When the Rubicon was crossed
Cardinal Stanislaw Nagy, SCJ
I mean the recent official announcement that the Holy Father promulgated the decree on the heroicity of the virtues of the Servant of God John Paul II, the Polish Pope. It is a decisive, although insufficient, step to his being raised to the altars. Soon our national – and not only – expectations will be fulfilled. We have to wait for the confirmation of the authenticity of the miracle through his intercession and the road to fulfilling the memorable cries ‘Santo subito!’ on the day of the Pope’s funeral will be open. There are many signs that this step of the Church will be made in the near future. Will we have to wait for anything else? Should we, Polish people, the Church in Poland, remain inactive, with folded hands, waiting for what appears very real after what the Holy Father has done in this matter? Are we prepared for such a solemn event in the history of the Church and first of all, in the history of our Polish Church after having built so many monuments to John Paul II, giving his name to numerous streets, schools and hospitals, in the mood of the beautifully developing initiative of the ‘Work of the New Millennium’?
Not diminishing the value of the above-mentioned initiatives, on the contrary, expressing our admiration and full approval for them, we should wonder whether we could make another gesture, some Polish contribution to the expected phase in the light of the new presence of the Pope from Krakow in the life of the Church. If yes, what that would be? We managed to say worthy good-bye when he was passing away. Now we should make a worthy welcome when he comes back in the aura of sanctity. The first question to ask in this matter is: do we know our Holy Father deeply, considering the whole cult and love for him? Do we know who he really was and what his holy personality was? Since saints are not only our advocates before God but they are also models, patterns of how people should go to God on this earth. In fact, a lot has been written about his life. We know many details of his rich life. We know that his personality was outstanding and even genial. But do we know all his main characteristics, the parameters of his spirituality? Do we know a lot about his virtues – humbleness, poverty, love of neighbour, his love for our national history, wise love for the members of this Nation? Many books were written by such authoritative witnesses as his both secretaries Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz and Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, by André Frossard and George Weigel and other Polish authors. Finally, the Pope wrote about himself in his books entitled ‘Gift and Mystery’ and ‘Arise, Let us Go!’ However, have people read these books at least to some extent? Did the publications give some relatively complete picture of this monumental figure? Who else than we, Poles, should know better than others who was the one that conducted the ministry of St Peter for 27 years and now is to be raised to the altars of the Church in the glory of the Blessed and perhaps the Saints? It may be time for some prepared and competent person to write his biography, not only registering the facts of this extraordinary life but also reaching deeply beyond the thick, human aspect of this unique life and trying to show his spiritual profile. Some spectacular help could be the series of albums, being prepared by the Publishing House ‘Bialy Kruk’, a true opus magnum, presenting every year of the Pope’s life, giving penetrating commentaries and rich meaningful pictures that would illustrate the person of the Holy Father.
Editorial recording of the great pontificate
The above-mentioned albums do not only give insight into the spiritual profile of Pope John Paul II but are also valuable recordings of the plenteous activities of his 27 year old pontificate. Presented by such masters as the photographers Arturo Mari, Adam Bujak and Leszek Sosnowski, the art of the photographed people and events together with the suitable commentaries, let us penetrate the spiritual sphere of those events and their rapid course. The history of the great pontificate stops that great time in the voluminous work as if in a film frame. On the other hand, it creates the possibility to enter particular fragments and even single elements – returning to those solemn events that filled the long, diligent and great pontificate. Summing up, the Publishing House ‘Bialy Kruk’ deserves our sincere gratitude for its wonderful work about the Polish pontificate and its great efforts that the editors Leszek and Jolanta Sosnowski made, together with the reliable masterly accompaniment of Adam Bujak. This publishing house, prestigious on the Polish market, deserves a special gesture of gratitude. This should be the sale of the work about the history of the great pontificate, which brings such rich contents and can be admired for its imposing cover and beauty of the language. The beatification of our beloved Polish Pope should make this precious work desirable, especially in all ecclesiastical communities (major seminaries, monasteries, organisations) and in wealthier family libraries. This involves some costs because the careful publication of this serious and the beautiful enterprise must have required work and money. Nevertheless, this impressive work of the Publishing House ‘Bialy Kruk’, presenting the history of the Polish pontificate with such mastery and dedication, will enhance every family library and above all, it will be an occasion to return to those magnificent events that were the reasons for Poles’ holy pride and source of their deep joy.
Legacy of John Paul II
Pope John Paul II was a gigantic figure in another dimension. This dimension constitutes the doctrinal legacy he left. Apart from the countless sermons connected with his numerous apostolic journeys – his pilgrimages to Poland require a separate discussion – the rich output of the doctrine of John Paul II is enclosed in the documents of the Church, including encyclicals, exhortations, great letters and solemn speeches. What rich materials for theological reflections! But have those materials been used by the ecclesiastical centres of the Catholic theological thought in general and by the Polish centres in particular?… We learn from the old times that the Western theology showed certain mental reservation towards what came from the Polish Pope. Currently, it seems that the reservation is weakened. However, we, Polish theologians, should encourage people to make theological analyses of the magnificently rich doctrinal legacy of our great Countryman and convince them that this legacy contains layers that can and should be subjects for more theological exploration particularly today. It seems that the moment to answer the questions what the Polish theological centres have done to undertake this lovable task is coming. Perhaps we should make some national plan of research on the doctrinal output of the Polish Pope…
This has been already made easier because another meritorious publishing house ‘Wydawnictwo m’ prepared the monumental work ‘Dziela zebrane’ [Collected Works] of John Paul II, volumes I-XVI. Indeed, I am speechless to express the significance of this wonderful initiative as well as gratitude and admiration for this impressive realisation. But we cannot be satisfied with that. Since it is a valuable element of the theological workshop, a true pearl of every bigger library and in particular, the institutions connected with the person of the great Pole.
Expectations towards the organisations of the Church
The church organisations are important elements of the Polish life, which should be included in the preparations of the Polish Church for the future celebrations of John Paul II’s being raised to the altars. The main organisation is the Catholic Youth Association. Facing the crisis of contemporary youth and the need of their positive activation the perspective to revive this youth organisation could be a good occasion. The same should be said about the oasis movement that was so close to John Paul II’s heart. The culmination of the activities conducted by this meritorious youth movement fell on the beginning of the pontificate. The new stage of the memory about the person of the Polish Pope, which is the preparation for his beatification, should also become an occasion to some spurt of this wonderful, fully Polish church organisation, rooted in the dark period of communism in Poland and its fruitful struggle against it. The JP II generation is very strictly related to the oasis movement. Although it has no organisational frameworks it unites people of various age groups who were charmed by the figure of John Paul II and who are trying to apply the programme of the life he defined. One cannot omit the annual youth meetings, initiated by Fr Jan Gora, OP, and organised at the Lednica Lake. We know that John Paul II showed big sympathy for the charming initiator of these meetings and that’s why they should be real contributions in this key moment of preparations for the solemn act concerning their kind patron.
Pastoral dimension of the preparation for the beatification
The final significant dimension of the preparations for the definite act of the Holy See, concerning the raising of the Servant of God John Paul II to the altars, is the pastoral one. And here the activities should be urgent and numerous because this is the most effective influence on wide circles of believers in the Polish Church. Firstly, it is the matter of arousing again the believers’ awareness about those great days of the pilgrimages of John Paul II to his Homeland. There are recording of the sermons of the Holy Father. Certainly, his visits to the particular dioceses were recorded. It would be good to present them within the frameworks of services and to give fragments of his sermons. There must be other effective ways to reach the faithful and zealous priests could use them to encourage people in every possible way. This discussion is intended to be some kind of encouragement. Actually it is to show the significance of the event, which is the papal decree on the horoicity of the virtues of the Servant of God John Paul II and the conclusions resulting from the document for the Church from which the Pope came, assuming the legacy of St Peter. And the task of the Church, made privileged by the Divine Providence, will be to judge the accuracy of these conclusions.