RSS

Tag Archives: Poland

O GLORY OF THE POLISH RACE (HYMN)

O GLORY OF THE POLISH RACE (HYMN)

O glory of the Polish race,

O splendour of the priestly band,

Whose lore did thy Lyceum grace,

John, father of the fatherland.

 

The law of the supernal will

Thou teachest both in word and deed;

Knowledge is naught – we must fulfill

In works, not barren words, our creed!

 

On foot to Apostolic Rome

Thy pilgrim spirit joyful hied;

Oh, to our everlasting home

The path declare, our footsteps guide!

 

Again, in Sion’s holy street,

Anew thou wet’st with tearful flood

The pathway of the Saviour’s feet

Erst wet with His redeeming Blood.

 

O sweet and bitter wounds of Christ,

Deep in our hearts imprinted stay,

That the blest fruit the sacrificed

Redeemer gained, be ours for aye!

 

Then let the world obeisance due

Perform, O God, to thy high will;

And let our souls, by grace made new,

Sing to thee a new canticle!

 

From: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964

 

 
 

Tags: , , , , ,

ST JOHN CANTIUS, CONFESSOR

ST JOHN CANTIUS, CONFESSOR

ST JOHN CANTIUS, CONFESSOR – MEMORIAL: DECEMBER 23

John was born in the diocese of Cracow in the town of Kenty, from which he took his surname Cantius. His parents Stanislaus and Anna were holy and respectable people. From his infancy, his sweetness of disposition and innocence gave hope of the greatest virtue.

HE BECAME A PRIEST 

After becoming a priest, he increased his ardour for Christian perfection. For some years he administered the parish of Ilkusi with great efficiency. Whatever time was left from his studies he devoted partly to the salvation of his neighbour, especially preaching sermons on sacred subjects, and partly by prayer.

ON FOOT, HE MADE FOUR VISITS TO ROME

He made four visits to Rome, travelling on foot and carrying his own luggage, both to show honour to the Apostolic See and, as he used to say, to save himself from the punishments of Purgatory through the indulgences obtainable there daily.

HE ABSTAINED ENTIRELY FROM MEAT

He guarded his virginal purity most vigilantly, and for about thirty-five years before his death abstained entirely from flesh-meat. On Christmas Eve [1473], his soul took flight to heaven. Pope Clement III added him to the list of the saints, and he is honoured as one of the foremost patrons of Poland and Lithuania.

PRAYER:

Grant, we beseech you, almighty God, that by following the example of blessed John, your Confessor, we may advance in a knowledge of holiness and, by showing pity for others, obtain your forgiveness through his merits. Through our Lord…

– From: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964 [bold titles added]

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

WHO ARE THE 108 POLISH MARTYRS?

THE 108 POLISH MARTYRS, MEMORIAL: 12th JUNE

“No country suffered as much in the 20th century as Poland, with six million deaths during the Second World War alone, the vast majority of them civilians. Among those murdered by the Nazis were several thousand priests, who were not only members of the Polish intellectual elite, and therefore targeted for elimination, but also proponents of a creed that stood for everything opposed to Nazism. The liberation from those six years of darkness, followed by 40 years of an ideology only marginally less inhumane, made it a century between good and evil seemed as its most intense.

THE BATTLE BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL SEEMED AT ITS MOST INTENSE

But good triumphed, in the form of Karol Wojtyla, the Polish pope who helped to slay Communism before century’s end and who in 1999 beatified the 108 Blessed Polish Martyrs of the Second World War. On this roll of honour were three bishops, 52 priests, eight female religious, 26 male religious, three seminarians and nine laymen. Most died in the Nazi concentration and death camps of Dachau and Auschwitz, although some were shot outright or even burned to death.

MASS MURDERS DURING THE WAR

Among them were Marianna Biernacka, a farmer’s wife who offered to take the place of her pregnant daughter-in-law when Poles were rounded up to be murdered in retribution for German deaths. Alicja Jadwiga Kotowska, a 39-year-old nun, was killed at Piasnica in November 1939, the first mass murder of civilians by the Nazis, in which between 12,000 and 16,000 were shot (it is hardly surprising that the Germans were wrongly blamed for Katyn).

F. GRZEGORZ FRACKOWIAK

Grzegorz Frackowiack, a young friar, was beheaded for running and underground magazine (the rest of his novitiate had all been sent to concentration camps).

FR JOZEF KOWALSKI

Fr Jozef Kowalski died at just 31 having been sent to Auschwitz, where he secretly administered Communion to other prisoner (at this stage the inmates were still mostly Poles). Ordered to trample on his rosary, he refused and was taken outside, beaten, tortured and most likely drowned. His body was burned with others.

FR BRONISLAW KOMOROWSKI

Perhaps the most well-known of the 108 is Fr Bronislaw Komorowski, who was a prominent figure in the disputed city of Danzig before the war and the only Polish member of its ruling council. When the Nazis invaded he was arrested and taken off to Stutthof concentration camp, where he was repeatedly beaten and tortured. On Good Friday 1940 he was murdered in the woods along with several other Poles. After the war his body was exhumed and buried, and today a square and a school in the city, now called Gdansk, honour him.”
– This article entitled “The 108 Martyrs of World War II” was published in “The Catholic Herald” issue June 6 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link).

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“RENDER THEREFORE TO CAESAR…” (Mt 22:21)

“The Kingdom of God which Jesus founded on earth is fundamentally a spiritual kingdom, a kingdom of the spirit. When Jesus acknowledged before Pilate that He was a king, He also said that His kingdom was not of this world. The objective of His kingdom was not worldly wealth or power but rather the salvation of men, the forgiveness of sin and the reunion of men with God both in time and eternity.

THE REUNION OF MEN WITH GOD BOTH IN TIME AND ETERNITY

But though His kingdom was primarily a kingdom of the spirit, the men who would compose it were not pure spirits. Men are spirits in bodies. As spirits men become conscious of the world and of themselves through the vital, sensitive activities of their bodies. Though it was theoretically possible for God to speak the message of salvation directly to the spirit of each individual man, He did not choose to do so. Instead He chose to speak to a few and commission them to transmit the message to the rest of men. In so doing God chose to respect and work with man as he is, a unit composed of body and spirit. It is through the human body and its senses, through human language, whether spoken, written or by gesture or sign, that men communicate with each other. God chose to use this normal means of human communication to transmit His message to all men.

GOD CHOOSES TO ACT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE NATURE OF MAN, HIS CREATURE

Similarly God could, if He had so chosen, give His grace to men, the grace which carries with it forgiveness of sin and a share in His kingdom in a purely spiritual way, operating secretly and invisibly in the interior of men’s souls. But God chose to act in accordance with the nature of man. He chose to enable men to know His invisible gifts to their souls by external visible signs, the Mass and the sacraments.

‘DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME’

Now therefore the external transmission of the divine message of salvation and the sensible means of salvation instituted by God make His kingdom on earth a visible kingdom. The necessity of safeguarding the integrity of His message and the need of preserving the sacramental means of salvation were provided for by Jesus. To His Apostles, under the leadership of Peter, He gave the power to teach His message without error and to bring to men the sacramental means of salvation. Consequently, though His kingdom on earth is primarily a kingdom of the spirit, it is also a visible kingdom; visible in the evident distinction between the Apostles, who possess the authority to teach, to sanctify and rule the members of the kingdom for eternal salvation, and the members, who receive this teaching, partake of the sacraments and follow the apostolic rule to their salvation; visible in the administration of the sacraments which can be seen and heard; visible and audible in the teaching of the Apostles; recognisable in the obedience in spiritual concerns which the members give to the Apostles and their successors, the Pope and the bishops of the Church.

SPIRITUAL AND VISIBLE

As a visible, organised society, with the most important mission in the world – the salvation of all men – the Church of God has the right to preach its divine message in the world, the right to administer the means of salvation to men and the right to rule the moral and spiritual behaviour of men for their salvation. Now, if all men were perfect, both in knowledge and in moral behaviour, if all men recognised at once the divine character of the Church of Christ, and if all men had at once the good will to recognise the divine authority of the Church to sanctify and rule men for salvation, the Church would experience no difficulty in the world of men. But men are not perfect, neither in knowledge nor in behaviour. It was to be expected therefore that the appearance in the world of a new society claiming the freedom and the right to teach, rule and sanctify men in the name of God would be neither unnoticed nor unhindered in its efforts to exercise this freedom and right. Over the centuries the weakness of men, both within and without the Church, would occasion not only misunderstanding but also conflicts between the Church and human states. Jesus Himself had given His disciples the general principles to follow: ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God, the things that are God’s.’ It is our intention now to trace briefly the working-out of this principle in human history.

CHURCH AND STATE

The Church, the Kingdom of God, was born in the Roman Empire. In matters of religion the Roman State was eclectic and tolerant. The Romans allowed all subject-peoples to retain and practise their own religions. They asked only that all the subject-peoples (except the Jews) acknowledge the Roman Emperor as a manifestation of the divinity. Since the conquered peoples were generally polytheists, believing in the existence of many gods, and since many of them were accustomed to the idea that kings or emperors were either gods or manifestations of gods, this practice caused no difficulty. On the other hand, it was a powerful symbol of the unity of the empire. The Jews, since they were monotheists, were not asked to worship the emperor. Besides, since they showed no very active inclination to convert the peoples of the empire to monotheism, they were not a threat to the worship of the emperor, nor to the symbol of imperial unity.

THE CHURCH’S OBJECTIVE OF UNITING ALL MEN TO GOD THE FATHER, SON AND THE HOLY SPIRIT IN JESUS CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD, CLASHED WITH THE ROMAN EMPIRE’S EMPEROR-WORSHIP

But the Kingdom of God founded by Jesus proclaimed itself to the world as a society with a world mission. Its objective was to reunite all men to God the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As men came to believe in Jesus, as they freely began to worship the Trinity which He preached, they ceased to worship the many gods of the empire. Most significantly they ceased to worship the emperor. And the more numerous the followers of Jesus became, the more evident it became to the imperial authorities that the Christian Church was a threat to the symbol of imperial unity, the symbol which helped to sustain that unity.

THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH WAS A THREAT TO THE SYMBOL OF IMPERIAL UNITY

Thus it was that the Church attracted the unfavourable notice of the Roman authorities. Viewed with suspicion, as a possible threat to the well-being of the Roman State, it could not escape persecution by the imperial authority. In the first three centuries of its existence therefore the Church was subject to persecution by the civil authority. The profession and practice of Christianity were forbidden by the State. Those who refused to give up their faith in Christ could be deprived of their titles and property, imprisoned, forced to work in mines, tortured and put to death. It was a time when, as Jesus had said, men would think they were doing God a favour by putting the disciples of Christ to death.

THE TENDENCY OF THE EMPERORS TO EXERCISE CONTROL OVER CHURCH MATTERS PREVENTED THE TRUE ECCLESIASTICAL AUTHORITY FROM REALISING ITS PROPER FREEDOM IN MATTERS OF FAITH

The imperial persecution of the Church ceased with the advent of Constantine in the first quarter of the fourth century. Although Constantine himself was baptised a Christian only at the close of his life, he favoured the Church of Christ. But, as a Roman Emperor, he regarded himself as possessed of power over the Church, even in spiritual matters. Unfortunately for the Church in the eastern half of the empire, Constantine established his capital at Byzantium (Constantinople). The tendency of the emperors to exercise control over Church affairs prevented the true ecclesiastical authority from realising its proper freedom in matters of religion. The real dependence of the Eastern bishops on the power of the emperors and the human weakness and ambitions of the bishops made the Eastern Church unduly subservient to the civil power.

THE FACT THAT THE IMPERIAL POWER WAS CENTRED ELSEWHERE GAVE THE POPE, THE BISHOP OF ROME, A GREATER MEASURE OF FREEDOM FROM INTERFERENCE BY THE CIVIL RULERS

On the other hand, the removal of the capital from Rome to Constntinople proved fortunate for the Bishop of Rome, the successor of St Peter, the supreme authority on earth in the Kingdom of God. The fact that the imperial power was centred at Constantinople in the East and at Milan or Ravenna in the West gave the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, a greater measure of freedom from interference by the civil rulers than that enjoyed by the bishops of the East. As a result the supreme authority to teach, rule and sanctify which Jesus had entrusted to Peter and his successors, the Bishops of Rome, not only became more clearly recognised in the Western Church but it also developed in greater freedom. The barbarian invasions of the empire, which began toward the close of the fourth century, also served to increase the freedom and prestige of the Popes. As the imperial organisation of the empire in the West began to break up under the successive waves of invasion, the Popes appeared to be not only the authoritative heralds of the religion of Christ [James 1:27] but also the champions [of fairness to all,] of the law and order which the old empire had realised.

OVER FOUR CENTURIES OF HARMONISING MAN’S DUTIES BOTH TO GOD AND TO CAESAR FOLLOWED

Thus, from the beginning of the fourth century to the end of the eighth century, two different ways of harmonising man’s duties both to God and to Caesar were being developed. In the Eastern empire, while the state became Christian, the bishops became too dependent on the civil power and the emperors gained too great authority over the Church in matters of religion. In the West the true and divinely given power of the Papacy was able to develop more freely according to its inner nature. The acceptance of the authority of the Popes also safeguarded the authority of bishops generally from the tendency of civil authority to encroach upon Church affairs.

HOW THE STATE TRIED TO INTERFERE TO MAKE PEOPLE BELIEVE THAT JESUS CHRIST WAS NOT GOD

The tendency of the emperors to assume control of the Church was given free play during the rise and fall of the Arian heresy. The Arians denied that Jesus was God equally with the Father. Through the efforts of Eusebius, the Bishop of Nicomedia, they gained the favour of Constantine and of his son Constantius II (337-361). In the Church in the East the power of the emperor was used to depose the true bishops and impose Arian bishops in their place. The Pope and the Western bishops generally resisted these imperial attempts to make the Church Arian. With the advent of the Emperor Theodosius the Great (379-395) the imperial patronage of the Arian heresy ceased. But, in the East, it had already become customary for the emperors to interfere at will in the affairs of the Church. The bishops there were also accustomed to such interference.

THE WEST AVOIDS UNHEALTHY DEPENDENCY ON SECULAR POWERS

The influence of the emperor in ecclesiastical affairs was also responsible for the increase in power and prestige of the Bishop of Constantinople. At the time of the Council of Constantinople (381) the bishop of the imperial capital was a simple suffragan bishop of the Archbishop of Heraclea. But at the Council through the influence of the Emperor Theodosius, it was decreed that the Bishop of Constantinople was to hold a primacy of honour over all the bishops of the world except the Bishop of Rome. The Council granted the Bishop of Constantinople only a primacy of honour. It did not give him any added powers. But the granting of this honour was based on the principle that the presence of the emperor (or the imperial power) at Constantinople added prestige to the bishop of the see. In this way there was established between the Church in the East and the state a link that was to prove the downfall of the Eastern Church.

THE TENDENCY OF THE STATE TO LORD IT OVER THE CHURCH WAS MET WITH RESISTANCE

In the West the tendency of the state to lord it over the Church was met with resistance. Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan (where the Western capital of the empire was then located), gave an example to the rest of the Western bishops. When, with the support of Justina, the mother of the Emperor Valentinian II, the Arians asked that one of the Catholic churches of Milan be handed over to them, Ambrose refused, saying that ‘palaces are the concern of the emperor, but Churches belong to the bishop.’ He also pointed out that the ’emperor is within the Church, but not over the Church.’ It is worth noting that St Ambrose in this tilt with the imperial power, appealed constantly to the principle laid down by Jesus Himself: ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ In the year 494 Pope Gelasius I, in a letter to the Emperor Anastasius, laid down the principle that the world is ruled by two powers, the sacred power of the Popes and the royal power. The power of the priesthood is more important because the priest must give an account to God even for the kings of men. In the West, then, both in principle and in fact, the Pope and the bishops maintained the independence of the Kingdom of God from the civil power. In matters affecting the conduct of the civil affairs of the state, the Church and its members would obey the laws of the state. But in matters of religion the Church is independent, subject only to God.

‘IN MATTERS OF FAITH THE CHURCH IS INDEPENDENT, SUBJECT ONLY TO GOD’

This teaching of Pope Gelasius was a clear re-affirmation of the principle laid down by Christ Himself. It helped to guard the Church of the West from the dangers of Caesaropapism. But the bishops of the Eastern Church were already too accustomed to subservience to the civil power. Moreover, the tendency of the peoples of the East to become embroiled in theological and liturgical controversies, coupled with the human ambitions of the bishops of Constantinople, helped to bring about the triumph of Caesaropapism and ultimately a rupture between the Eastern and the Western Church.

‘A CLEAR RE-AFFIRMATION OF THE PRINCIPLE LAID DOWN BY CHRIST HIMSELF’

The first open signs of this rupture are found in the story of the Photian schism. In 847 Ignatius, a son of the Emperor Michael I, was elected Patriarch of Constantinople. His opposition to Bardas, guardian of the emperor, brought about his deposition as Patriarch. Photius, a layman, was chosen in his place. Pope Nicholas I sent legates to Constantinople to mediate the dispute between the followers of Ignatius and those of Photius. His legates took the dide of Photius, but the Pope himself decided in favour of Ignatius. With the support of the emperor, Photius remained in power. But he had been alienated from the Papacy by the decision of Nicholas I. In his anger he wrote a number of works against the See of Rome. These have provided ever since an arsenal of arguments used by Eastern theologians against the Western Church. Even though, ultimately, Photius died in communion with the Pope at Rome, the seeds of the schism had been sown.

THE PRESERVERS OF THE CULTURE THAT WAS HANDED DOWN

In 1053 the Patriarch Michael Caerularius began an active campaign against the Church of the West. In 1054 he was solemnly excommunicated by the papal legates. This brought about the rupture between the Eastern and the Western Church. At the general councils of Lyons, in 1274, and Florence, in 1438, unsuccessful attempts were made to reunite the churches of the East and the West. But the schism remains to this day. Now and then, in the course of succeeding centuries, some bishops and peoples of the East have been reunited to Rome. But the majority of the Christian Churches of the East are still in schism. Thus Caesaropapism – the attempt of civil authority to dominate in a sphere where it has no real authority – helped to remove many of the followers of Christ from the unity of His sheepfold which He so ardently desired.

THE CHURCH AND CHARLEMAGNE

In the West the relations between Church and the state followed a different course. At that time when the Eastern Church was coming under the domination of the civil power, the activity of St Ambrose and the statement of Christian principle by Pope Gelasius, aided by the breakdown of the western empire, preserved the Church from the danger of Caesaropapism. The prestige of the Church in western Europe was greatly increased by the fact that the Church, in the persons of the Pope and the bishops, emerged from the chaos of the barbarian invasions as the symbols of law and order and the preservers of the ancient culture. The conversion of the Franks improved the position of the Popes as the leaders of the Church. Pepin, the founder of the Corolingian dynasty, gave Pope Stephen III a donation of lands in Italy for the protection of the Roman See. In the year 800 Charlemagne, by accepting coronation as Emperor of the West at the hands of the Pope, consolidated the position of the Pope. Though Charlemagne himself had tendencies toward Caesaropapism, his great empire broke up after his death and the Western Church was temporarily relieved of this embarrassing situation.

SOME BAD NEWS FOR THE CHURCH

But this relief was productive of its own embarrassments. The Mohammedans had begun a series of sea raids on the coasts of Italy and France. The Danes had begun their raids on Ireland, England and the continent itself. The breakdown of Charlemagne’s empire, with the consequent rivalry between kings and princes, helped to increase the chaos which spread through Europe. In these conditions the Papacy became subject to the intrigues of the nobles of Rome and Italy. In the tenth century, under three German emperors, Otto I, Otto II and Otto III, order was restored and the Papacy rescued from the local intrigues of the Roman nobility. But the Ottos tended to make the Church dependent on the imperial authority. Under Otto I the empire founded by Charlemagne was re-established. But, unfortunately for the Church, the emperors sought to nominate Popes or control their election. In addition it had become customary for emperors, kings and princes to nominate bishops and abbots. In the development of feudal Europe bishops and abbots had often become great landowners and feudal allies of the civil sovereigns. Thus it seemed just to the princes that they should have the disposal of ecclesiastical offices and dignities. But such a system of providing successors for the Apostles was extremely bad for the Church.

THE CONCORDAT OF WORMS, A.D. 1122

A movement of reform began during the reign of Pope Leo IX, who had been named Pope by the emperor in 1049. The aim of the reform movement was to liberate the Church from the dominance of the secular princes. The movement came to a climax in the reign of Pope Gregory VII. Gregory forbade laymen to appoint men to ecclesiastical offices and threatened anyone who did so with excommunication from the Church. The Emperor Henry IV disobeyed the decree. Gregory excommunicated Henry and deposed him. The deposition of Henry from the rule of his kingdom was the first case in which a Pope actually attempted to depose a king. In the actual struggle which ensued, Gregory did not obtain a victory. But his action was a manifestation of his own view on the meaning of the Christian principle ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.’ Gelasius had recognised that there are two divinely instituted powers in the world, the civil authority and the authority of the Church. Gregory showed that in his mind the civil authority was ultimately subject to the power of the Church, since the Church had to render to God an accounting for the actions of princes. At any rate, the action of Gregory set the tone for the policy of the Church in relation to the state for the succeeding centuries. The particular question of laymen appointing and investing ecclesiastical officers – bishops and abbots – was settled at the Concordat of Worms (in 1122) under Pope Calixtus II. By the concordat it was agreed that in future all bishops and abbots should be elected by the proper ecclesiastical authorities. It was thus agreed that the civil authority should not control the Church by its custom of appointing bishops.

BECAUSE THE CHURCH STRIVED TO MAINTAIN INDEPENDENCE OF WORLDLY POWERS, THE KING SENT HIS ARMY TO ARREST THE POPE

In the twelfth century the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa attempted again to subject the Church to the imperial power. His efforts were opposed by Pope Alexander III. It was not until 1177 at the peace of Venice that the struggle ended. Under Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) the Papacy reached the height of its power in both spiritual and temporal affairs.

The struggle was renewed during the reign of Emperor Frederick II. It did not end until Charles of Anjou defeated Conradin, the last of the Hohenstaufen emperors, in 1268.

Philip the Fair of France (1285-1314) quarreled with Pope Boniface VIII. Philip, seeking to increase the royal power in France, levied taxes on the French clergy. Boniface held that the Church could not be taxed without its own consent. Later Philip arrested the Bishop of Pamiers. Boniface threatened to depose him. Then, in the Papal Bull ‘Unam Sanctam’ the Pope reaffirmed the doctrine that the temporal authority ‘should be subjected to the spiritual.’ But Philip dealt a severe blow to the prestige of the Papacy by sending his army into Italy to arrest the Pope. Through the loyalty of the people at Anagni the Pope escaped. But the violent action of the king helped to reduce the awe in which the people had held the Pope.

THE POPES, IN THEIR EFFORTS TO MAINTAIN THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE CHURCH FROM THE STATE, WERE SUBJECTED TO MUCH HARASSMENT

From this point on the power and prestige of the Popes declined. Pope John XXII was denounced by Louis of Bavaria. Marsilio published a book ‘Defensor pacis’ in which he proposed the theory that everything was subject to the emperor. The Papacy was subject to a general council and councils were subject to the emperor. In 1378 there began the Great Western Schism. Some cardinals, contesting the election of Urban VI, elected Robert of Geneva as Clement VII. In 1409 a so-called general council at Pisa elected a third Pope, Alexander V.

The existence of rival claimants to the Papacy gave impetus to theories that the Church generally, especially as represented by general councils, was superior to the Pope. Practically, the schism was settled at the Council of Constance. Two of the rival Popes resigned their office. The council elected Martin V Pope. While this action of the council provided a practical solution to the schism, the council itself claimed power over the Papacy. This claim was later renewed at the Council of Basel. Thus the Popes, in their efforts to maintain the independence of the Church from the state, now found themselves compelled to resist the theory that a general council is superior to the Pope.

THE SUPREME AUTHORITY WHICH JESUS HAD GIVEN TO THE PAPACY IN THE PERSON OF PETER AND HIS SUCCESSORS AT ROME WAS ATTACKED

The dissensions within the Church occasioned by the Great Schism enabled the princes of Europe to strengthen their own authority over the Church. In 1438 Charles VII of France promulgated the Pragmatic Sanction whereby all papal nominations of clergy in France were forbidden. The German princes were not slow to imitate this action. Meanwhile there developed the tendency to appeal from Papal decisions to a future general council, as if such a council was superior to the Pope. In this way, through the so-called Concilliar Theory, the supreme authority which Jesus had given to the Papacy in the person of Peter and his successors at Rome was attacked and weakened.

THE PRINCES FINALLY SUCCEED IN BRINGING A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF CHRISTIANS INTO THEIR WORLDLY POWER

This weakening of papal authority paved the way for the great disaster which befell the Church in the sixteenth century – the Protestant Reformation. Whatever faults of the Church needed correction, whatever the numerous and interwoven causes which led to this so-called Reformation, one thing is clear – the ‘Reformation’ destroyed the religious unity of Europe and separated from the true Church of Jesus many nations. Parts of Germany, Denmark, sweden and Norway, England and Scotland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and a small but influential group in France, were separated from Christian unity of belief and practice. The princes of these nations, anxious to assert their independence of the Popes and to gain complete domination over religious affairs, aided the so-called reform movement. The reformers, for their part, anxious to establish their own interests against the Popes, accepted the idea that civil princes had authority over the Church in their own domains and could dictate the kind of religion which would be practised there. Thus, in the new Protestant lands the Caesaropapistic tendency finally triumphed.

For centuries the Popes had fought the tendency of princes to rule the Church. But the secession of the reformers from the Church, while it freed them from the exercise of papal authority, subjected them to the sovereignty of the civil power. Unfortunately through conquest and colonisation, the influence of the new religious views spread to the American continent.

WHERE WORLDLY POWER HAD TRIUMPHED, CATHOLICS WERE EITHER PERSECUTED OR FORCED TO EMIGRATE

The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 was a recognition of the division of Europe into a Catholic and a Protestant sphere. The concurrent rise of nationalism made matters even more difficult for the Church. In non-Catholic countries Catholics were either persecuted or forced to emigrate. Even in Catholic countries the kings found it expedient to gain control of the Church for their own nationalistic purposes. At this time the theory of the ‘divine right of kings’ came to the fore. Monarchs claimed that their authority came to them directly from God and they could be held to account by God alone. Since royal power was now much more stable than heretofore this claim could be made with greater success. This reinforced the claim of civil rulers to determine the religious views and practices of their subjects. In non-Catholic countries it meant the outlawing of Catholicism, the true Kingdom of God. In Catholic countries it signified the intention of Catholic monarchs to control the Church.

THE PROPERTY OF THE CHURCH WAS CONFISCATED BY THE WORLDLY POWERS AND DISCRIMINATORY LAWS PASSED AGAINST THE MEMBERS OF GOD’S KINGDOM ON EARTH

Thus in Switzerland, Holland, the Scandinavian countries and England the property of the Church was confiscated and discriminatory laws were passed against Catholics. It was not until Frederick the Great of Prussia (1740-1786) granted religious toleration to the Catholics of Silesia that the rigour of non-Catholic religious intolerance began to abate. This move toward toleration was not an unmixed blessing. If it had been the result simply of a due regard for the sanctity of individual consciences it might have been truly a step forward in the relations between Church and state. But it was also the result of the new intellectual atmosphere generated by what was called the ‘Enlightenment.’

THE SO-CALLED ‘ENLIGHTENMENT’

The cardinal principle of the Protestant Reformation was ‘private judgement.’ The reformers, in seceding from Rome, had repudiated the authority of the Pope and bishops to teach and interpret infallibly the teaching of Christ. Instead they claimed that each individual believer, by reading the Bible, could judge for himself the content of God’s revelation to man. If God’s revelation had been concerned only with natural truths easily accessible to human reason, such a principle might have worked. But, as we have seen, God’s message is concerned chiefly with supernatural mysteries which man could not discover for himself and which he cannot completely understand even after he has learned them from the Church. In history therefore the principle of private judgement broke down. As men began to read the Bible with only their own talents and prejudices to guide them, they began to question more and more the content of the divine message.

MEN BEGAN TO READ THE BIBLE WITH ONLY THEIR OWN TALENTS AND PREJUDICES TO GUIDE THEM

It was easier to reject mysteries than to accept them in submission to the wisdom of God. From the rejection of divine mysteries to the rejection of reason itself – a philosophical position known as scepticism – was not a difficult step.

IT WAS EASIER TO REJECT MYSTERIES THAN TO ACCEPT THEM IN SUBMISSION TO THE WISDOM OF GOD

Nor did it take the sceptics long to question even the existence of God Himself. In such an intellectual atmosphere – generated remotely by the ‘Reformation’ with its principle of private judgement, and proximately by the scepticism of the ‘Enlightenment’ – the tolerance of Frederick the Great reflects not so much a tenderness toward the rights of the individual religious conscience as a supercilious attitude toward all forms of religion. Since all religion, as he held, is simply a matter of questionable opinion it matters not what form of religion the subjects of a state may embrace as long as all forms are subject to the power of the absolute monarch.

MARTIN LUTHER’S CAN OF WORMS: THE CARDINAL PRINCIPLE OF THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION, ‘PRIVATE JUDGEMENT’, IS SUBSEQUENTLY APPLIED TO THE QUESTION THE EXISTENCE OF GOD HIMSELF

In Catholic states at this same period the Church also experienced difficulty. In Austria Joseph II, imbued with the same absolutist tendency which motivated Frederick in Prussia, attempted to place the Church completely under the control of the royal power. His rules and regulations for the governance of the Church were so minute – descending even to the details of the appointments of a Church altar – that he became known to his fellow-monarchs as ‘Joseph the Sacristan.’ In France, under Louis XIV, this tendency to gain control of the Church was also manifested. In 1682, under the urging of Louis, there was promulgated a ‘Declaration of the Gallican Clergy.’ It declared that the power of the Pope was restricted to spiritual affairs; that kings and princes were not subject to any ecclesiastical authority in temporal affairs. To protect and strengthen his monarchy Louis felt it necessary to maintain complete control of the Church within France itself.

IN PRACTICE THIS MEANT THAT WORLDLY POWER WERE NOT TO BE HAMPERED NOR GUIDED IN THEIR ACTIONS BY THE PRINCIPLES OF EITHER RELIGION OR MORALITY

The combination of growing nationalism, of absolute monarchies and of scepticism made it difficult for the Church, by nature an international organism [Jesus Christ: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’ etc.], to preserve its proper independence of civil authority. Absolute monarchs (whose minds were often tinged with religious scepticism), intent upon strengthening their own powers and extending the borders of their kingdom, found it expedient to seek to control even the affairs of religion within their own borders. This tendency was a threat to the international, in fact the supra-national, character of the Kingdom of God on earth.

‘THE WORLD HAS HATED THEM BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT OF THE WORLD, JUST AS I AM NOT OF THE WORLD’ (Jn 17:14)

In the nineteenth century the forces of nationalism and scepticism combined to produce an even more hazardous situation for the Church. The French Revolution of 1789 was the first of a series of revolutions against the absolute monarchies in Europe. The first French Republic sought to eliminate papal influence in the French Church by insisting that bishops and priests should be chosen by the people. In addition the properties of the Church were confiscated.

THE SEEDS OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

Throughout the century the philosophy of liberalism propagated the idea that faith had nothing to do with politics. In practice this meant that politicians were neither to be hampered by nor guided in their political actions by the principles of either religion or morality. On the other hand, politicians, moved (even, if not fully conscious of the fact) by the idea of the Absolute State, felt it quite proper to interfere in matters of religion. Thus, in Italy, after the unification of Italy under the House of Savoy, monasteries were suppressed and ecclesiastical property was secularised. In Germany in 1872 the ‘Kulturkampf’ sought to impose state control of all religious schools and expelled religious orders. In France at the end of the century similar measures were taken and religious orders were not allowed to teach in the schools and many of them were expelled.

STATE VERSUS THE BODY OF CHRIST: THE MENACE OF TOTALITARIAN STATES

In the twentieth century the Church found herself confronted with the menace of the ‘totalitarian states.’ Communism, nazism and fascism, each sought to control the Church for its own advantage. In Italy fascism accepted the existence of the Church and came to a kind of uneasy peace by the settlement of the Roman Question in 1929. In Germany nazism, even though it made a concordat with the Church, persecuted all forms of religion. In Russia (and in the countries subject to or allied to Russia after the Second World War) communism [was] the overt enemy of all religion. Its avowed object [was] to destroy all religion.

THE SITUATION OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD ON EARTH IS DEFINITELY NOT HOPELESS

The far-reaching extent of communist domination – [which reached all the way] from China in the East to Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Jugoslavia in the West – [had] made it difficult for the Kingdom of God to function or exist in a great part of the world. But the situation of the Church is not hopeless. In Western Europe and the Americas the movement of religious tolerance has grown. England, by the Emancipation Act of 1829, restored Catholics to equal rights with the other citizens of England and the British Isles. In 1850 Prussia also granted equality to Catholics. In Central and South America, while liberalism and communism for a time sought to exterminate the Church, there are signs that a more tolerant policy is being adopted. In the United States and Canada the Church is [nominally] allowed to function freely.

CATHOLICS WERE [NOMINALLY] RESTORED TO EQUAL RIGHTS WITH THE OTHER CITIZENS

It can be seen that the existence and functioning of the Kingdom of God on earth has not been easy. As a divine supra-national organism it must surpass the particular interests of individual nations, states and empires. As an independent, autonomous organism of the spiritual order it must possess the freedom necessary for the accomplishment of its own goal, the salvation of all men. On the other hand, nations and states possess their own, though lesser, goals, the common welfare of their members in this world. The Church has sought always to employ the principle given it by Jesus – “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s’ – in the solution of the problems of the relation between states and the Church.

AS AN INDEPENDENT, AUTONOMOUS ORGANISM OF THE SPIRITUAL ORDER THE KINGDOM OF GOD ON EARTH MUST POSSESS THE FREEDOM NECESSARY FOR THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF ITS OWN GOAL, THE SALVATION OF ALL MEN

While at times it may seem that difficulty arises between the Church and the state because individual churchmen have sought or obtained an excessive influence in temporal affairs, the chief cause of difficulty has always been the tendency of states to control the spiritual world of the Church; to control it either to the advantage of the state or to the extermination of the Church.

THE CHIEF CAUSE OF DIFFICULTY BETWEEN INDIVIDUAL STATES AND THE SUPRA-NATIONAL CATHOLIC CHURCH HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE TENDENCY OF STATES TO CONTROL THE SPIRITUAL WORLD OF THE CHURCH

The Church, of course, is not surprised to encounter this difficulty. Its divine Master, Jesus Himself, told it it would meet suspicion, hatred and persecution. The servant is not greater than her Master. She represents God, God stooping down from eternity to the world of time, seeking to save men, to invite men to enter freely into the Kingdom of God. But she knows that men must enter freely into God’s kingdom. She knows that the sinful wilfulness of men cannot be changed completely in all men in a day or in centuries. Her task is universal not only in space but in time. In each generation she must repeat the divine invitation to salvation and in each generation she must meet the same wilful, sinful tendencies of the free human will.

IN EACH GENERATION THE CHURCH MUST REPEAT THE DIVINE INVITATION TO SALVATION, AND IN EACH GENERATION SHE MUST MEET THE SAME WILFUL, SINFUL TENDENCIES OF THE FREE HUMAN WILL

So in divine patience, if not always in peace, she seeks to exist and to function among all nations, in all states, applying as circumstances suggest the divine principle regulating her relation to human temporal states: ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.'”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959 (Headings in capital letters added afterwards)

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

ST STANISLAUS – MARTYRED WHILE CELEBRATING MASS

11th APRIL: ST STANISLAUS

IT IS SAID THAT HE WAS KILLED WHILE CELEBRATING MASS

“St Stanislaus of Szczepanow was born in a village in Lesser Poland (Malopolska). He was educated at the Cathedral school in Gniezno, Poland’s capital at the time. He was eventually ordained by Lambert II Sula, Bishop of Krakow.

Following the bishop’s death in 1072, Stanislaus took his place, becoming one of the earliest native Polish bishops. During his time in office he managed to ensure the re-establishment of the metropolitan see in Gniezno which was a precondition for Duke Boleslaw’s coronation as king. After he was enthroned in 1076, Stanislaus managed to persuade King Boleslaw to establish Benedictine monasteries for the evangelisation of Poland.

King Boleslaw and Stanislaus fell into conflict when Poland experienced a prolonged war with Ruthenia. The bishop criticised the king for punishing soldiers’ faithless wives very cruelly. Although the root cause of the falling out is still debated, Bishop Stanislaus excommunicated the king and was subsequently accused of treason and sentenced to death.

Although Boleslaw sent his men to execute the bishop without trial, they felt too afraid and so the king killed Stanislaus himself. It is said that he killed Stanislaus while he was celebrating Mass in the Church of St Michael the Archangel, known as the Skalka, though it is also said he was actually killed in Wawel Castle.

The bishop’s body was then hacked to pieces and thrown into a pool. Some sources say his death occurred on April 11 1079 and others say May 8 of the same year. Pope Innocent IV canonised Stanislaus on September 17 1253 and Pope Clement VIII later named his feast day for May 7, which was moved to April 11 by the Church in 1969, when it was decided this was the accurate date of his death.

Stanislaus is a patron saint of both Krakow and Poland. Every year, the Archbishop of Krakow leads a procession from Wawel to the Skalka in honour of St Stanislaus. Wawel Cathedral holds the saint’s relics and is a national shrine for Poles.

One of Stanislaus’ greatest devotees was the soon-to-be-saint John Paul II, who in 1979 devoted his first apostolic letter, Rutilans Agmen, to St Stanislaus. The letter expressed his wonder that John Paul II, a successor of Stanislaus in the see of Krakow, should, ‘by the inscrutable designs of God’, have been elected Pope within the 900th anniversary year of his predecessor’s martyrdom.”
– This article was published in “The Catholic Herald” newspaper issue April 4 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link).

 

Tags: , , , ,

“TOTALLY SACRIFICING ONESELF FOR THE HOLY CHURCH” – ST JOZEF BILCZEWSKI

“John Paul II beatified Jozef Bilczewski in 2001 and Benedict XVI canonised him four years later.

Jozef was born in 1860 in Wilamovice in southern Poland and attended secondary school in Wadowice, the future birthplace of the Polish pope. He was ordained priest in Krakow by Cardinal Albino Dunajewski. He received a doctorate in theology from the University of Vienna and eventually became professor of dogmatic theology at the John Casimir University of Lviv.

Throughout his academic career he devoted himself to scientific work and his exceptional intellectual abilities were recognised by Franz Joseph, the Emperor of Austria, who presented Fr Jozef to the Holy Father as a candidate for the vacant Metropolitan See of Lviv. On December 17 1900, at the age of 40, he was named Archbishop of Lviv of the Latin Rite.

After accepting his new role, he summed up his pastoral plan as ‘totally sacrificing oneself for the Holy Church’. He placed a great emphasis on devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and receiving Holy Communion. In a pastoral letter to priests he invited them to take part in two priestly associations: the Association for Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament and the Association of Aid to Poor Catholic Churches. He was also an advocate of unity, harmony and peace, and dedicated himself to the cause of social justice. He also placed a lot of emphasis on priestly vocations.

During the First World War he was outspoken in promoting the infinite love of God, capable of forgiving every type of sin and offence. He reminded his flock that they must obey God’s commandments, particularly that of brotherly love.

He died on March 20 1923 and was buried in a Lviv cemetery known as ‘the cemetery of the poor’.

In June 2001 the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints recognised as miraculous the healing of a nine-year-old boy’s third-degree burns after he asked Archbishop Bilczewski to intercede for him.

The beatification ceremony took place in the Archdiocese of Lviv on June 26 2001 during Blessed John Paul II’s visit to Ukraine.”
– This article was published in “The Catholic Herald” issue March 14 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link).

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

FR SYKULSKI: “I CANNOT ABANDON MY PARISH”

BLESSED KAZIMIERZ SYKULSKI, PRIEST AND MARTYR

“Kazimierz Sykulski was ordained a priest for the diocese of Radom, Poland, at the age of twenty-two. Assigned to a parish church in Konskie, he was remembered for his deep spirituality and his exceptional preaching. Following the invasion of Poland by the Nazis in the autumn of 1939 Father Sykulski organised relief efforts for the victims of the war. The Nazis threatened to imprison him.

Aware of the danger, Father Sykulski told a parishioner: ‘I cannot abandon my parish. I shall be with them, even if I shall be threatened with death.’ He was arrested by the Nazis on 1st October 1941. During an interrogation he declared his willingness to lay down his life for his Church and his country. The fifty-eight-year-old priest was sent to Auschwitz where, on 11th December 1941, he was executed. Full of trust in divine providence, Father Sykulski remained calm up to the moment of his death, giving absolution to the other prisoners condemned to die with him.”

 
 

Tags: , , , ,

COURAGEOUS CHRISTIAN SURVIVAL IN A HOSTILE ATHEIST ENVIRONMENT

THE ATTEMPTS TO KILL THE FAITH

“In the midst of this winter of atheism in the West, it is heartening to travel to distant parts of the globe and find that spring has arrived. For decades in Russia, thousands of Catholic priests, religious and laypersons were persecuted, imprisoned without trial or merely taken away and shot by the Soviet Communists in their attempt to kill the Faith. It was an experiment in state-sponsored atheism. But today you can walk into a Catholic church in Irkutsk, eastern Siberia, and find Mass being celebrated every day of the week. The experiment has failed and what Russia’s brutal Communists could not achieve is surely beyond the reach of the West’s extremist but essentially spineless secularists.

THE EXPERIMENT HAS FAILED

The Church of the Assumption in Irkutsk stands on the corner of Kirov Square. It was built in 1889, replacing the original wooden church that was burnt down in the great fire of 1879 that destroyed much of the town. Across the street is the bleak, grey government building that embodied Soviet power, the hammer and sickle still visible in the stonework. A beautiful Orthodox cathedral with six golden cupolas used to occupy the spot but the Communists tore it down in the 1930s. Remarkably, the neighbouring Catholic church survived. Perhaps its acoustics saved it, because, after stealing it from the Church, the Communists handed it over to the Philharmonic Society which to this day uses it for organ concerts. The Russian government has yet to return the stolen property and the Church is obliged to pay rent to hold daily Mass in the lower chapel and Sunday Mass upstairs in the main church.

I came across this church in the summer of 2012, on my first Sunday in Irkutsk. It was an unexpected delight to be able to attend daily Mass in distant Siberia, to meet several priests and religious as well as members of the congregation. Through them I built a picture of how the Catholic Church came to Siberia, how the Communists tried to wipe it out and how it has survived against all the odds and is now attracting new converts.

SURVIVING AGAINST ALL THE ODDS

On the opposite bank of the Angara River, up a steep road beyond the tracks of the Trans-Siberian Railway, stands the Cathedral of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It was consecrated in 2000 and contains a beautiful, golden statue of the Virgin Mary against a stylised map of Russia, a reference to the second secret of Fatima that spoke of the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary.

It was at the Cathedral that I met Sister Danuta, one of the four members of the Divine Word Missionaries working there alongside two Polish and one Indonesian Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters (SSpS). Sr Danuta told me that about 200 parishioners attend Sunday Mass at the Cathedral and about 40 children attend catechism classes. The Church organises marriage encounter weekends that attract even non-Catholics. Later during my stay I was to meet a group of young altar boys who had travelled from all over the vast diocese of St Joseph at Irkutsk (the Catholic Church’s largest in terms of square miles) to attend a retreat. One 17-year-old had come from Yakutsk, a journey of five days by rail and road.

SIBERIAN EXILES

Sister Danuta, who arrived in Irkutsk from Poland over a decade ago, gave me my first introduction to the history of the Church there and an insight into its contemporary conditions. She told me of the Polish uprisings of 1863 and 1864 and how the Russian Tsar exiled about 40,000 Poles, mostly Catholics, to Siberia. They included over 500 priests who were forced to stay in the isolated town of Tunka, 200km south-west of Irkutsk. In fact, the first Polish exiles to Siberia, numbering around 5,000, arrived as early as 1772, following the failed Bar Confederation, one of the first attempts to throw off the Russian yoke. More Poles were exiled following the failure of Tadeusz Kosciuszko’s revolt in 1795 and the November Uprising in 1830. Not all Catholics came under duress. Some were traders and there were Catholics amongst the worforce that built the Trans-Siberian Railway.

The first priests in Irkutsk were Jesuits who arrived in 1812 and it was they who built the first wooden church. There were about 1,200 Catholics in the Irkutsk parish at the time. In 1820 the Jesuits were expelled from Russia and the Franciscans came to replace them. By the early nineteenth century there were about 30,000 Catholics in the Irkutsk region.

SAINTS AND MARTYRS

ST JOSEPH KALINOWSKI

It was also from Sister Danuta that I heard for the first time of one of the many saints and martyrs numbered amongst the exiles and deportees in Siberia: St Joseph Kalinowski (1835-1907), a boyhood hero of Pope John Paul II. He was condemned to death for his part in the 1863 Polish Uprising, but the sentence was commuted to ten years hard labour in the salt-mines near Irkutsk. Carrying with him only the Gospels and the ‘Imitation of Christ’ he discovered, amidst the extreme hardships of Siberia, his priestly vocation. After returning to Poland he was ordained at the age of 47 and later did much to restore the Carmelite Order in that country. Pope John Paul II canonised him in 1991.

ALL RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY BECAME ILLEGAL

The Soviet regime took up where the Tsarist regime had left off and deported not tens, but hundreds of thousands, from Belarus, western Ukraine and the Baltic states. The 19th-century exiles had arrived on foot in Siberia. Their 20th-century counterparts came packed into goods trains. But unlike the earlier arrivals, they would not be allowed to practise their Faith openly. The 1929 Soviet constitution and the Law on Religious Associations made it illegal to try to defend religion against atheist arguments or engage in religious activity. In 1917 all education had been handed over to the state. The family remained the last and only bulwark against Soviet totalitarianism. But also, by the law of unintended consequences the mass deportations of these ‘enemies of the people’ brought a new wave of Catholics to Siberia, the parents and grandparents of the people I was now kneeling next to in this church in Irkutsk.

I tried to learn from those parishioners how their faith had remained alive over all those years. Many remembered learning prayers from their grandparents, but in many cases it was just a vague recollection… One parishioner, Margarita, told me of how she had come to the Faith after discovering a medal with the image of St Benedict. She was curious enough to research the saint, leading her to discover more about the Catholic Church until she was finally baptised.

FR BUKOVINSKI

Her husband gave me his collection of magazines entitled the ‘Siberian Catholic Gazette’ dating back to 1999. Its articles contain so many testimonies to the bravery of Catholics under communist persecution. One figure in particular stands out: that of Fr Bukovinski (1904-74). The ‘Gazette’ has published excerpts from his memoirs that tell of his work as an underground priest throughout the Soviet Union. He was imprisoned on several occasions by the Communists and came close to death in 1941 and 1949. He is now buried in the grounds of the newly opened Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Fatima in his native town of Karaganda in Kazakhstan.

In one of Fr Bukovinski’s articles he recalls a young Latvian student from a family of deportees in Siberia. A Catholic, he secretly attended Mass offered by a Latvian priest who was conducting his mission clandestinely. The student’s professor got to know about this and ordered a meeting of students to conduct a public recantation of his anti-Soviet activities. However, once the professor had finished accusing him of going to Mass and believing in God, the student stood up and, rather than recanting, announced
, ‘I hereby state that I do believe in God and will do so till the day I die.’

‘I HEREBY STATE THAT I DO BELIEVE IN GOD AND WILL DO SO TILL THE DAY I DIE”

There was a long moment of silence in the group and then all the other students broke out into applause. His courage and defiance had impressed them although there was not a single Catholic amongst them.

SHE WAS PARTICULARLY ATTRACTED TO PRAYING THE ROSARY

In the September 2002 edition of the ‘Gazette’ there is a letter which echoes of Dostoyevsky. It is from a prisoner serving a life sentence in Solikamsk Prison Camp in the Ural Mountains. He speaks of how he recently converted to Catholicism thanks to a certain Brother Dionysus. But his mentor had since returned to Poland, leaving him in a spiritual vacuum, the only Catholic in the prison. He appeals simply for readers to write to him to break his isolation and help his spiritual development. He signs his letter, Yuri, The Sinner.

I also read Sister Aloysius’s account of her vocation. Living in the small town of Prokopyevsk, south-east of Novosibirsk, her mother chanced upon a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and started to attend secret meetings with a small group of local Catholics. The young girl, curious about where her mother disappeared to each week, began to ‘spy’ on her and found out where the meetings were being held. She was invited to join the group, and, in her turn, was converted. She was particularly attracted to praying the Rosary in front of the two icons in the family home, one of the Sacred Heart and one of the Virgin Mary. Her schoolmates found out about her Catholicism and taunted and harassed her. But she remained firm in her faith and, after the fall of Communism, became a nun with the Sisters of St Joseph. It was only then that her mother told her that she had wanted to abort her, but on the two occasions she set out for the doctor’s surgery, fortuitous events stopped her in her steps.

HER MOTHER HAD WANTED TO ABORT HER

It was in 1991 that the Church celebrated its first Christmas Mass in Irkutsk after the government had lifted the ban on public worship for the first time in decades. In the same year, Caritas opened its first centre in Novosibirsk and it continues to work along with other Catholic organisations such as St Vincent de Paul. Siberia has its own pre-seminary in Novosibirsk, opened in 1993, from where postulants graduate to the seminary in Moscow or St Petersburg.

PERSECUTION AND HARASSMENT CONTINUED

However, persecution and harassment continued. The first bishop of St Joseph’s diocese in Irkutsk, Bishop Jerzy Mazur, was denied re-entry into Russia in 2002 on his return from Warsaw and was declared persona non grata by the Putin government. The Russian Duma on several occasions has discussed ways to stop the growth of the Catholic Church in Russia and there was strong official opposition to John Paul II’s visit to Ukraine in 2001. (It was during that visit that he beatified 27 Catholic martyrs, many from Siberia.) In 1992 the Catholic parish in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk (on Sakhalin island off the Far East coast of Russia) was re-opened thanks to aid from South Korean missionaries, but five years later those same missionaries were forced to leave by the authorities in Moscow…

AMIDST AGGRESSIVE ATHEISM, DO WE ALWAYS AND EVERYWHERE HAVE THE COURAGE TO STAND UP FOR GOD AND THE FAITH?

Fr Bukovinski wrote that, ‘In the Soviet Union, everything is at the service of atheism: the press, cinema, schools, theatre, radio and TV. Atheism, in one way or another addresses the people, while believers, although there are more of them, remain silent.’ He could well be describing our own society. As this aggressive atheism unfurls, how many of us will have the courage of that Latvian student in deepest Siberia and risk all by asserting our Catholic faith?”
– This article by Paul McGregor entitled “Glimpsing a miracle in Siberia” was published in “The Catholic Herald” issue August 23 2013. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link).

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 25, 2013 in Prayers for Ordinary Time

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

PRAYER TO ST STANISLAUS

ST STANISLAUS, BISHOP AND MARTYR; MEMORIAL: APRIL 11

St Stanislaus was born in Poland about 1030; he studied in Paris and Liege and became bishop of Cracow in 1071. Stanislaus was a pastoral bishop whose concerns were the reform of the clergy and the sanctity of the people. He helped the poor and made a visitation of the clergy each year. He came into conflict with the king, Boleslav, who had him murdered in 1079.

PRAYER:

Father,
to honour you, Saint Stanislaus
faced martyrdom with courage.
Keep us strong and loyal
in our faith until death.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

 
 

Tags: , , , , ,