My web designer, Charles Johnston and I are working on a new look for our website that will allow all of our visitors to follow Blessed Father Jerzy through the last four years of his life. To do this we will be using the speeches and sermons he gave at the once-monthly Masses For The Fatherland, starting on February 28, 1982. In addition, using archival photographs, books video and eyewitness testimony we will try to establish the environment in Poland at the time of each mass and the circumstances of his position at the church as resident priest.
The Following is the first installment of the heroic life of Blessed Father Jerzy Popieluszko that led to his martyrdom four short years later: February 1982 was a month of great importance to Father Jerzy Popieluszko. His new goal was to try and make the church a bridge between the underground and the people in the pews. His own church would be a meeting place of patriots: Poles who wanted to restore a sovereign, democratic nation. His pastor at St. Stanislaw Kostka, Father Toefil Bogucki, had revived the tradition of masses for the fatherland in October 1981, and his rough tongue and brassy phrasing had found an interested congregation. Seeing that Father Jerzy was hungry to be more involved in the masses Father Bogucki asked him to speak at the next mass for the fatherland on Sunday, February 28, 1982.
The little church was packed, with people spilling out it’s massive brass doors.
The Police and Militia troops watched from all four corners of the church property but held their positions. Mixed into the crowds inside the church were the secret police, brazenly holding up small tape recorders. Because of the obvious danger of being arrested again, Father Jerzy decided to read aloud the recently published declarations of the Polish Bishops.
There was no way the secret police were about to arrest all of the bishops.
[opening remarks] Holy Mass for the Fatherland on February 28 1982 was celebrated by Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko. In place of the homily he read to the congregation in the Church of St. Stanislaus Kostka the Declaration of Polish Bishops.
We gather in the name of Jesus Christ. We gather to place our prayers at Christ’s altar and with them everything that we are experiencing, at this moment, in the life of our Nation. We especially include in our prayers those whom the martial law has touched most painfully. We take in all those deprived of their freedom, those arrested, retained, deprived of work, and their families. We also include all those who serve the injustice and the lies.
[declarations of Polish Bishops and the Primate]
The Church always stands on the side of truth. The Church is always on the side of those who are harmed. Today, the Church stands on the side of those who have been deprived of freedom, whose consciences are being attacked. The Church stands today on the side of workers’ solidarity, on the side of working people who are frequently put into the same category as criminals. On December 15th, last year, Polish Bishops said the following ¹”
Chief Episcopal Council of Poland gathering in the time of martial law, based on the available information of the situation in Poland – directs to the faithful of Catholic Church, words of support, unity and brotherly sympathy. Our pain of the entire nation terrorized by military power. Many members of the union movement have been interned. Interment is widening and affecting workers as well as people of culture and learning and students. (…) The uncertainty and impotence of the working world causes increased emotions, bitterness and hate, to the point of determination. (…) The dramatic decision of the authorities to impose martial law on our country is a blow to the expectations and hopes that, through nation-wide understanding, one can resolve the existing problems of our country. (…) We wish the Church and the people to concentrate on the following goals.
- The release of those interned and establishing for them acceptable living conditions. We are aware of many cases of abused, of placing people without warm closing in freezing quarters.
- The re-activation of labor unions, especially “Solidarity”, as per their statutes, and this includes the enabling the Leader and the Committee to function freely. The union “Solidarity” which defends the rights of working people is vital to the return of equilibrium in public life…