Friday, August 8, 2014

Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko

The rise of trade unions in Poland took on a very different identity than those in America. “Solidarity”, the movement of manual laborers in Poland, all drew their strength and inspiration from Catholicism. It was no coincidence that the Pope at the time was the first Slav to be in the chair of St. Peter, Karol Wojtyla. On the ground in Poland, simultaneous to his pontificate, were numerous Polish priests and Bishops who encouraged the solidarity movement. Among them was Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko, an invalid with a particular calling to preach and minister to the laborers forming “solidarity”. But again, what differentiated this movement from that in America? It seems to me that the main difference was communism in Poland vs. greedy tycoons in the USA. Communism proved to be a much greater threat worldwide and Poland rallied around the Church for help. Though numerous American immigrants attempted to do the same, the threat of greed from individuals had less of an enduring effect on the origins of unions. So, in America, unions have fallen into the hands of lobbyists and masons. In Poland, especially with the martyrdom of Fr. Jerzy at the hands of secret police, “solidarity” remains connected to the Church.

Ignatius Press made an excellent film on the life of Fr. Jerzy, called “Popieluszko”. Old footage of Wojtyla are shown throughout the film, corresponding with St. John Paul II’s visits to his country in 1979-80s, the heart of the years in which Fr. Jerzy ministered until his martyrdom in 1984. A few speeches that are shown to the characters of the movie on television are:

To Poland the Church brought Christ, the key to understanding that great and fundamental reality that is man. For man cannot be fully understood without Christ. Or rather, man is incapable of understanding himself fully without Christ. He cannot understand who he is, nor what his true dignity is, nor what his vocation is, nor what his final end is. He cannot understand any of this without Christ.[1]

And again at Mass the following day:

Is it not Christ's will, is it not what the Holy Spirit disposes, that this Pope, in whose heart is deeply engraved the history of his own nation from its very beginning and also the history of the brother peoples and the neighbouring peoples, should in a special way manifest and confirm in our age the presence of these peoples in the Church and their specific contribution to the history of Christianity?..Is it not the design of Providence that he should reveal the developments that have taken place here in this part of Europe in the rich architecture of the temple of the Holy Spirit?..Is it not Christ's will, is it not what the Holy Spirit disposes, that this Polish Pope, this Slav Pope, should at this precise moment manifest the spiritual unity of Christian Europe?[2]

Alongside Wojtyla, many priests and bishops of Poland knew that God’s will was intent on breaking the communist will, but through peace, work, and insistence on human dignity and conscience. Fr. Jerzy preaches homily after homily on the conscience of man in the face of oppressive government, imprisonment, martial law, etc. He informs leaders of the “solidarity” movement, including one scene in a Church with Lech Walesa, of their rights before false accusations of the government.

Some men in my family have worked for trade unions for their entire careers. Compared with Polish laborers, they have little to no understanding of their dignity in Christ, their identity as rooted in baptism (non-Catholics), or the fact that their unions are run by powers that have learned little to nothing from “solidarity”. They do not see the radical turn that their historically immigrant-based political party has taken toward socialism, as though trade unions were somehow always headed toward that end. On the contrary, in Poland they grew up in opposition to that conclusion: Trade unions are the polar opposite of socialism! Sadly, unions in America are strictly secular entities. In Poland, they engage the common man in a deep legacy of holiness, martyrdom and sainthood. Fr. Jerzy is a witness to such an identity, and may his beatification process continue with ever greater miracles in our day!


[1] Homily of His Holiness John Paul II, Victory Square, Warsaw, 2 June 1979—Apostolic Journey to Poland

[2] Homily of His Holiness John Paul II, Cathedral of Gniezno, 3 June 1979—Apostolic Journey to Poland

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Dr. John Grabowski and JPII's take on Ephesians 5

St. Paul’s teaching on subordination has met with considerable public backlash since the advent of feminism in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Questions abound as to whether the teaching itself is even based on the message of Jesus, or on some abstractions of Judaic or Hellenistic practices of running a household. Dr. John Grabowski does well to point out the differences between non-Christian cultures’ approach to marriage versus the way the early Church lived out marriage in the light of St. Paul’s teaching. He explains how radically different the Christian husband’s headship looked versus the paterfamilias of the Roman society. Drawing largely from the thought of John Paul II, Grabowski fashions “Mutual Subordination of Husband and Wife” into an authentic, historical, and applicable document for today’s confusion about marriage. His argument is broken down by chapter as follows:

1) The authentic interpretation of Ephesians Five consists in mutual subordination as opposed to any sort of domination, as explained by John Paul II. The historical basis for this.
2) Help of other scolars to explain man and woman as made Imago Dei, and therefore complementary
3) The proper understanding of a husband’s headship, as related to Christ’s authority

To begin with, Judeo-Christianity has always viewed the human person, male and female, as made in the image and likeness of God. As a consequence of sin, personal relations have been severely wounded—to such a degree that a kind of male domination was seen to be acceptable in society in order to maintain order and unity. Although St. Paul would have been all too familiar with such a dominant view of women by men, particularly through his Roman citizenship and Jewish education, his teaching is not tainted by the surrounding culture, but is based, rather, on the fresh concept of Christ as servant of his bride the Church. Furthermore, he introduced to the ancient world a new approach to marriage which eliminated the curse of sin on personal relations by the grace of Christ’s self-sacrificial love. Therefore, the Christian household did look different in operation and dynamic than the Roman or Jewish household. It looked different because the husband derived his authority from Christ the Servant, and the wife also shared in that authority—largely in response to the initiative of her husband’s self-sacrificial love.

Indeed, it is the responsibility of the Christian husband to initiate the “living sacrifice” of his body for the sake of his wife, even to the point of death. St. Paul’s teaching really demands much more of the husband than contemporary interpretations of Ephesians care to admit. Read properly, there is no opportunity for the husband to take advantage, to dominate, or to “lord over” his wife if his intention is to imitate the authority and headship of Jesus. Rather, the sense of mutual subordination to Christ gets the first emphasis in the thought of John Paul II, and the subordination of a wife to her husband only follows to the degree that the husband is authentically imitating Christ as servant. The moment he diverts from the authority of Christ, is the moment he loses his wife’s respect.

The other scholars Grabowski cites besides the Pope are chiefly Angelo Cardinal Scola and Sister Prudence Allen, particularly in regard to their work on sexual complementarity. Their work is not to be confused with the myth of Aristophanes, which proposes that man and woman are just separate halves of a greater whole person. Nor is it, obviously, to be confused with Plato’s proposition that bodily existence aside, man and woman are the same. Rather, Scola and Allen teach that man and woman are distinctly other, whole, and unique from each other. When united in marriage, this distinction of persons gives rise to an imaging of the Trinity, especially in the begetting of a third, distinctly unique person.

Given the philosophical explanations from Scola and Allen, as well as the historical and exegetical analysis from Grabowski and John Paul II, one can begin to see how the Sacrament of Marriage differs from the feministic reactions to St. Paul’s teaching in Ephesians. In reality, the wife who was once seen as mere property by the Roman world is given the utmost dignity and authority due to her status as an adopted daughter of God in Christ. Only in light of Jesus’ defeat of sin and death is this marital dynamic made possible. Otherwise, the influence of sin and selfishness is too great a strain on marriage to be lived as a Sacrament. As we have seen so often in the contemporary world, many divorces result from a fundamental misunderstanding of the sacramentality of marriage (of course manifested in practical disorders: finances, infidelity, domination, etc.), whether the couple cares to admit it or not.

Lastly, Grabowski gives a thorough explanation to the controversial concept of the husband’s headship. As I have already mentioned in this regard, only insofar as the husband imitates Christ’s servant leadership, initiates self-sacrificial love and the laying down of his life, does he share in the authority of Jesus. Likewise, the husband’s headship is merely analogous to the relationship between Christ and the Church, and does not guarantee him any type of divinization or superior ontology to his wife. They are, after all, equal in dignity but with separate and complementary categories.

I have briefly pointed out the breadth and depth of Grabowski’s work in “Mutual Subordination of Husband and Wife”, but with full intent to make available the entire pdf document through various hypertext in this post. It is worth perusing for specific topics and for parish Pre-Cana events, as it was originally made available to Our Lady of Good Counsel parish.

Monday, March 3, 2014

JPII and Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina consists of three "steps" in approaching the Sacred Scriptures:

1) Meditation or chewing on the Word

2) Oratio or seeking the face of God

3) Contemplation or beholding the Lord

JPII says this of Lectio:

"Dear brothers and sisters, this development needs to be consolidated and deepened, also by making sure that every family has a Bible. It is especially necessary that listening to the word of God should become a life-giving encounter, in the ancient and ever valid tradition of lectio divina, which draws from the biblical text the living Word which questions, directs, and shapes our lives."

from "Novo Millennio Ineute": Apostolic Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to the Bishops, Clergy and Lay faithful at the close of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. n. 39.

Ironically, it is more a question of being read by the Word than of reading the Word. The Word of God, after all, is "living and active..."

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

JPII, Dali, and Exorcism

Karol Wojtyla's education in Rome culminated in his doctoral thesis on St. John of the Cross: Questio de fide apud S. Joannem a Cruce (The Question of Faith according to St. John of the Cross). For Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dali, a question of faith is what determined dignified art from garbage. He too was inspired by his fellow Spaniard, and painted Christ crucified in accord with a sketch done by the Doctor of the Church:

Salvador Dali struggled with faith to a great extent, unable to reconcile it early on with his passion for Freudian psychology. However, because he placed so much emphasis on dreams, as did Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, Dali’s inspiration for “Christ of St. John of the Cross” as a result of a dream he recalled was irresistibly convicting to him. He notes the affect of the dream on his work:

In the first place, in 1950, I had a ‘cosmic dream’ in which I saw this image in color and which in my dream represented the ‘nucleus of the atom’. This nucleus later took on a metaphysical sense; I considered it ‘the very unity of the universe’, the Christ! In the second place, when thanks to the instructions of Father Bruno, a Carmelite, I saw the Christ drawn by Saint John of the Cross, I worked out geometrically a triangle and a circle, which ‘aesthetically’ summarized all my previous experiments, and I inscribed my Christ in this triangle.

Not too many years before this dream, Dali requested in 1947 for an exorcism. A Carmelite friar, Gabriele Maria Berardi, performed the exorcism and was given a handmade crucifix in return.

The rite of exorcism used for Dali was dated 1614, and was later revised twice during the pontificate of John Paul II. The Pope is rumored to have performed two exorcisms, one successful and one unsuccessful. Fr. Gabrielle Amorth was Rome's exorcist at the time, and came to the aid of the Pope after the second unsuccessful attempt.

I want to suggest a correlation between Dali's obsession with Freud and his need for an exorcism, and refer to my previous post on JPII vs. Jungian/Freudian Psychology. While psychology can be enormously beneficial to discernment of spirits, I suggest it can also be a major impediment or excuse: recall men like Jim Morrison, Aldous Huxley, etc.

Dali's repentant response to grace was very admirable, and his post-conversion artwork reflects his interior disposition. Fellow surrealists persecuted him to a great degree, but he portrayed the strength and substance of the Gospel to be infinitely more significant than mere dreams.

For further reading on dream interpretation from a Catholic perspective, see Sirach 34.