FROM JOY TO A TESTIMONY
Mikołaj Wyrzykowski talks with a journalist and a traveler Wojciech Cejrowski
MIKOŁAJ WYRZYKOWSKI: - Stand-up is a form in which a performer must make the audience laugh every few sentences. What attracts you in this kind of a performance?
WOJCIECH CEJROWSKI: – Oh, I know. American comedians make me laugh, but the Polish cabaret more rarely. When I studied in the USA, I earned some money by giving performances to stand-uppers. It is attractive and risky - a sole man with a microphone, without any props, tells people about real events and there is supposed to be a outburst of laughter every moment. In Poland a cabaret is based on the fact that somebody writes a skit, and later an artist takes a role of a fiction character and performs a scene. A character is always exaggerated. An American comedian tells the audience about real stories. I am attracted more by this. This is more courageous form – I do not hide behind a guitar or a song, or my friend or any props. The difference is the following: some people like sweet, milder pepper, while the others prefer the small chilly. I prefer the chilly one, that is, stand-up.
– In many interviews you speak about the need of everyday confessing the faith. Do you think that faith and joy are connected with each other?
– Not necessarily in such a simple way that if I pray, I will be happy. Maybe my whole life will be full of tragedies, sadness and bitterness, as we are in this ‘vale of tears’, but we have a promised paradise. This is the way in which faith is connected with joy. However, we may have to wait for our joy till death comes. Statistically, believers are happier because they believe in existence of eternal joy.
– Having visited 60 countries all over the world, what differences can you see in the joyful confession of faith?
– I am not sure what you are asking about….It is different when we speak about a joyful and subtle smile of St. Sister Faustyna and it is different what we hear noisy bursts of happiness in churches of Latin America or Africa. The Holy Mass is not a nameday of a beloved aunt or a dear friend, but something which is a significant feast at the British Queen’s – I think. Jumps and joyful shouts are suitable for a pilgrimage, but not during the Holy Mass, in the church. I think so, but I am unique in this opinion. Therefore, I am looking for churches where parish priests respect liturgical rules and canons in the sphere of behaviours, robes, music and songs. In Poland it is easy for me to find it, in America it is hardly possible. For example, it is normal that the text of the hymn ‘Gloria’ is changed as well as the text of faith confession, only to make words fit to a joyful non-liturgical melody. In Peru it is fashionable to sing songs according to the melody of the hit ‘El conor pasa’, on Puerto Rico, songs are sung according to the rhythm of salsa. I love salsa, but not in the church.
– You often said about courageous evangelization. Many people listen to your programmes and performances. How do you try to connect using your talent with evangelization?
– How? First of all, all the time and everywhere, which means that, for example, I do not accept the argumentation that in the church one should not speak about politics! Politics is an important thing, influencing my family, social and religious life. Teaching of the Church should comprise all spheres of life, should not exclude any of them. And politics should contain the Christian rite, otherwise, it may become dangerous.
So, evangelization should be present all the time and everywhere. In my work I remember that I got talents from God. I work on them, I try not to waste them but develop them, but talents are a gift, not a merit of my work. I got these talents for a purpose. I also received my happiness for a purpose. And this purpose is the salvation of my soul and according to my possibilities, also other souls on which I can have an influence. So, I am looking for this influence. I want my books to be so good that even an enemy of the Church would read them, become delighted with the form, and also see texts resulting from the Gospel.
‘Barefoot through the world’ is watched and liked by everybody. I get letters: ‘I hate your opinions, but I read and watch your programmes with great interest and engagement…’ And this is what I mean. This is a subcortical evangelizaton, this is taming Catholicism because ‘this WC is a katol, and I like it, although I normally hate katols…’.
– You have often set off for journeys to Amazon in search for the original peoples, not spoilt by our civilization. How did you experience your meetings with God during those journeys?
– There are not usually such meetings. We pray properly, we go to church, we say prayers, we read the Bible, but there are not any meetings. Another time a man is sitting in a boat, a river is flowing, the first week is passing, so is the second week, and I am sitting at the prow of my boat like St. Antony the Hermit and it seems to me that I feel a physical presence of God with me.
– Your journeys to South America have not always been safe. In moments of dangers you did not lose your belief that God is really taking care of you?
– How could I lose it? In a situation of a danger faith always gets stronger - ‘when fear, then an escape to God’ (laughter). When people ask me how I cope with fear, I say: ‘I say the Rosary prayer’. Once my Indian guide got lost in a forest. We were wandering there for a few days, not knowing where to go – for the whole time ‘I was wandering with the Rosary prayer’. When an airplane gets into some turbulences – ‘I travel with the Rosary prayer’. I have a special rosary, with the papal privilege of Benedict XVI in case of sudden death. One can only hold it in hand with faith and will receive graces like during a confession and anointing of the sick.
– You have visited many known pilgrimage places. Which places do you like returning to the most and why?
– I often return to Guadalupe in Mexico, where Our Lady appeared for the first time. Whole centuries, outside the gate in Fatima and other places acknowledged by the Church. I try to be there once a year. For many years I have been leading pilgrimages of the Marian Priests there, as well as other travels. A few weeks ago I went there with my best operator – Mr. Józef Szymura, who made most sequences of the programme ‘Barefoot through the world’. We prayed to the image of Our Lady for the whole Sunday, and later we flew further into other parts of the world to make films. The second place to which I return, when it is on my way, is Jasna Góra at night. I usually stop there discreetly on the return way from a performance, that is, in the middle of the night, when it is peaceful, there are not any crowds, or ‘joyful shouts’, instead there is a sacrum of silence.
– During travels one meets many people. One sometimes talks with them and goes away, and others remain in memory. Have you experienced such a meeting which changed something in you or strengthened your faith?
– My faith is strengthened by my public meetings with enemies of the Church the most. I am on TV during a meeting with ‘a doctor’ who kills children in mothers’ wombs, and at this moment God strengthens my faith and I feel I have more of it. There was an infamous night outside the Governors’ Palace in Warsaw, when a drunk crowd was slandering the cross, the Church and believers. I went there in a group which was to surround this crowd and pray behind people’s backs. It was only me who was famous in this group of rosary partisans. So it did not make sense for me to stand behind – I went into the very middle, raised my rosary very high and prayed so for a few hours just near the stage, from which we heard slanders. Perverts came up to me to take insulting photos near me, the crowd was slandering, but I was saying the rosary; many times. That night I had strong faith, while it is weaker every day. God charges my faith when it is necessary. If faith is a gift, then there is as much of it, as God gives, and then it slips away through our fingers, so ….it is necessary to charge it again.
– I often watch your programme ‘Barefoot through the world’. Why did you think about travelling barefoot?
– Among the Indians I walk like them, that is, barefoot. Shoes are not good, even if they are the best. It is dark, warm and humid in shoes, that is, there is a good climate for fungi and mold in them. Therefore, the Indians do not wear shoes. It happens that they put on wellingtons when going for hunting, because snakes are not able bite through gum , but they normally walk barefoot. When one walks barefoot, a sole of the foot becomes hard. In order to maintain this hardness, after return to Poland I still walk barefoot where it is possible. It looks a bit strange but is also intriguing and real. If I walked barefoot in my private life, we decided that in my documentaries I should maintain it. If in my private life I wear variegated shirts, I should wear them in a film, too. It is much easier to live if a man is authentic on the screen, like he is in his life, integral, starting with his appearance and finishing with his opinions.
– Your last book is ‘An island on the prairie’. It tells us about your life on ranch in Arizona, about features of people living there and about values with which they live. What values are most important for you?
– Well, you know, I hope that this is not my last book, but the latest one (laughter). Are you putting me into a grave now? And, as for the values – the Christian values are most important for me. The only purpose of life is redeeming a soul. All others are the means , not purposes. And my neighbours – cowboys from Arizona – are delightful people. They live with values which you can know from westerns. They pray before each meal, stand up when a woman enters, defend their families with a shotgun in hand and for the price of their own lives, and they are also happy – and it seems to me that in this interview we have rolled a full circle, because your beginning question of the interview was about faith and joy. (laughter).