LOVE THE CHURCH
Fr. Zbigniew Suchy talks with archbishop Józef Michalik – the metropolitan of Przemyśl, the chairman of the Polish Episcopal Conference
FR. ZBIGNIEW SUCHY: - Archbishop, recently in the weekly ‘Do Rzeczy’ a text was published in which Archbishop states that the Catholics are not citizens of the inferior category. Observation of the reality, especially the stream of attacks coming from mass media causes a situation that many Catholics feel people of the inferior category, and even are embarrassed to admit to their Catholicism…
ARCHBISHOP JÓZEF MICHALIK: - ‘Because I was persecuted, then you will also be persecuted’ – said Jesus (J 15.20) an, therefore, we are not surprised by the attacks on the Church, in which all those who were baptised and all believers identify themselves with one another. It would be bad if we expected outer privileges for our faith. Faith itself is already a privilege, God’s gift which helps us see the whole reality deeper and in a different way, and, first of all, it is a road to meet God here, on the Earth and in Heaven. Attacks on the Church are a fact today. We must ask whether they are right – if so, we must improve our behaviour because if we are being attacked for the fact that we are defending God’s law or the natural law, or because we are proclaiming the evangelical message of Jesus, then these attacks confirm the fact that we are on a right path, because we are ‘a sign to which many people will oppose to’ (Lucas 2.34). I maintain my opinion from that article and I want to state it again although in the eyes of people hostile to Christ we are people of the inferior category and we must put up with slanders, we have a right to be proud of being His disciples. We are still being forced to believe in our ‘inferiority’ and this, unfortunately, may bring some fruits. Some Christians are indeed withdrawing into the sphere of privacy and, forgetting about the essence of the Church, are ashamed of it.
Methods of discouraging from faith are not new. We read in the First Maccabees Book, that king Antioch forbade the Jews the cult, ordered them to destroy places of prayer and imposed only a compulsory pagan model of behaviour on everybody. As we read in the first chapter: ‘Among nations, many of them joined the Jews (practising idolatry – J.M.) – all of them who went away from law. They did much evil in the country and were the cause for the Israelis had to hide in places accessible only for refugees’. (1 Maccabees Book 1.52-53). In this dramatic situation ‘many of the Israelis, however, decided to maintain this resolution and that they would not eat unclean meals. They preferred to die than get disgrace themselves with food and defile the Holy Covenant. They also gave their life’. (see 62-63). Today there is a need to rebuild self-consciousness of belonging to the Church in each of us. It is all about clear, outer rejection of appearing weaknesses about which media speak so loudly. There is a need to love the Church with lively, clear faith, because the Church is a mystical body of Christ. The Holy Father Francis said about it in a beautiful way in the headquarter of archbishop of Rio de Janeiro during a meeting with the Episcopate of Brazil. He referred to the miraculous finding the figure of Our Lady in Aparecida: after an unsuccessful fishing, a few fishermen (which, as the Holy Father notes, was not successful because they had worn-out boats and torn nets), are extracting pieces of the figure after the last dipping their net. They are taking the pulled out pieces with them and – as the Pope says in a beautiful metaphor – ‘they are covering this mysterious Virgin with a poor coat of their faith. They are calling neighbours to see the found beauty. They are gathering around the figure; they are telling others about their suffering in Her presence and are entrusting Her their matters. (…)This attitude of the fishermen can teach us a lot about the Church’. Sometimes our life is an unsuccessful work of fishing our dreams, plans. Time after time, a pulled out net of hope turns out to be empty. And also we have worn-out boats, torn nets – all this is the fruit of a sin and our weaknesses, but we are discovering the beauty of the Church.
In the quoted text by Editor, I mentioned that Catholic laymen should be engaged in the activity of honest associations, groups, non-governmental organizations and work of political parties. This engagement should be inscribed in simple behaviours about which the Pope says:
Cover the mystery of the Church with a poor coat of your faith.
Our faith is weak, but sacraments are powerful which treat this weakness. It is painful that we ignore the sacrifice of Christ’s death through which sacraments of the Church appeared. It is worth for us developing the attitude of the man, about whom I once said and who, asked by a journalist what he appreciated in Poland the most, said: the Church.
2. Gather your relatives, families around the Church and tell them about the beauty of the Church.
After all, we were discovering the greatness of the Church and our happiness of belonging to this community, thanks to the stories and the shade of the Church, under care of our grandparents and parents.
3. Entrust your matter to the Church.
All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day which we have recently celebrated show how many deceased about whom many people forgot, are still remembered by the Church. The Church will also remember about us after many years when we and our relatives pass onto another side.
First of all, we must remember that we all, belonging to the Church are standing on a strong fundament of Divine Wisdom, we have signposts which are flawless – if we can accept them seriously.
– It is very beautiful but statistics show that it is getting worse.
– Successes of the Church are not measured by statistics or a number force of attacks. Christ was dying in loneliness. One converted sinner, one honest confession is a bigger success of the Church than a won war.
I will refer to the event which Priest described recently in the edition of ‘Niedziela’ in Przemyśl. Let’s tell about it more broadly because it shows the lack of this invigorating stream from those whose mission is informing people about the whole spectrum of events with which the society lives. When we were celebrating Eucharist on the occasion of the 9th anniversary of death of the great bishop Stefan Moskwa, a cameraman came to the sacristy asking: ‘Will Bishop have anything to give to us?’. I answered that I would not preach a homily. The video camera was put away aside. Just before a sermon another cameraman came again but when he noticed that a professor was standing behind a pulpit thought that words of Priest Professor were not worthy the video camera. Next day I was consecrating the church in Nienadowa. A small village parish church and really worth noticing. The cameraman appeared again but he did not ask for permission any more. These are evident attempts to be set, catch some lapses, take a sentence out of the context, so that to wind up a spiral of mistakes and misfortunes of the Church. I had to change a sermon in order to meet the revealed requirement and say that also Jesus had been caught on his words, that Fr. Popiełuszko had been murdered, by known culprits because he had defended workers, unmask hypocrisy, proclaimed the truth and encouraged not to take a revenge with the same weapon, but to win the evil with the good.
– I think that we must also add people’s tiredness to it, which is consciously provoked by the government.
– Yes, it is also truth. Speaking about passivity of the Christians is a lie. Please note that nearly a million of signatures were collected in support of a referendum about abolishing a compulsory education for six-years-olds. In the Sejm there was a debate which was attended also by mothers with their children, as signatories of the appeal. However, voting did not take place, because the governing party was not sure if the voting would be favourable to it. Therefore, the voting was postponed by two weeks and, now, statistics are being arranged in a way so as to annihilate the whole effort of people who had collected the signatures, being sure about the great significance of the matter, and what is more – in order to deprive them of the right which is guaranteed to them by the constitution, in which we read that it is the family which is the first educator of children. Is it democracy which we mean? Words of the prime minister were odd when he said that he respected the signatures and the whole initiative, but he believed that it would be better in this way. Isn’t it similar to totalitarianism? Nobility of the Christians also is also revealed in organizing an action of collecting signatures against eugenic abortion in the European Union and there were over a million of them collected. These are only some initiatives which are mentioned in media. The rest of them are stifled. The issue of abuses of three or four priests became a substitute subject because editors of glossy magazines do not want to speak about unemployment and sold cement plants, steel works and shipyards. TV stations also keep silent about corruption and bureaucracy devouring any economic initiatives. Allegedly prominent editors do not care about death rate in Poland, or moral degradation of the society, or failure of the education reform. Is it the concern about Poland?
– What is Archbishop’s attitude towards the attempt of making it impossible for the Television Trwam to enter the digital multiplex?
– It is another example of the country living in its own way. Millions of people in marches of solidarity with the Television Trwam enforced something which should automatically belong to them, because they pay taxes, keeping the country. The Sejm and the government. Paper will accept everything. The law exists but millions of people cannot use this law, because the time of entering the multiplex by the Television Trwam is not known. It is completely odd – the television station uses contributions of its listeners to pay the National Broadcasting Council 1.2 million zlotys for something which it does not have. It is truly banana-like republic. Bishops want this station to have a wide range because thanks to the Television Trwam there is a possibility to show the lifespan of the Church. There are talks a few times with prominent experts on important social and political issues a week, viewers are also invited to various places from which the Holy Mass and various ceremonies are broadcast. Somebody is afraid of the fact that if people see how beautiful Church is and how many useful initiatives are undertaken for the sake of the common welfare. I hope that the Television Trwam will improve and broaden its program, and protests appearing again, and demanding the existence of the Television Trwam, will finally lead to a positive end. Here I have a radical observation: somebody really wants the social fester and dividing people. However, this person is playing with fire.
– What other signs of the lifespan of the Church make Archbishop pleased and what kinds of the signs does Excellency dream about?
– I have always been pleased with religious associations and groups which are lively power of every diocese and the whole Church. This common formation makes people more courageous in smaller or bigger groups. Thanks to it they are aware of the fact that their way of thinking is not separate and they find it easier to oppose to superficial popular opinions in a professional way. In the sphere of dreams and plans there is still the lifespan of the Liturgical Service of the Altar. I would like to make an appeal to parents, so that, without restriction of various hobbies of their children, they would have their reasonable attitude towards the extra lessons of their children; so that they would be aware that the man is not only the body, but also the spirit. Oasis movement, the Movement of Apostolate of the Youth, the Catholic Association of the Youth, scouting, Neo-catechumenate, focolarini, finally the Liturgical Service of the Altar or Marian groups of girls – these are important elements of this love to the Church about which I have already said, quoting the words of pope Francis. I also expect, what is just happening anyway, to make Christians more active in situations when there are attempts to depreciate the Church. Like the last event: to the request of the parliamentarian club Your Movement the National Education Ministry ordered the Board of Educationto collect information about pedophilia cases or sexual harassment of the underage by priests and catechists. Are there only priests and catechists at schools? Aren’t there any dangers also from others, among whom, as statistics show, there are also people of pedophilia tendencies? This message is a clear leftist attack which wants to suggest the fact that only priests and catechists can be pathological individuals. However, judicial statistics say something completely different. Politicians of this political party do not surely want children’s good.
The forthcoming pastoral year, which we are going to experience under the motto: ‘I believe in God’s Son. Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ. Through faith and baptism to the testimony’, many new pastoral initiatives will surely appear, and the courage of the testimony, in which I deeply believe, will enliven the Church, which hellish gate will not prevail against’. (see Mt. 16.18).