Before the 50th anniversary of the Jasna Gora Vows of the Polish Nation
Fr Ireneusz Skubis
The 50th anniversary of the Vows of the Polish Nation falls on August 2006. I remember the year of the vows, that great service at Jasna Gora I participated in before my graduation, and I remember seeing huge crowds that I only saw later at the meetings with the Holy Father John Paul II. There were all Polish bishops but the great Primate of Poland Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski was not there. He was in prison. Therefore, flowers were put on the primate's armchair. The great vows were a Catholic gesture of the Nation made in its very dramatic moment when people felt very restricted in their rights and freedom. It was also the time of great expectation for the release of the Primate.
It might be worth reflecting on these events of our post-war history and remembering the contents of that great act of 1956. Up till now historians have admired the Act of Consecration made by the Primate who hit the nail on the head, they admire the fact that the eminent leader of the Church and statesman could see and include practically all problems of the Nation and the Church in Poland, which we had to cope with throughout centuries, in the act of Jasna Gora Vows. Naturally, he dealt with pastoral, moral, ethical subjects but it was also the issue of oppression and destruction of our Nation. The Nation that experienced World War II with all its cruelty. The Nation that had terrible experiences in the East and the West. The Nation that remembered well the people killed in the streets during the Warsaw Rising. The Nation that could not recover from the Bolshevik invasion of Poland in 1939. The Nation that remembered the exile to Siberia, to the labour camps on the large stretches of the Soviet Union. The Nation that felt the breath of the Red Army and the communist party that served the rulers of the Kremlin who introduced a new barbarian order in the country of good customs, in the Christian and Catholic country.
Now that nation found its only Help, and 300 years after the vows made by King Jan Kazimierz the nation decided to remind people of the vows and to consecrate itself anew in service to our Lady of Jasna Gora as its Lady and Queen. The wonderful idea of the Jasna Gora Vows showed unique wisdom of the Primate of the Millennium. The national vows contained matters that referred to the fundamental religious rights of Poles. The fundamental thing was faithfulness to God, to the Cross, to the Church and her shepherds. What could be more important than that statement? Faithfulness to God in the times when everything was against him, when the government was atheistic and materialistic philosophy was taught in schools and the names of the prophets of atheism were imprinted on children's and students' memories. Faithfulness to the Cross that was forgotten, that was thrown down from church spires, when churches were turned into storehouses of salt, chemicals or museums of atheism. Faithfulness to the Church and her shepherds when the great Primate was in prison and the shepherds of the Church were terrorized, blackmailed and recruited for collaboration.
How important it was to focus on faithfulness - faithfulness through the cross. When numerous values were shattered and when it was difficult to be faithful the Primate reminded people of the fundamental principles of faithfulness, which once the Catholics in Poland accepted and promised Mary to follow. It was also a solemn dedication to Mary and expression of our confidence in her powerful protection.
Let us briefly remind ourselves what the Jasna Gora Vows were about: to guard wakening life, to protect the indissolubility of family ties, to bring love, justice, harmony and peace, especially to protect children as well as the poor, the rejected, etc., to share food with those in need. The vows obliged people to struggle with national vices: laziness, wastage, drunkenness, dissolution, etc. These tasks are still valid and require our great examination of conscience today as well. What happened at Jasna Gora helped all people, both the clergy and the laity, to open their eyes to what was going on, to see the whole situation of the nation in the proper, God's light; to see that we were to deal with the enemies of God and humanity.
Therefore, this year of celebrating the anniversary of the Jasna Gora Vows is important. Some dioceses have included it in their pastoral programmes. That happened in the Archdiocese of Czestochowa, which following the pattern of the Great Novena, will prepare to the solemn renewal of the vows for nine months, till August 2006.
Let us get to know this programme and apply it with great zeal because it is meant to bring us healing.