A FULFILLED LIFE OF THE SAINT’S MOTHER
When she was sitting in green pyjamas on a hospital bed, in fact it was not visible that she was ill. Being conscious of what was happening till the very end. She passed away – how symbolically: on the nineteenth of November. And the nineteenth of November – is the day of the martyr death of her son, Fr. Jerzy.
Among all meeting with Marianna Popiełuszko, I have remember the first one the best, many years ago, in her house in Okopy in Białostocczyzna. She was pouring milk into containers outside. When she saw me, she stopped working, brewed tea, brought a yeast cake she had baked herself and started talking, just like that: she said she was not planning anything in her life because she did not know what the next day would bring; she said that she was always happy: whether there were good or bad things – because God knows very well what is the best for the man and she said that when she got up in the early morning, she calls to God immediately: ‘Let Jesus Christ be praised and glorified’.
Later I was talking with her a few times, especially when she used to come to Warsaw for all ceremonies connected with priest Jerzy. I still see her in my mind, when, wearing a shawl on her head, with a walking stick in her hand, with tears in her eyes, she is kneeling at the grave of her son and holding the rosary, that is – as she used to say – her ‘ladder to Heaven’.
Love with your heart and deeds
I will always remember the meeting with Mrs. Marianna Popiełuszko just before the beatification of priest Jerzy, in April 2010. At that time I went to Okopy with a group of journalists. The culminating point was conducting interview with mother of priest Jerzy. She agreed to these interviews. She treated them as a mission. – This is my mission to God and people – she said. When she was surrounded by thirty people, among whom most were cameramen with a lot of equipment, she stood outside her house and was peacefully waiting for questions from journalists. Whereas, being a bit embarrassed, they did not dare to ask her about anything, so she was the first to start the talk first. In the beginning she recited a poem by heart: ‘In a very field Christ was standing and near Him there was a procession of bare-footed people: little children, who were going to collect harvest….’.
Journalists were speechless. After a while she started telling a story about her son: - Here priest Jerzy was brought up. Do you want to know how did she bring him up? She told him: ‘That’s a simple road to Heaven: if you love people and God, you will be just on this road!’
Finally there were questions from journalists:
– Do you pray to priest Jerzy?
– I pray to God, because we must pray to God, not to people. However, we can always ask others for intercession.
– Is the intercession effective? Does Priest Jerzy help you?
– If somebody wants to know if priest Jerzy helps me, then he should start praying through his intercession and will see.
– What is the sense of suffering?
– ‘Cry on the Earth, and cry quietly, so that only God might hear you. He is close to you and your tears would be laid at his feet’. Each type of suffering makes sense if we sacrifice it to God. Only then it is a reward. And if we are suffering and cursing then there is no reward. Then the man is not victorious and has more pain then.
– What do you consider as the most important from the message of your son?
– ‘Win the evil with the good’. If people were implementing these words in their life, they would be better.
A few of these words said by Marianna Popiełuszko made journalists very surprised. When we went to a coach to set off back, there was a big silence. Both those who had met the mother of priest Jerzy for the first time, and those who had already talked to her before, unanimously admitted that she was an unusual woman. She was unusual in her simplicity, faith and life wisdom. Each of us felt as ‘little men’ in her presence.
Mother at the beatification of her son
I will not forget those moments when 90-year-old Marianna Popiełuszko arrived in Warsaw in June 2010, for beatification of priest Jerzy. Wearing a cherry-coloured dress, without her shawl for the first time, wearing smart shoes, holding a handbag, she was sitting in front of the altar on the Square of Piłsudski with about 150 thousand people from all over Poland, over 100 bishops, 1600 priests and representatives of the supreme state authorities.
Many people had tears in their eyes, when she was slowly walking in a procession to the altar behind the reliquary of her son’s debris, while supporting herself with her walking stick and being held by the parish priest of St. Stanisław church – Fr. Zygmunt Malacki. Later she was looking at the solemnly unveiled beatification portrait of priest Jerzy, hanging in the altar. She was carefully listening to the words of archbishop Angelo Amato, who addressed the words of his homily to her, emphasizing that ‘tears of all Polish mothers would not be sufficient in order to soothe such a pain and suffering which she experienced’. After the Eucharist she came up to archbishop Amato and was talking with him for a while. After a while, unexpectedly, the primate of the Czech Republic archbishop Dominik Duka came up to her and asked Mrs. Marianna for her blessing. In an interview for the Catholic Information Agency she later said: I felt the presence of the mother of Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko, Marianna, in a special way. She was the second woman whom I have asked for her blessing in my life’.
Joyful, not terrible
Soon after the beatification, Marianna Popiełuszko arrived in Warsaw again – for the funeral of parish priest Zygmunt Malacki, who died from cancer on 14 August 2010. – I treated him as my son – she told me then.
It was obvious for her that she had to be at that funeral although she had less strength. – But I sleep once per twenty four hours anyway – she said when somebody was asking her to take rest or have a nap. Her presence was to be an expression of gratitude for everything what Fr. Malacki had done to spread the cult of her son. Therefore, after the funeral Holy Mass, it was Mrs. Marianna, with her walking stick in her hand, who was walking after the coffin of the parish priest, seeing him off for the eternal guard. Whereas, after the funeral she said: ‘Evidently, it had to happen so. Life and death are gifts from God’.
I also remember the stay of Mrs. Marianna in the capital city on the occasion of the name day of priest Jerzy on 23 April 2012. At that time she was receive the reliquary with her son’s debris, prepared especially for her. ‘It must be terrible for her to take debris of her murdered son!’ – somebody commented on it then. But hearing these words, Mrs. Marianna said: ‘It is joyful, not terrible! It was terrible when he was kidnapped and murdered. But now it is joyful! We must understand why relics are needed. Therefore, if somebody is asking and wants to pray, I give him the picture of priest Jerzy with relics’.
I hope that I will meet with him
Marianna Popiełuszko died on 19 November 2013, at the age of 93 years. In fact, she had the birth date written in her ID card as: 1 June 1910. But the date is not correct. So, why was it written there? It might have been written during the Second World War, when dates were deliberately falsified during productions of identity cards. The date might have also been wrongly written in the office of the civil status, as it often happened then. Therefore the folk saying was very popular then: ‘Born during oat harvest time’, that is: in a nearly undefined time.
- In our family many people had incorrect dates of birth in their civil documents - explains a relative of Mrs. Marianna, Fr. Kazimierz Gniedziejko, today a parish priest in the church of Our Lady of Częstochowa in Józefów.
The correct date of birth of priest Jerzy’s mother is in the baptism book of the parish church in Suchowola. It is 7 November 1920.
She came from Grodzisko near Dąbrowa Białostocka. Whereas she spent her whole life in Okopy near Suchowola. She was also buried in Suchowola, near her husband Władysław, with whom she lived sixty years. – When I made an oath, I knew that it had to be so, that even if it was to be hard, I would always love my husband, no matter what husband he would be like – she said.
She worked very hard in her whole life. On a field and in the house. And she experienced a lot. But in the thought of the old rule: ‘What will not kill you, it will strengthen you’, any tragedies were to strengthen her. – It this is my cross, I will not give it to anybody, because I may get a worse one. We must be patient and strong – she used to say.
She lived in a house in Okopy till the end of her life, together with her family. When she fell ill with pneumonia, she was taken to hospital. She was there only a few days.
In her testimonies for the beatification process of priest Jerzy Popiełuszko, she said: ‘I hope that God took him to Heaven and that I will meet him there one day’. Now, her desire surely turned true. Life of the saint’s mother has been fulfilled.