Beatification of the Great Polish Pope ante portas
Cardinal Stanislaw Nagy, SCJ
The Polish Bishops’ Conference is making urgent preparations so that this solemn moment in the life of the Polish Church, which is the approaching beatification of John Paul II, will make us have as deep and noble experiences as possible. Time flies quickly and we can count weeks before this historical event in the Church and Poland. These preparations should penetrate the deepest layers of the consciousness of the nation and the Polish Church and not to flow on their surface as an ecclesiastical-national celebration, which will last for a few days. One should make long-term, solid efforts and we should begin at once because we may run out of time. What kind of efforts? We need deeper and wider knowledge in the nation about the monumental figure of the Servant of God John Paul II. Isn’t the knowledge of the wide strata of our society about the genial and holy Countryman limited to some less or more important details? And wide fields of this extremely rich life still remain unknown. What should be done then?
The family, despite the negative, especially uncontrolled influence of the media, remains the fundamental source of knowledge about the world and life. From the perspective of the beatification of the Great Countryman and Pope there should be many books about his life and activities in every Catholic house. Moreover, there should be books about the papal pilgrimages to Poland, books containing treasures of gold hints the majority of which are still valid for the life of the nation that he showed huge concern and love. And a real pearl of some serious family library could be the imposing series ‘Dzieje wielkiego pontyfikatu Jana Pawla II. Rok 1-27’ [The History of the Great Pontificate of John Paul II, Year 1-27], published by the Publishing House Bialy Kruk, and the two volumes, published by Bialy Kruk, entitled, ‘Jan Pawel II dzien po dniu’ [John Paul II, day after day], prepared by Prof. Gabriel Turowski. Certainly, it will be hard to buy the first edition of ‘Jan Pawel II Wielki’ [John Paul II Great] by Czeslaw Ryszka (Edycja Swietego Pawla, 2002) or George Weigel ‘Witness to Hope’ (Polish edition by Znak, 2000) but perhaps the publishing houses will prepare new editions of these works.
The second, a complicated and long, and one can say, decisive stage of man’s education is school. Children leave their childhood at school and begin a process of intensive maturity with the extremely difficult stage of breakthrough. This process is conducted in a specific way in Catholic schools and the more in the schools named after the Holy Father John Paul II. These types of schools constitute a uniquely favourable ground to deepen the knowledge about the great Patron of their school they have already had. It seems that one can familiarise pupils with such books written by the Holy Father as ‘Gift and Mystery,’ ‘Crossing the Threshold of Hope,’ or ‘Memory and Identity,’ and even some encyclicals, e.g. Redemptor hominis, Evangelium vitae and Fides et ratio. Of course, the help of teachers and catechists will be indispensable as for the last works. The situation looks different in schools with lessons of religious instruction. However, during lessons of Polish or history one can, and perhaps should, comment on ‘the case’ of the Polish Pope, poet and actor, who was raised to the altars. The main area of preparing young people in these types of schools remains an efficient catechesis. At the stage of elementary school and gymnasium it will be a solid narrative of the catechist about the key elements of the life of Pope John Paul II, supplemented by fragments of his books ‘Memory and Identity’ or ‘Gift and Mystery.’ The situation is different at the stage of grammar school. It is a period of maturity and revolt or struggle for premature autonomy, which are connected with growing up. Young people should be first of all made fascinated with the figure of our holy Countryman, showing his literary and oratorical talents, his talent for stage-managing, openness to sports, hiking, canoeing, skiing, sensitiveness to singing, including patriotic songs, sympathy and openness to youth and at the same time unique intelligence, genial gift of word. If we manage to evoke interest in the holy Pope, our Countryman who loved young people and understood them perfectly well, we will greatly succeed in preparations of this group of Polish youth to the beatification.
It constitutes another area, which is perhaps the most important one in preparing ourselves for this solemn beatification. Before guidelines are sent from the headquarters one should begin a deepened study of the personality of the Servant of God, his wide activities, known attributes (goodness, openness, kindness, cheerfulness…), his involvement in Polish affairs, the profound contents of his sermons delivered during his pilgrimages to Poland. It will be meaningful to play the recordings of some of his speeches. One should not forget about the simplicity of Pope John Paul II’s holiness expressed in his Eucharistic piety, utmost care for the rosary and popular prayers to the Most Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. One should not omit the gigantic missionary work of this Pope. It will be most advisable to focus on the truth concerning sanctification through daily efforts and caring for the spirit of prayer.
The above-mentioned suggestions are simple proposals, which must be supplemented and improved. But one thing is essential: one cannot put off preparing believers for the much-awaited event, which is the beatification of the Polish Pope.