Three years after his passing away to the Father’s House
Cardinal Stanislaw Nagy, SCJ
Who do I mean? – There is no need to explain, remembering 2 April 2005. On that day the Holy Father John Paul II left the earthly vale of tears. I must recollect this event after the experiences of his fellow countrymen, almost all his fellow countrymen. It was truly a great day, which we will remember for long. The Holy Week of this strange world, but most of all it was the week of all inhabitants on the Vistula River and the Oder River, between the Tatras and the Baltic Sea – and the experiences concerned almost all people in spite of the differences between them, their views and desires. All those affairs were silent on that day, they were marginalized. The Polish consciousness was completely overcome by the drama of that passing away. On the third anniversary of those days it would be good to return to the experiences of the whole nation. Since it is not only a kind of homage paid to him but for the country full of quarrels it is a piece of comfort and hope that Poles can be united in contemplation and some sacred reflection, looking at the mystery of the death of one of them – the successor of St Peter, the rock of the New People of God – the Church. That was the case on those days. One should recollect this and ask, ‘what has been left? Do we remember the Greatest of all Poles who passed away three years ago? How do we remember him?
Do those Polish Catholics who have authentic faith remember him? How do they remember him? Do those who faithfully preserve the paradigm of moral behaviour and the canon ‘sentire cum Ecclesia’ towards the Mother of the Church also remember him? One cannot answer the question in an adequate way if one wants to stand in the truth and not to be flooded with praises and words. Therefore, one must refer to such facts as the person of Cardinal Dziwisz with his continuous testimony to John Paul II. He was with him for many years; he was his faithful and attentive companion of his suffering and the main witness to his death. Other shepherds often refer to the person of the Holy Father John Paul II but he, his long-standing faithful secretary and currently his successor to the See of St Stanislaus, refers to him on every occasion. Because he has many things to talk about. He is a unique treasury of what the Servant of God experienced; he knew his thoughts and witnessed his intense activities.
The second line of this vivid memory of John Paul II is the care for the precious legacy of his apostolic efforts and the abundantly sown seed of God’s word in his speeches and messages. We should mention the praiseworthy publications of ‘Bialy Kruk’, available in beautifully published volumes concerning the impressive papal pilgrimages to various parts of the world, and the chronicles of the inexhaustible activities of the Pope from the ‘distant country.’ And when you add the laborious work by Prof. Gabriel Turowski, ‘Jan Pawel II. Dzien po dniu’ [John Paul II. Day after Day] (Krakow 2005, vol. 1 and 2), you can say that Polish readers have wide access to various treasuries of this exceptional life and great pontificate. And you can tell the same about the treasuries of his teaching. The great efforts of the ‘M’ Publishing House to make available almost all contents of the teaching of John Paul II have made it easy to get to know this epoch-making legacy of the ecclesiastical teaching. But besides the praiseworthy care for the teaching of John Paul II shown by the ‘M’ Publishing House other publishing houses express their care in various ways. We should also mention the activities of Radio Maryja and the editorial boards of the Catholic weeklies: ‘Niedziela’ [Sunday], ‘Gosc Niedzielny’ [Sunday Visitor], ‘Przewodnik Katolicki’ [Catholic Guide], Zrodlo’ [Source], ‘Idziemy’ [We Are Going] and ‘Nasz Dziennik’ [Our Weekly]. They all play precious roles in stimulating the memory of John Paul II in our society.
JP II Generation
The young generation that defines itself as ‘JPII generation’ witnesses to John Paul II in its own way. On 2 April 2005, they headed the Polish experiences of the sacred dramaturgy of that day and on every anniversary they do their best to remind the fellow countrymen of the person of the Pope from Krakow. The above-mentioned ways of memorizing ‘our Pope’ do not show all expressions of the national remembrance concerning John Paul II. It is worth mentioning that the Church awaits the beautification and canonisation of the Pope. The words ‘santo subito’, formulated during the most exceptional funeral in the history of the Church, have been taken by the Polish Catholic press as a zealous subject of expectation.
There is no limit to the kinds of remembrance of John Paul II, which document and keep it vivid. Suffice to mention the Papal Days or the John Paul II Foundation. Apart from many streets and squares named after John Paul II there is another excellent dimension of the remembrance of the Polish Pope, namely education, from elementary and secondary schools to the Catholic University of Lublin, which received the name of John Paul II. And the University has a vibrant research centre for his philosophy; it collects his scientific thought and works as well as studies the phenomena of his influence. I mean the John Paul II Institute, with its important periodical ‘Ethos’. Finally, I mean the Papal Days. Summing up, a question arises, ‘Is there anything else, and if yes, what, to do to preserve faithfully this memory of the Pride of our Nation and to transmit it to the next generations?
The answer to this question has two different parts. The first one concerns the remembrance of the authentic part of the Church in Poland. This remembrance must be accompanied by real efforts aiming at receiving the great richness, which the legacy of Pope John Paul II’s teaching. It is not only deep but also surprisingly up-to-date. The latter concerns especially the contents of the pilgrimages of the Great Pole to his Homeland. The contents seem to be not sufficiently used in pastoral ministry and perhaps also in seminaries and theological faculties as far as teaching of theology is concerned. It seems that apart from the great films about the life of the Holy Father and the book by George Weigel, which shows the unfinished life of the Pope, there are spheres of this great pontificate that are worth presenting to Polish readers.
Critics of the Church
The other part of the remembrance of John Paul II concerns the environments that seem to preserve it but at the same time use it in a strange way. First, we should thank the secular, or close to secular, environments that they joined in a worthy way those who believed deeply and authentically followed the norms of the Gospel and other Christians in their painful experiences of those days. But I am sad to see the way that some environments have used that deep reflection on the death and funeral of John Paul II. We, Catholics, are astonished and painfully experienced to see that some people used the death of the Holy Father John Paul II to attack the Church in Poland, claiming allegedly that the Church was at a lost and hopeless in the present psychological, political and cultural situation of the state and the nation. This feeling of pain is increased by the fact that those who lost their priestly vocations, not to mention those who consider themselves as know-it-all lay Catholics, joined the choir of these critics of the Church after the death of John Paul II.
To deepen the remembrance
There is no time for dispute here. But should we not make the authors of the above-mentioned insinuations aware of the fact that in order to raise such harmful objections one should know well who Pope John Paul II was and should have a proper picture of the Church, her origin and structure? And can the above-mentioned environments say with honesty that they have really fulfilled the two requirements?
Summing up, one should state that the authentic Catholic community in the Polish Church remembers their Great Pole with honour and gratitude. Moreover, this remembrance, in spite of the lapse of time after his death, seems to develop systematically, but it also requires to be systematically deepened.