WHAT DOES THE STRENGTH OF FAITH OF ONE MAN MEAN?
Prelate Priest Ireneusz Skubiś talks with Fr. Damian Karczmar OFMConv, a director of the Catholic Radio Niepokalanów, which on 12 May 2013 celebrates the 75th anniversary of its existence
FR. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ: - St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe – a man who devoted his whole life for a brother in the Oświęcim camp – he devoted his whole life to the evangelical idea. He had been realizing it through ‘Knight of the Immaculate’, but not only. We are just celebrating the 75th anniversary of establishing the Radio Niepokalanów. Could you present us with the ideas of Niepokalanów, which show media as an important factor of pastoral ministry, please?
FR. DAMIAN KARCZMAR OFMConv: - St. Maximilian devoted his life to preaching the Gospel. He knew that the very pulpit and the Church were not enough, that it was necessary to look for new ways to reach to the man and help him, so that he would not get lost in his life. Hence, among the others, the idea of printing Catholic newspapers. Before the war, a one-time circulation of the ‘Knight of the Immaculate’ was 1million of copies! Father Maximilian dreamt about the distribution of the ‘Knight’ in whole Poland, so that it would reach to the furthest parts of our Homeland. Therefore, the idea about the airport and brothers sent for a pilot training, to distribute the magazine by air as quickly as possible.
Father Maximilian did not stick only to it, but he saw how the new media – radio broadcasting was beginning its activity. In Poland the First Program of the Polish Republic had already existed. On 8 December 1938, Fr. Kolbe broadcast a trial radio program of the radio station Radio Niepokalanów. The building in which there is our radio today, is the same building which was erected at the back of the monastery before the war by Father Maximilian and his co-brothers, with the idea that this radio would develop. In his letters to friends and various people he wrote about strengthening of a signal, increasing the frequency so that the radio would be heard in whole Poland, and even all over the world and tell a man about God.
The idea of St. Maximilian was to be the greatest saint. He had the only desire: to gain the world for Christ through the Immaculate. He proclaimed it so and he did so through his whole life, with any possible means.
– It is necessary to have an idea for everything. The ‘Knight of the Immaculate’ was to strengthen the Polish religiousness, especially the religiousness of Mary. In 1935 Father Maximilian went to Berlin for Olympic games on purpose, in order to see what the TV beginnings were. How did others look at these ideas?
– Father Maximilian had a lot of ideas, thought about television, and even about flights into the space – his projects concerning space-crafts or space devices which could fly remained. He outdid his epoch a lot which was proved by the establishment of the radio, for example. Nobody thought about establishing radio stations at that time. The Radio Niepokalanów was the first private radio, founded by monks, and not in a big city, but in a village near Warsaw. At present Niepokalanów has its own make, is known all over the world, just thanks to St. Maximilian. Yes, it was a head full of ideas. In the times of Father Maximilian, 772 monks lived in Niepokalanów! The very organization of life among such a big group of people – their work, gaining food, providing a place for a prayer required really a perfect organization.
Today St. Maximilian is brought to the role of a martyr, which restricts this unusual personality. For us, the Franciscans from Niepokalanów, it was a prominent organizer, great initiator and executor.
– His deep faith in God and love to the Immaculate helped him in realization of these great ventures….
– Yes. If not had been for his faith, his crazy ideas - because so many people perceived his initiatives undertaken with great enthusiasm – would have never been fulfilled. For this reason, he is called a crazy man of Mary the Immaculate. His plans, especially in that epoch, were really crazy, but he had strength and determination from his faith and his devotion to Our Lady. He used to repeat: If the Immaculate wants…; It is for the Immaculate…; It is Her monastery…; If the Immaculate decides, it will be so. The strength which he had, entrusted to Our Lady. Not only did he tell Her about everything, but he asked Her about her opinion, he was looking an asylum in Her as well as solutions in many matters.
– Do we, as a nation which believes and belongs to Mary, and lives in Poland – have a chance to do great works comparable with the works of Father Maximilian?
– Surely, today St. Maximilian is an inspiration for us, his spirit and initiative can be personalized in the contemporary society. Only a few basic conditions must be fulfilled: We must want, like he wanted. We must look for God’s will in our life and try to fulfill it. And not only to look at St. Maximilian , but with him, look at the future with his eyes. As a director of the Radio Niepokalanów, which Father Kolbe founded 75 years ago, and which was reactivated just 18 years ago (1March 1995), I am trying to behave so. I constantly ask him to help me look with his eyes, think with his thoughts and feel with his heart.
– So, we need the contemporary people like Maximilian, the successors of Father Kolbe, especially in the place and in the works which he initiated. What perspectives does Father Director see for the work of Niepokalanów, for the work of evangelization?
– Today Niepokalanów has an important role to play in the work of evangelization, for example because of the very name of our Holy Father – Francis. The Pope somehow points to the Francis with his finger, to our tasks in the new evangelization. St. Maximilian is perfectly inscribed in these tasks, among the others, with the usage of the mass media, not only with a pulpit or a church. Once Father Kolbe noticed that we can build churches , but at a moment they may become empty. So, we must look for new ways to the man and new ideas to draw his attention to God. We are facing this task, as the successors of St. Maximilian, among the others, because of a monk’s frock, which we wear, a rule which is obliging for us and the religious order which unites us. We mustn’t allow for blurring what is the fundament of the Church. The world would like the Church to adjust itself to its rules, values and the world. Well, it mustn’t be like that, rules and values which have been in the Church for over 2 thousand years, are unchangeable. And these are not archaic shackles which restrict the human freedom, but they help the man to live well, noting that my freedom finishes where the freedom of another man starts.
– Anyway, it is an interesting triad: the first Pope, whose name is Francis, St. Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan Father Maximilian – they all face up to the same problem: evangelization. It is being faced up by the Pope, it was faced up by St. Francis of Assisi, who was not only God’s challenge for his times, but he also met with Islam, with what we are facing today in a very violent way in Europe and in the world and Father Maximilian, who was a missionary in a far Japan, apart from his unusual talent for ventures.
– St. Maximilian is not only a manager, a creator so the holiest monastery, an entrepreneur and an editor. He is, first of all, a missionary. The basic purpose of his life was preaching the Gospel. And he did it similarly as St. Francis, who with his religious brother went through a town, in order to preach a sermon. When they got to the end of the town, the brother asks: Francis, when will we say something? ‘We have already said, while going through this town – said Francis. Today we need the witnesses of faith in various places and environments. It is our basic fight which we must undertake, by showing through our life that it is possible to be a happy man and live with the Christian teaching.
– What does the phrase: ‘to be a witness of faith’ mean for those whose name is Francis?
– It concerns the fact that a man who authentically believes in Jesus Christ, would express it with his deeds, not only say that he believes. We often hear the opinion: I am a believer but not the practicing one; Christ – yes, the Church – no. There are differentiations. Whereas, it is not so, because if I believe, my faith is seen in my deeds, gestures, decisions and choices. Many saints showed, often living in more difficult times like Father Maximilian during the Second World War, in the Auschwitz camp – that a man cannot give way, but he should live with the Gospel all the time, stand up for victims, should not agree with injustice. The attitude of Father Maximilian was clear and pure. Someone said once that the life of a Christian should be finished with a dot, not a question mark. So, every sentence pronounced by us, every gesture should be clear and mean a man of faith, that is, one, who lives with it every day.
– Pope Francis said to journalists: I want the poor Church for the poor. What does it mean?
– Here we must refer to the birth of Jesus Christ. He does not come onto the world in an inaccessible palace but he is born in a poor stable so that everybody would have an access to Him. And kings, wise men, as well as shepherds, an ordinary people are coming to Him. Today we need this kind of the Church: the open Church which has its rules and stands on its defined and definite position, but is clear and open to everybody. It concerns the fact that we should not close ourselves up to a kind of groups and communities, so that both a rich and a poor man could come to us, as well as somebody who is a believer and non-believer, so that we could find time for every man. Today time is the most important – not money, material things or buildings. Time is a wealth. The Church must have time for another man, so as to listen to him, talk to him, and not to be lenient, but only indicate him a way clearly, which he should take, without any compromise. Jesus Christ did not go on any compromises.
The poor Church is not an encouragement to get rid of everything which is the possession of the Church as a community in the world: churches, building, etc. Indeed, we are not running an activity of various kinds. If he got rid of it, we would destroy many God’s works. Certainly, we must still look for, care about and ask for help – like St. Maximilian – in order to fulfill the evangelical mission.
When I studied the management of organizations which were organized by the Polish Episcopate, a secular lecturer, who did not declare himself as a believer, emphasized: evangelism, the Church must have money. Because in today’s world it is impossible to function without material facilities – it is impossible to create a newspaper, radio and in the churches there should be electricity, windows, benches – everything needs financial means. And if the Church collects some means, they are just for this purpose. We should also remember that the Church in Poland sends a lot of missionaries abroad, we support missions, we help a man in the African bush, the victims of natural disasters, etc.
– On the occasion of the jubilee of 75 years of the existence of the Radio NIepokalanów, we express the Team the best congratulations. We believe that having an example in the person of St. Maximilian and the management of Father Director, the radio will develop more and more beautifully to the glory of God through the Immaculate and for the welfare of people.