IT IS NECESSARY TO START FROM A PARISH
Fr. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ
The 80s of the last century was the time when hope was domineering in Poles’ hearts. Communism was still very strong and dangerous at that time, and was armed with functionaries of the Security Office, but feeling powerful hope, the fright was not so big for us as it seemed. I remember a functionary from the Security Service who was walking along the alleys of the Blessed Mary the Virgin in Częstochowa, looking around. As it turned out, he was looking for his victim. When he was passing by me, he noted: ‘Today we have already finished with one like you’. That was their purpose: finish, destroy and enjoy their achievement. It was a terrible ‘educational’ feature of that system: humiliate and make somebody with a different worldview suffer. And there were awards for it.
Today we are looking at our social life which – whether we want it or not –is connected with the political life. Politics is a great thing, and was defined by Aristotle as the clearest one, as an art of ruling a country whose aim is the common wealth. In order to realize this purpose well, great people are necessary, who work mainly on their character and take care of chastity of their conscience. If a politician does not care about his conscience, he will be very similar to a functionary from the Security Office, who wants to destroy another man through his action. And it seems nowadays that it is easier to destroy another man, doing it by using media, which is a kind of a lynching, self-judgment, often having nothing in common with justice or honesty. Unfortunately, today this method is used against the Church, priests, and even bishops. Let’s notice that from time to time, microphones sound together as for the command, pens and computers are used in the attack. It was in the case of problems with the Property Commission, where the Church was slandered about greediness and its intention to get rich at once, as it was in the case of the conflict of a priest with the Warsaw Curia or as it is now, when the Church is being accused of pedophilia.
And does the Catholic society think about it? Well, it stops thinking in a Catholic way and allows for being involved into continuous hatred against the Church which results in the appearing of political groups, whose ideological base is the fight against the Church. Improbable? Indeed it is so. But it is astonishing why there is so much hatred towards priest and the Church, who is the culprit of the anti-church press, who finances anti-clerical guru. After all, this hatred does not appear from itself. Indeed, the situation is weird. On the one hand, people go to the church more numerously than in countries of the Western Europe, but on the other hand – they allow for manipulating them with, among the others, the texts of Urban in the magazine ‘No’, or texts of an ex-priest from ‘Facts and Myths’. Once I thought that these titles will not survive because of their character, but it turns out that hatred is so contagious that it can cause successes of political parties and politics. An example can be the group of Janusz Palikot. A similar situation is with the Democratic Left Alliance – a political group which continues ideas supporting the activity of the Polish People’s Republic, although we witnessed the collapse of the system.
Hence, there is the question which should be asked by the Church in Poland and which should become the subject of sociologists’ or social psychologists’ studies: what is the justification for the fact of hatred towards priests and the Church? There are so many believers who receive holy sacraments, participate in Holy Masses, religious meetings, believers prepare their churches for bishops’ visits so beautifully, and they are waiting for the meetings with their priests, but the reality is so cruel…
So, on what the Church can build the Christian social consciousness? I think that it is necessary to start with the bases, that is, with the local Church, that is, a parish. In the local area there is a biggest knowledge of needs and possibilities. After all, a parish has its representatives in communes, there is a lot of knowledge about how a school, health centre function, what the problem of poor people and of unemployment looks like. These social dilemmas are present in the life of every parish or a commune, and a skill of solving them in a community is realizing a good policy in a mini version. It is impossible to run the social life of a commune without considering the activity of a parish. Here it is all about not only Christian upbringing and protecting spiritual needs of people but also about particular auxiliary activity done, for example, by Caritas of a parish. These communes must notice hungry, undernourished children who are harmed, they cannot ignore an elderly man whom nobody helps, who is suffering from poverty, hunger or illness, they cannot be indifferent to families living in poverty. For, there is not always money, but only a pure will and occasional help from a parish are enough.
We are sometimes surprised by speeches of the Holy Father Francis who is interested in life of particular believers like a parish priest and he is also the pope who is looking at life from a different perspective. But he is a prophet for today’s times and he shows us the Church in his basic and very ordinary dimension: needs of particular people and a particular group. Surely, this form of the Church grasps the heart and favours building the Christian social consciousness which might have been disrupted or does not exist.
So, if a priest follows God’s wisdom, good will and social discernment, he can build a good parish council, a team of organized people, for example, for the Caritas in the parish or other formations in the parish. However, believers must always know that the purpose of the action of a priest is religious, supernatural. Because it is impossible to build social life without God. If we build our social life – and our all actions – on love of God and our neighbour and feed one another with the common prayer, constant reference to Christ, read Catholic newspapers and search for the truth – we must be successful. I have a good example of the parish of St. Nicolas in Gomulin, about which I have often written, where wisdom of the priest cooperating with the school and other institutions on the area of the parish and convincing parishioners of the value of regular reading ‘Niedziela’ give beautiful fruits even after the death of the charismatic parish priest – prelate priest Marian Wiewiórowski. The parish is perfectly functioning with the help of the new priest who is Fr. Jan Cholewa now, and who quietly entered the reality built by his predecessor. He did not destroy the reality but is continuing it and he won together with his parish community as well as the idea of the Christian solidarity has been maintained. Luckily there are many examples like that, which build not only the local or diocesan Church, but also the universal Church. There are many lively and dynamic parishes in which there is always something happening and which are effective in solving difficult local issues. And this is a social activity which can build the Catholic consciousness for which we should strive.
So, when today we are experiencing a danger from atheists and fighting anti-religious activists, we should be together as the Catholics. The Catholic press really does a lot of good: it explains social phenomena in a clear way, suggests various pastoral actions, advises and supports. In the period of parliamentary and local elections parish groups should elect wise, noble people, prepared for good organizing social life. The probability that they will disappoint or get entangled in corruption is low then. These are particular possibilities of the Christian realising social tasks. Whereas our society has many good ideas which are visible in their parish activity. And today such groups should gather together, perceiving problems of not only a parish but also a commune where they live, and even of the whole society. Parish priests should also join this kind of activity, help people look at important social matters in a Christian way. Then everybody would notice how beautifully the Church can support the common wealth, especially at the times when there is so much harm and poverty.
As I said, the Catholic press can play a great role in forming the social and political consciousness, among the others, ‘Niedziela’. The authors of its texts are often the representatives of politics and social life who show its good and bad sides and are critical towards what is happening in Poland. The purpose of ‘Niedziela’, however, is not raising unfriendliness to anybody, but showing the bad sides of our social life and repairing them. If this life is full of a bad will and lack of love to homeland, if actions of politicians involve some atheistic intentions, we have to help the society realise it. So, the Catholic press raises the social consciousness and gives knowledge. We do not work under any political or financial groups. We are poor but independent, we want to build Poland in the basis of real values, on what is good for homeland and for our future. Thanks to the Catholic press we can build the Christian solidarity in a better way, that is, act according to the evangelical principle: ‘Carry the burden of one another’s’ (Ga 6.2). Thanks to the Catholic press we can have a real picture of the Polish reality.
So, the Church should not be an object of hatred but it deserves respect. It has always helped homeland, it was with it at every time, and its great representatives have always said that they love Poland more than themselves. And we should remember about it.