A VIOLENT MAN OF THE DIVINE KINGDOM
ROBERT DEREWENDA, AGNIESZKA SALAMUCHA
Fr. Franciszek Blachnicki was called so in a condolence telegram after his death by the saint pope John Paul II. Why?
From the beginning of his priestly ministry Fr. Blachnicki noticed that many Christians were used to a lifestyle separated from the Gospel. He compared their existence to the behavior of frogs: ‘A frog lives in mud, in a stinky water, sometimes it will get outside and then jumps back into mud because it feels the best there. And so does a Christian, when there is a feast – Christmas, Easter -he goes to a confession, will catch this God’s grace for a while and then will quickly go to the Holy Communion in order not to make a sin on his return way from a confession to the altar, (…), and then he returns to the normal life, that is, life in sin every day’. Therefore, the basic task which he undertook was working for the sake of renewal of Christian life, making it authentic and consistent.
A creator of the oasis religious group
A helpful thing in taking attitudes consistent with the Gospel was to be a suitable environment of faith. According to the example of the prewar scouting, Fr. Blachnicki organized a system of meetings and trips for altar boys in the 50 of the XX century. The most important method of this altar boys’ pedagogy was the Oasis of God’s Children: holiday fifteen-day retreat prepared in such a way, so that their program would remind of an ordinary day of a young boy, with a place for a prayer but also for games and play.
The oasis required three rules: chastity (maintaining in the sanctifying grace), love (harmony among one another) and obedience (respecting rules). During the retreat boys were learning that the natural state of believers is the state of the sanctifying grace, therefore, they received the Holy Communion every day. Unusual joy and peace experienced in the oasis caused a situation that children who experienced them, wanted to lead a similar lifestyle also after their return home. Using these positive experiences, on the turn of the 60s and 70s of the last century, Fr. Franciszek Blachnicki organized oasis groups for the youth, students and adults (laymen and the consecrated ones) and whole families. In this way, the Light-Life movement was established. In arranging formation programs for particular groups, Fr. Blachnicki was willing to learn from experiences of other movements. He gave many tasks to laymen; in family communities of the Light-Life Movement responsibility was given to married couples.
The Light-Life movement comprised people to whom it was difficult to the Church to reach: the youth from the last year of the secondary school, students, adults at the age of 25-55. The task of the oasis was not keeping its members in the Light-Life Movement, but preparing them for Christian maturity realized in life. Oasis were experiencing the authentic Christianity, making a personal relation with Christ and finding one’s place in the Church as an alive community. They became places which formed character and life ideals. In hearts of many young members of the oasis, vocation for priesthood and consecrated life appeared. It is estimated that about 1.5 million people had belonged to oasis groups.
A warrior for human freedom
Fr. Franciszek Blachnicki had to face two totalitarianisms of the XX century. The first one – Nazism – disrupted his youth and showed the darkest place, to which humanity may get: a death camp and brought a death penalty. The second one – communism – having overcome Nazism, imposed its authority and atheistic ideology of materialism.
The whole life of Fr. Blachnicki was directed to a fight for human dignity and freedom. In the years 1957-60 he created a Crusade of Abstinence whose purpose was a fight with alcoholism and sexual perversions. What weapon did he use? Bringing up for inner freedom and dignity. Members of the Crusade vowed a declaration of abstinence, spread a new fashion in wearing clothes (called ‘Mary’s fashion’ by Fr. Blachnicki) and style of behavior. After liquidation of the Crusade by the Safety Service, the ideas of abstinence and ‘Mary’s fashion’ were implemented in the program of the oasis movement.
In 1979 Fr. Franciszek Blachnicki inaugurated the second crusade called the Crusade of Human Liberation. Through abstinence of its members, there were attempts aiming at changes of Polish customs. There were attempts to cause a situation in which refusal of drinking alcohol in a company of others would be as natural as refusal for a different drink, and nobody would be surprised by it or persuade somebody to drink ‘for a toast’. The time of inauguration of the crusade was inscribed into the time of great national revival of the years 1979-81 and became famous for many miracles such as a pilgrimage of John Paul II to Poland, establishment of Solidarity Movement, as well as reduced drinking alcohol (the only time in the whole communism time).
Bringing up for inner freedom made Fr. Blachnicki get engaged for the sake of liberation of the nations of Central-Eastern Europe from the communist system. In 1981 he initiated activity of Independent Christian Social Service, transformed into the Christian Service of Liberation of Nations in RFN. Within this activity, many actions were organized aimed at mutual bringing nations closer to the post-Yalta agreement and work for the sake of liberation. The fight was pursued with denunciation of violence, on the line ‘non violence’, like Mahatama Gandhi or Martin Luther King. The example of Solidarity Movement was given, which was changing the image of Poland without any violence or the Soviet bloc. Fr. Blachnicki wanted Poles with their love for freedom and religion to give a particular testimony towards European societies.
Sometimes one can hear the opinion that Fr. Blachnicki lived long time ago, in the communist system, therefore his statements are outdated. However, the truth is different. His program went beyond any kind of a fight for liberation from communism. He was sure about soon and unavoidable collapse of the USSR, so he undertook actions which aimed at preparing nations ‘postsovieticum’ for forthcoming freedom. His teaching from that time includes a lot of uncovered richness.
According to the Providential coincidence, Fr. Blachnicki spent the last years of his life in a democratic country with highly-developed economy, thanks to which he could experience himself, that the main danger for a man is lack of freedom, not the outer but the inner one. ‘Is it here where we found the desired freedom? It seems to me that we rather fell from one captivity onto another one. Indeed, here there is a democratic system (…) which allegedly provides a man with all kinds of freedom. But as we have been here for a few months or even years, we must have experienced a new captivity, a system of depriving people of freedom, which people caused in the West. An absolute leader, a tyrant which deprives people of freedom, is money, material goods. Here people created an idol for themselves. It is called welfare here. And people, worshipping this idol, provided themselves with a kind of welfare, excellent flats, cars, coloured TVs, fabulous travels to exotic countries. So, they have allegedly found what they wanted. But at such a price? In order to gain such a standard of life, everyone had to owe something. Nearly every man is indebted here. And here the ruthless system of computers and banks. Nobody will escape from this power. Everyone is being endangered by a nightmare of unpaid percents, unpaid installments. And at the price of all kinds of material welfare they live in fear’. It is easy to notice that the situation in which we live in Poland at present, painfully reminds the one which Fr. Blachnicki saw in RFN…
Fr. Blachnicki showed a man, living in a consumptive society, a road of real freedom. He used to say that freedom is not doing what one wants to, but subordinating one’s life to God. ‘Here, in Western Europe, people often misunderstand freedom. I am free when I do what I want to. And then I do crazy things, various things which are harmful to me. (…) ‘You will get to know the truth and the truth will liberate you’. Being obedient to the truth. This is freedom. Because a man is free when he behaves according to the light of the reason. The reason gives the light, and the will must get subordinated to this light. This is just a road to freedom’.
However, one would be wrong who understood the whole life of Fr. Blachnicki as life of various outer activities. This man lived first with God and for God. He suggested that in the oasis time of a personal prayer should be called a Tent of a Meeting. This moment in which a Christian man – like Moses on the desert – talks with God face to face. This is how one talks with his friend.
After being arrested in 1961, Fr. Franciszek Blachnicki wrote to his cooperators: ‘I trust that the Immaculate Virgin helped you accept what happened peacefully and subordinated to Her will and that you did not forget to say ‘Magnificat’. I do not doubt that you strongly believe that all this is grace of the Immaculate Virgin, from which a lot good will result for everyone. (…) I assure you that I feel in prison retreat very well. It is a long time since I have not had so much time for a prayer and reflection. (…) A road to God is open through walls and bars of the prison – and I do not need anything but God!’.
A year before his death, Fr. Blachnicki wrote in his spiritual diary phases of his inner life which he could experience through God’s grace. He called them three conversions: faith, trustfulness and love. ‘The first conversion is learning about the supernatural reality ( Jesus, God’s plan of salvation) in the existential and personal way and the basic conversion – subordinating one’s life (choice) to Her(…). It corresponds to the time of evangelization and ‘personal accepting Jesus as our Lord and Redeemer’. In his life Fr. Blachnicki placed this phase between conversion in a death cell and his stay in the seminary. ‘The second conversion - is the basic resignation from desire to redeem oneself with one’s effort (…) – understanding that only God redeems – salvation trustfulness – faith in forgiving sins- a new attitude to one’s imperfections (tolerating, ‘I will boast about my weaknesses’). The whole priestly life of Fr. Franciszka led to this phase – over 30 years of an extremely active pastoral ministry. And the third conversion? ‘This is a phase which I am going to face – the subject of nostalgia and cry! (…) This is a prayer of darkness accompanying me for a long time. Being with God in an absolute darkness and infirmity – tasting this ‘vacuum’ of consciousness. Only consciousness deprived of one’s ‘me’ can accept love! The very conversion of love will happen when I see that I am loved (…). Particular getting to know love can happen only in learning how much I cost Him, how much He suffered for my sins! Seeing one’s sins in the look of Love comprising my sinful nature and then shame, pain, and grief and desire to love more, because we were given a lot – desire of devotion oneself for Love’. On the following year on the grave of Fr. Blachnicki in Carlsberg a wooden cross with words ‘He loves me and devoted Himself for me’ (see Ga 2.20) was placed. The violent man of Divine kingdom reached its purpose.