Blessed Jerzy Popielousko: Pray for Us
Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko (1947-1984)

Blessed Jerzy Popielousko: Pray for Us

On Tuesday October 19, the Church celebrated the feast of the great Polish priest and martyr, Blessed Jerzy Popielousko. Personally I had the grace of visiting and spending time in the church and apartment he lived in Warsaw in April 2018.

This magnificent hero of the Polish nation was born to a rural family in Okopy, Poland on September 14, 1947. Following his priestly ordination which took place on May 28, 1972, by Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, the Primate of Poland, he started being a vocal opponent of the repressive Communist regime which was ruling Poland at the time. Fr Jerzy remains inscribed in the history of both the Church and State in Poland as a leading figure within the anti-Communist Solidarity Movement.

Filled by the Holy Spirit, Fr Jerzy openly challenged the martial law which was declared in Poland with the intention of brutally suppressing any kind of movements which ran counter the Communist government. As a true son of the Church who was against the ruthlessness of the Communists, Fr Jerzy passed on the message of truth, freedom, peace and love. The more he was seriously threatened by the secret police the more he stood his ground.

After his farcical arrest in 1983 on fabricated charges which later had to be withdrawn, Fr Jerzy became the number one enemy of the Communist state. How many times assassination attempts were plotted and done to eliminate him. However, on 19 October 1984, he was ultimately kidnapped by the secret police and was ruthlessly beaten to death. 

Fr Jerzy was the champion of justice. In his homily of December 26, 1982, in the Mass for the Fatherland, a day after Christmas, Blessed Jerzy brought out the point that peace cannot be possible if there was injustice. However, the coming of the Son of God is a powerful strength in order that justice, truth, goodness and freedom will, eventually, triumph.

We stand, at the altar of Christ united in the prayer for our Country and those who suffer for her most. In the month of December especially, pain, suffering and hope are intertwined. Pain – because the anniversaries of our brothers and workers whose lives were taken in 1970 and 1981 are fresh in our minds. Suffering – because many of our brothers and sisters remain behind prison gates. Hope – that in spite of everything, we will work for the true good of our Country and we shall feel that we are its managers. Hope, even betrayed, never dies. Joy – because here God Himself comes down to man as a child in a manger in Bethlehem, to give strength to the people of good will in their battle for good, freedom and justice. We place all these concerns and our joy on Christ’s altar asking that He transforms them into the grace of enduring in the hope of victory of good against evil. We especially join our hearts with those, interned a few day ago and arrested today, who have sent us the following greetings

In his homily of December 25, 1983, Fr Popielousko spelled it out that it is solely by God’s help that peace in society can actually occur. 

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will”. This is the proclamation of God given to men on Christmas Day. At this Mass for Our Country, we come together to give God glory, to strengthen ourselves through God, and through our daily lives, to realize the second part of this proclamation: “and on earth, peace to people of good will”. Strengthened by God we will be more able to build peace within ourselves, within our families, peace in our Nation. No one can build peace if he does not give glory to God in the highest while he is constructing it.

Moreover, the real Christian ethos demands that the right celebration of God’s birth can actually happen if we stay close to those who are suffering. 

On this night of God’s birth it would suffice, instead of the homily, simply to shake hands, look deeply into each other’s eyes and embrace each other with love. To see the tears of those suffering. In our hearts, to embrace those imprisoned and their families. Hug the orphaned children, the all too soon widowed wives. Sing a Christmas carol. That would quite suffice. We could end with just that. However the day of God’s birth resounds with the proclamation of the Angel: “Glory to God in the highest and, on earth, peace to people of good will”. Because God entrusted peace to people on Christmas Day. Peace on earth. Peace of human hearts and consciences. Peace is what today humanity longs for the most. […]

When one suffers from blatant injustice simply because he wants to adhere to the truth, this act itself does bear abundant good fruit. In fact, the suffering brought a lot of good fruit to the Polish nation. In his homily of November 27, 1983, during the Holy Mass for the Fatherland, Blessed Jerzy said:

We are united in front of Christ’s altar in our monthly Mass for Our Nation and those who suffer for it, who because of their imprisonment cannot pray together with us. On this day of November, we recall all those who gave their lives in the fight for the independence of their Motherland, the fight for freedom and social and personal justice. We remember and include in our prayers those killed on various war fronts, those tortured in Hitler’s camps and the Soviet labor camps, those forcefully evacuated, those exiled. We remember, and pray for our brothers who were taken from us by the present day Cains: our Underground and Home Army soldiers, the workers from Wielkopolska and Wybrzeze as well as those who fell in the past few years in the strange war between ruling powers and the Nation. Christ’s death on the cross, in spite of the assumption of those who condemned Him, was not a defeat but a Victory. His blood on the cross became the source of salvation. It opened to humanity the road to return to God’s Kingdom in heaven. The Kingdom of truth, love, justice and peace. The duty of building a kingdom based on these very foundations is what Jesus Christ put on everyone who made a pact with Him in the sacrament of baptism. The Polish nation, sworn to Christ and His teachings, for more […]

Fr Jerzy was hundred percent sure that the new beginning the Polish society was in great longing to have was possible if it was open to the workings of the Holy Spirit as St John Paul II had affirmed during his first visit to Poland four years earlier. In his October 30, 1983 homily, during one of his Holy Masses for the Fatherland, this great hero of Christ boldly said:

Holy Father, we want so very much to include in the words of our letter, written with the ink of love, our thanks for Your goodness, Your wisdom, Your faith, hope and incalculable love. To thank You for being the best son of our Nation. We want to offer You our love of God and Country. We want to thank You for calling on the world on the very first day of Your pontificate, to open wide the doors for Christ . For breathing the Holy Spirit on Your Motherland during Your first pilgrimage with Your prayer and Your words […]

Even if it is like a voice in the desert, justice remains the basis for a peaceful and loving coexistence within society. In his June 24, 1984 homily, again during one of the Masses for the Fatherland, Blessed Jerzy, like St John the Baptist, with his voice amid a desert replete with repression, injustice and tyranny, invited everyone to turn to harmony, justice, truth and peace.

In the month dedicated to the Sacred Heart, the year of the anniversary of papal visits to our country, we gather, for 30 months now, as always, on the last Sunday at the high Mass for Our Nation for and those who suffer for her the most. We will enclose in our prayers all of our nations’ difficult and still painful matters. We want to ask Christ for help to realize in our daily lives all the advice of the Holy Father from His second pilgrimage to our land. We want to ask that all those who have been unjustly deprived of freedom because of their beliefs and because of their great concerns for the fortunes of our country, be set free. We want to ask for a clarification of truth and a victory for justice in the case of Grzesiu Przemyk. We want to ask that the times of disregard for the Nation finally end and be replaced by happy reconstruction in harmony, love, justice, truth and regard for the dignity of man. Aware of our human imperfections let us ask God for forgiveness for all our sins and omissions, so we can worthily and fruitfully celebrate this Mass.

The more than 250,000 people who attended his funeral as well as his beatification as a martyr show that good always prevails over evil. As Pope Benedict XVI had said of Blessed Jerzy: He was a persevering and tireless witness of Christ: he overcame evil with good and he shed his blood for that.

Blessed Jerzy Popielusko, pray for us!

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Written by
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap