timothy 4:2)
Although not all of us may hear these words “Amen, amen, I say to you when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go” (John 21:18), some undoubtedly will have to confront them sooner or later.