COMMANDOS WEARING CASSOCKS

IWONA FLISIKOWSKA

During a silent protest of monks one of couples who were filling in documents before a planned abortion, after they left the talked with the friars and left the building. – It was our victory. We do not know whether they will come back. Everything what we can say is that it encouraged us a lot for further protests. If we had not been there, this baby might not be alive – said arrested friar Fidelis Mosccinski whose grandpa was Polish. When the police demanded on leaving the clinic by protesters, the friars said they could not do it. They said: - Innocent unborn children will die soon and we decided to stay with them.

The action ‘A red rose saves a life’ was begun by pro-life groups in 2017. It was not the first time when the members of this congregation has been leaving the building of the abortion clinic, being handcuffed by the police. The initiative of the pro-life movements has been supported by ‘Friars from Bronx’ since the very beginning. In an official statement superiors of the order confirmed that ‘(…) the friars do not hesitate to participate in the acts of opposition of conscience towards the actions which are aimed against inviolability of the human life and are destroying the common relation of human solidarity’.

So, it is not astonishing that the patron of the Franciscans of the Renewal is Our Lady of Guadalupe, a caretaker and patron of the unborn.

A story about Grey Friars

The brothers are known in Poland by this name, especially when a book by Luce Adrian entitled ‘Friars from Bronx’ came out in Poland. The full name of the congregation of the Grey Friars are: the Community of Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. It was founded in the 80s of the last century in New York. The friars live among the others, in the districts of Harlem and Bronx and live among the poorest of the poor – pushed away, as it is often said harmfully, into the ‘margin of the social life and nothing more’.

Roman Zięba talks about the unusual Franciscans, who was walking through the United States in a pilgrimage with Wojtek Jakowiec for half a year in a mission ‘aCross America’.

The New York (grey) Franciscans of the Renewal gave us accommodation in their monastery in Manhattan where we were ending our half-a-year pilgrimage ‘The Cross of America’. The friars begin their day at 5 a.m. from an hour adoration, later they have matins, the Holy Mass, breakfast and set off to the city to serve to the homeless. We were witnesses when they brought a person to the monastery, who smelt so terrible and looked so bad that he required an urgent medical help. They took care of that man at once…

The grey friars in their spirituality – Roman Zięba continues – refer to our contemporary saints: Mother Theresa of Calcutta and John Paul II. In most cases they do not have their private mail addresses (they use the one) and use a traditional phone centre. They do not have many civilisational inventions but they always smile and have their door open to those who are in need. If I saw an alive Church of Christ somewhere during the 6-month foot pilgrimage through the USA, it was just there, in Manhattan, in Harlem. They do not speak about reforms, they are an alive reform – says Zięba.

Also Fr. Piotr Wiśniowski, a director of the EWTN Poland says about the Friars from Bronx with great friendliness:

I had an occasion to meet the Grey Friars from Bronx in New York in a parish of St. Bernadetta in Brooklyn. It was a providential meeting with real ‘Commandos of God’, and also a Pole with them, a friar Sebastian Maria Kajko who is a great-grandson of legendary Bartosz Głowacki from Racławice….It is worth knowing that the Grey Friars are very devoted to helping people being in very difficult conditions of their life, the material or moral ones. We should remember about them in a prayer and speak about these fantastic people, I would say – Grey Angels.

Stan Fortuna, a rapping Grey Friar

A lot of us have surely heard the extremely charismatic rapper Stan Fortuna – from Harlem in New York, where the first monastery of the Grey Friars was established and its most known music video ‘Everybody Got 2 Suffer’. What was a nice surprise to me during preparing this article was the news that the friar Stan had got to like Poland a lot and although in his music schedule he has got lots of evangelization meetings and concerts all over the world, he tries to visit us in Częstochowa at least twice a year. Recently he has visited Poland in autumn – being invited by a famous musician Marcin Pospieszalski he took part in, among the others, a concert on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the pontificate of St. John Paul II in Rzeszów and in a concert promoting a CD ‘Decalogue’ in Gdynia.

I heard about the rapping Franciscan for the first time over 10 years ago from the friars Tadeusz and Maciej Syków who had an opportunity to hear and see the friar Stan during the World Youth Days in Toronto in 2002 – says a Dominican Fr. Andrzej Bujnowski, fulfilling a pastoral ministry to musicians in Poland, and who has been co-creating the Sphere of Glory Festival for 27 years and Song of Songs Festival as well as a legendary Music Magazine ‘RUaH’.

Tadeusz and Maciej were speaking about the rapping Franciscan so enthusiastically that a few years ago I persuaded the director of the Song of Songs Festival to invite Stan to Poland. And it happened so. A nice accent for our band Deus Meus was the fact that the ‘rapper in a cassock’, that is, Stan Fortuna performed in one of the songs during the festival concert! – says Fr. Andrzej. Among the Grey Friars there is also a friar Luis who used to be a saxophonist in a band of Bruce Springsteen and although he ‘had the world at his feet’ in a material sense, he reject the millionaire’s life and became a poor on among the poor. What is unusual is that in the group of the Grey Friars there are also those who used to be managers of companies or those who used to deal with fashion. What impressed me the most in the unusual story about the Commandos from Harlem and Bronx was the extraordinary and simple life, enthusiasm and sincere smile on the faces of the friars in everyday life.

Translated by Aneta Amrozik

Niedziela 4/2019 (27 I 2019)

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Lidia Dudkiewicz • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl