The Catholic voice in your home
Rev. Msgr Ireneusz Skubis talks to Fr Tadeusz Rydzyk, CSsR, Director of Radio Maryja.
FR IRENEUSZ SKUBIS: - 15 years ago you began your work in humble conditions. Today Radio Maryja and your other enterprises have assumed large dimensions and are very important to the Church in Poland. The Radio is a sign of opposition. The media you have created proclaim the message, which is today important to the lives of millions. Can you sometimes experience fear of the great responsibility you bear?
FR TADEUSZ RYDZYK: - I fear all the time but I am not afraid. Since prayer accompanies all the works. We get to know the real situation, we ask the Most Blessed Virgin for council and help and we also ask wise people of the Church.
- Fortunately, you are not alone. The Redemptorist Fathers support you.
- Not only them, we are in the Church, we are in Poland. We speak the same language. Many bishops, priests, big numbers of people, who are very competent, support us. I am not alone. We could do nothing by ourselves. We try to listen to others, we try to ask.
- And perhaps this is the strength of Radio Maryja...
- First of all, we listen to the Church, what the Church says.
- Where does its strength come from?
- I can see two vectors. The first one is God's grace and the second is people, the nation.
- Who are the listeners of Radio Maryja? How can you characterise its listeners?
- What is presented in various media, especially the liberal ones, does not reflect the reality, including the number of our listeners. This is taking the data out of a hat or pure guesswork. First of all, our listeners are people who want to listen to our radio. There are old people, but also middle-aged people; there are young people and children, too. We know that on the basis of the letters sent to us. I am glad that our fellow citizens all over the world listen to our radio. They show us their sympathy, for example certain Italian who, with his 20-year-old sister, learnt Polish out of love for Pope John Paul II, has been listening to our radio for eight years. One Dutch priest wrote to me, in Polish, that he wanted to give up his priesthood but certain Polish family in Holland helped him and invited him to Poland. He saw Czestochowa. He bought manuals to learn Polish and he learnt it. That made me very happy, that a man who was broken down writes to me at the end of his letter, 'Please do not break down. What you do is meaningful, go on doing this'. Various people listen to our radio; there are millions; believers and unbelievers, people who are not connected with any ideology. And the former communists also listen to our radio. I even know their names.
- Do you feel as the father of this family?
- No, I do not. But I feel I am in the family. Radio Maryja unites. This is what we read in the Acts 'one spirit, one heart and soul' (4:32). We are like the disciples with Mary, we are in the Church and we are the Church. Social communications make our contacts easy so that we can reach 'communio'. Thanks to our radio many people experience communion and do not feel isolated. When I meet the listeners of Radio Maryja, wherever in Poland or in the world, in villages and cities, meetings with the intelligentsia or farmers, workers or students, young people and children, they all feel one big family. They even smile alike. We have common language wherever we are. The radio makes 'communio' easy and it leads us to communion with Christ and to the community of the faithful. The unity of all those who serve in Radio Maryja and other works is another miracle. We have different experiences, personalities but we are united for the cause. Radio Maryja is one big miracle. I feel like observing a miracle. I say to myself, 'God, you have surprised me again!' As far as I know all the circumstances the Radio should not have existed. There were no finances, permissions, simply nothing. And we always lack things. Nevertheless, the Radio exists and develops. Many a time they are fears concerning the future but I say to myself, 'Trust, it is called Maryja, and not Tadeusz'.
- But there are also opponents. Where do they come from?
- I think that they do not agree with what they hear. At the same time, they feel some threat to the present day monopoly to form public opinion according to their directions. We have played a different tune, different from the orchestras in which all people speak the same. Media were restricted to promote certain system of values in order to control people and to rule more easily. That was the case under the communist regime and the same can be applied to the liberal one. Media form people's opinions and thinking the way their opponents want and this is done for money. In turn, those who have money can have media and power. This is some closed triangle. But out of a sudden, a radio station has appeared and it courageously opposes the opinions, and hence it is a treat to them.
- Radio Maryja defends certain values, shows Christian vision of man's destiny and the others prey on human weaknesses. No wonder, they attack.
- We have always applied the teaching of the Church. Lord Jesus said, 'Go and make disciples of all nations' (cf. Matthew 28:19). We have the Catechism of the Catholic Church; we have the papal teaching, the bishops' teachings, which do not only concern theological-religious subjects but also social issues. Some would want us to pray and not to discuss the topics that are important to our community. But it is to be 'ora, labora et stude'. These three elements are needed; the commandment of love is the commandment of love of God and neighbour. We must deal with God's and human matters, and we must lead people to God. The Church tells us, 'Do not be blind, have your eyes wide open, examine, study the reality through your own glasses and not someone's else. And this irritates those who would like to impose their points of view.
- Undoubtedly, the Redemptorist Fathers want to build a definite national and ecclesiastical identity through the radio and other social communications. What are the main guidelines of this structure?
- The Church in Poland is in a concrete cultural and geopolitical situation. For long it has had its own national and ecclesiastical identity. It is enough to observe the present and the past. I think, and many people support me, that we should not reject or thoroughly modify the identity. We should rather try not to lose anything, and at the most contribute to this great treasure.
- Who was John Paul II for you and who is Benedict XVI?
- John Paul II was most of all Peter of our times and furthermore, he was the greatest Pole. Of course, I can say I always loved John Paul II. I was happy to see him. I met him as Cardinal Karol Wojtyla. I was impressed by his personality, his way of looking at people as well as his words. And later when he became Pope. Had he not become Pope Radio Maryja would not exist. I met John Paul II many times. During the meetings I did not always have the chance to talk to him personally but there were some occasions we talked. The longest talk lasted two hours. He asked many times, 'What is happening to Radio Maryja?' And he said one or several sentences and strengthened us. I know that he was not only in favour of Radio Maryja but also encourage us to continue. I remember him asking several times, 'And when will you start television?' I did not speak about that since I was so much attacked those days.
- What would you say to those who envy you the multitudes whose hearts are directed to God and the Church by Radio Maryja?
- Let each person serve people as he can. There are almost 40 million people in Poland and perhaps some 20 million Polish immigrants all over the world. We face a great task: to strengthen all people in faith and love for their Homeland. One can reach children, another can reach the youth and others can reach adults, the old, the intelligentsia or those who like music or sport. In the field of evangelisation we need various forms to reach all people. We need local radio stations, and being present in the offer of the cable television, and in the Internet. There is room for Catholic weeklies and dailies. All people should mobilise and support one another, especially in the Church. We should support each person who does good and we should be happy when he succeeds. I admire wonderful evangelisers who reach people using various means. Let us rejoice and support one another. My dream is that all Poland showed solidarity in good, that it were Marian and God's.
- Does your 15-year-old endurance in the front line make you tired because of various hardships, tensions? And can you listen to Jesus' words, 'rest for a while' (Mark 6:31)?
- I am dreaming of a longer rest, of good gymnastics. I rejoice when I can use my 'bike' for 10-15 minutes in my room. I often go to 'a lonely place' to pray and meditate. And if I have not got such a place I close my room and sit there. A chapel is over my room. I say, 'Lord Jesus, you are here, over me, in the Blessed Sacrament...' Sometimes I go away for a few days so that nobody can see and hear me. I advise everyone to do that. Our Redemptorists' constitutions say that we should have one day of meditation every month, apart from eight days in a year. I try to apply it and I try to be alone. If I cannot do so I pray silently going in the car, I do not listen to anything. Or when I am on the plane. How much time I have then, for example 10 hours of flight or even longer! I am by myself, I can read and pray. And when I go to bed I often say, 'Mary, take everything in your hands, take me. I give all things to you. And give me a peaceful sleep since if I do not sleep enough I can get nervous'. Moreover, I try to be with other Redemptorists, discuss all matters with them. And I also try to be with nuns and our lay collaborators. We organise days of reflection and we talk. We use the birthdays of our lay and religious collaborators to pray together during Holy Mass and then to have coffee and discuss all issues that concern us. We also organise days of reflection for all our lay collaborators and I value these days very much. We invite our collaborators once a month. And during these meetings we have three important moments: with Mary, with the Church, with Christ. With Mary ( we pray the Rosary before the Blessed Sacrament mentioning the intentions of the Church, the Homeland, praying for blessing for various works and people to whom the Lord sends us. With the Church ( every month we try to study some fragment of a papal document. After reading it at home we discuss it in groups, sharing what struck us most. This part lasts about one hour and half. I did not even suppose that people could share such wonderful reflections, which could enrich all of us. With Christ ( Holy Mass lasts at least one hour, sometimes longer. And then we have lunch and those who can stay longer for discussion. The programme lasts about 6-7 hours.
- This information is valuable to see how you work. We seldom hear about it. And what do you enjoy?
- I enjoy all things when I can see good happening anywhere, when I meet people who think of good, truth and beauty, who assume responsibility for the Church, for the Homeland.
- Apart from Radio Maryja you have succeeded to start another enterprise Television Trwam. Where does the name come from? What is your aim?
- Television has a different impact than the radio. It is much stronger. Certainly, it will not replace the radio and it will not replace the Internet or the written word: books, newspapers, weeklies, and monthlies. The concentration of sound, picture and word increases the impact. We began television programmes based on the Christian view because Poland lacked such programmes. Lay media have controlled the market. So we began with nothing. If we had not begun then we would have lost the licence. I said 'We are starting! We will make mistakes but we must start. If we do not begin our licence will expire.' As for the Catholic media there is some tragic misunderstanding. How can this happen that such a strong Church, with over 20,000 diocesan and religious priests, and a similar number of nuns, with Catholic universities and seminars, does not possess her own media? But a group of people who has the media and money manipulates the whole nation...
How many works did Saint Maximilian Kolbe or Fr Ignacy Klopotowski initiate in the poor pre-war Poland? And were we, with our technological possibilities and the Polish Pope, during the constitutional changes in Poland: getting rid of communism, totalitarism, not guilty of neglect?
I am very glad that there is 'Niedziela', a clearly Catholic and Polish paper. It goes neither to the left nor to the right; it goes normally without pleasing liberal trends. But this is not much. I know that strong groups having big capital would like to neutralise the impact of the Church under the pretext of helping the church media. We must protect Catholic radios against such attempts. The same concerns television. I am very much afraid of people who give money but not for free. I assumed that as the Church was run by the means of the faithful independent media should do the same. Freedom depends on one's own means. Homeland depends on the land it has. Evangelisation cannot depend on those who give money and will impose their own conditions and say how much Catholic the media can be. Why Television Trwam? Firstly, it originates from Radio Maryja. We began computer animations: Television + Radio Maryja and we had TRWAM [I persist], which means I am, I remember, I am on guard. Lord Jesus said, 'Make your home in me as I made mine in you. I am the vine, you are the branches' (cf John 15:4-5). Do you want to remain in Christ and be in him? Remain in what Poland has remained since its beginnings, in our Christian culture. We should not lose our roots! But in order to do it we need means, tools. To broadcast we need proper tools and people, witnesses of Christ who would use the tools. And we need finances for that. I thank all those who understand that and support our works.
- Some of our readers write reproachfully that we do not publish the programme of Television Trwam. The problem is that we must have it in advance. Would it be possible?
- It often happens that only two or three days before broadcasting we know what concrete programmes we have. We could give our programme format but that will not help. Readers want to know the exact subject of the given programme. Our television cannot do that since life brings something new and we must make changes. We will try to help it. But now we are thankful for your kindness.
- Your next enterprise is the College of Social and Media Culture. What are the objectives of the school; who are its students and lecturers?
- When we started the radio I thought that we had to be better and better. And here we have only amateurs. So we started one-year study programme for journalists, only for us. Then there was the idea to develop it and start a college. Bishop Adam Lepa, who was President of the Commission for the Means of Social Communication, supported our project, saying it was a free gift for the Church in Poland. We announced that whoever wanted could come. Various people from all over Poland came, about 190 people. And every year new people come. Some 150 people have graduated. Four of them closely collaborate with us. We are looking for competent lecturers, those whose behaviour is moral. We are looking for people who are witnesses of the truth they speak about. We want them to be righteous, faithful to the Church and the nation and not to be epigones of totalitarism or lovers of liberalism and libertinism. We need witnesses of Christ everywhere, and we do not need hired hands. We will gradually open new fields of studies. But that requires big financial means. Nowadays we have journalism, political science and computer sciences as well as postgraduate diplomatic studies and EU fund raising.
- 'Nasz Dziennik' is also your work...
- Not mine but the work of God and of wonderful people. I was only an instrument. The beginnings were humble. I told those who graduated from journalism, 'Start a newspaper'. And our daily started three years later. It began with nothing and it has been published for nine years now, thanks to God's grace, the courageous editor-in-chief Ewa Solowiej and many magnificent collaborators. This is how it all began. Today 'Nasz Dziennik' has a big circulation. Its graphic form is not grand but it tries to write good articles with very good contents.
- We wish you the graces you need, through the intercession of Mary Queen of Poland, constant help of all who proclaim the Gospel of her Son and who fill our national jars with water, trusting that Christ would turn it into wine.
The history of Radio Maryja was not easy. From its beginning the radio met unprecedented aversion of the journalists. Provocations, calumnies and common lies ( these were the tools to destroy the credibility of the radio station. Fr Tadeusz Rydzyk recollects his attempts to get the licence, 'I took a picture of Our Lady of Czestochowa and went to the Polish National Broadcasting Council. And I must say that till the last moment it was a fight not to take this picture. The discussion was so heated that one of the Redemptorist fathers addressed me, 'Perhaps you should leave it, do not go with this picture... I do not know if Primate Wyszynski would have gone... I told him, 'You know I am not Primate Wyszynski, I can make mistakes. And I decided to go. This is her radio ( let her win! I came into the room packed with journalists. Their number was astonishing. A special commission of experts, the Council on the left and I ( alone, for the first time in such an environment (...) There were at least 50 journalists, or maybe more, and various television stations. I was to take out this picture when they introduced me and then I was to say something, but I changed my mind. I said, 'Mother of God, rescue me, today, now, I implore you... And I opened my case. Nobody approached me so I asked, 'Come, help me!' When I took out the picture all the gathered people were surprised but I did not notice any gesture of aversion. I was astonished and I would say all waited what would happen. After several weeks one of the journalists came to me and said, 'Father, I was shocked then. The previous day Radio RMF put a big dragon at this very spot. I saw this picture and thought, 'She will crush this serpent. I was sure of that'.
Radio Maryja is the biggest Catholic station in Poland. About 12 % of Poles listen to Radio Maryja (CBOS opinion poll in 2003), which means four million listeners. More people listen to it from time to time. One must notice that the polls do not embrace listeners abroad; via the satellite Radio Maryja reaches almost every corner of the world where Polish immigrants live. Radio Maryja is also one of the most opinion-forming stations in the country; it is quoted by other media.
Characteristics of the programme
The axis of Radio Maryja programme format is prayer. The programme begins at 6.00, with the Angelus. Then there is the morning prayer of the Church since the breviary prayer strikes the rhythm of the programme broadcast from Torun. During the day there is transmission of Holy Mass, Rosary, Prayers to Immaculate Virgin Mary, Divine Mercy Chaplet and Jasna Gora Appeal. One can deepen his religious formation through catechesis. People can also ask for doctor's advice, ecological councils, etc. Listeners of Radio Maryja form the Family of Radio Maryja. They get support and seek help in their problems. Some programmes are devoted to mutual support. Some can meet the needs of those who ask. Information and feature programmes are the strong points of the Radio and its leading programme is 'Unfinished talks', in which the speakers are scientists, politicians, columnists and clergy.