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A Saint for Today

27 kwietnia 2010 | 10:40 | maj/maz Ⓒ Ⓟ

Presenting Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko only as a martyr of communism and a figure of a heroic era which definitely belongs to the past would unjustly diminish him and strip him of the most fascinating feature, i.e. the timeless significance of his message.

Fr. Jerzy is a saint for today. His beatification in 2010 proves that he is to be a model of sanctity for us, people who live in a different but by no means easier time.

Master of Building Relations

Fr. Popiełuszko simply liked people. Without having his way, he was genuinely able to take a deep interest in others, their life, perspective and problems. He respected everyone. He was not imposing but was able to create a spiritual space around himself. People were attracted to him as they sensed his kind-heartedness. He was a master of forging close interpersonal relations. Now he is a patron for all those who in an era of individualism and a pursuit of self-realisation suffer from loneliness which can hardly be dispelled by costly psychotherapeutic sessions.

Responsible for the Disadvantaged

You could always rely on him – during an illness, without a flat of your own, in dire straits, interned during martial law, or standing a trial. Other people’s problems were his problems. Disregarding danger, he spoke up especially for the most humiliated. An advocate of human dignity, he would speak about social justice, the creation of a common good and solidarity. As a chaplain of the health service he took great effort to defend the unborn. Unfortunately, each time has its group of the afflicted and the disadvantaged who grapple with the trials and tribulations of life. Problems of the ‘distant’ Africa, social injustice, abortion, euthanasia, or genetic engineering indicate that one must constantly defend the dignity of those who cannot defend themselves.

Guardian of Truth

As John Paul II wrote in the encyclical Veritatis Splendor, martyrs are the guardians of the ‘borderline between good and evil’. Throughout his life Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko defended the clear distinction between truth and lie. He spoke about the value of truth and the mediocrity of lie, which must be voluble and yet perishes so fast. Today, at a time of excess information and allegedly relative and subjective values, when drawing a dividing line between good and evil is not politically correct, his message remains as current as ever. He proves that not all is relative; there are things worth dying for.

Model of Priest and Cooperation with Laity

His greatness was born at the altar rather than in an activity that was supplementary from the perspective of priestly vocation. He was a man of profound prayer who trusted God rather than his capabilities and talents. He may be a paragon of relations between clergy and laity. He was direct and open, spoke a simple language and never converted by force. Still, he was first and foremost a pastor focusing on his mission of leading people to God. His sermons were usually no longer than 15 minutes.

Teacher of Freedom

He spoke a lot about freedom in his sermons. He stressed that freedom is no anarchy or the ability to do anything one pleases and can be done, but rather an ability to seek good. He preached that inner freedom is the essence of all freedom and that each enslavement starts with the rejection of God and with sin. At a time of an offensive of ethical liberalism, a false vision of freedom and pitfalls of democracy without values his teaching is as relevant as ever.

Patron of Unity

He was able to facilitate relationships between people and create a community. He brought together walks of life that had little in common and taught them to open up to one another. A man of dialogue and reconciliation, he may be a patron of unity over divisions, especially in Poland, which today needs concerted efforts of different political factions and various social groups.

Overcome Evil by Good

To love one’s friends is the universal message of the Gospel. To overcome evil by good. To be free from hatred, a desire of retaliation and revenge. To be able to see your opponent and persecutor as a person who may be in need of help. Fr. Popiełuszko would offer hot coffee to the freezing police officers who kept tabs on his house during martial law. Against the advice of his friends he never publicly disclosed the names of those who libelled him. He kept saying that he was fighting evil not its victims, the task of every Christian, irrespective of the time.

Ordinary Saint

He was a ‘flesh-and-blood’ person. A run-of-the-mill student, acolyte, seminarian, and priest of average talents. He was not born a saint and had his weaknesses; for instance, he liked gadgets and cars and shortly after ordination was afraid of preaching sermons. Fr. Popiełuszko may be a model for all the ‘average’ people who think that only the ‘great’ and the ‘chosen’ may become saints.

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