January 29 1984, To Retain Human Dignity 1

[opening remarks]

“Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak. Say to those whose hearts are frightened : Be strong! Fear not!”(Is 35, 3-4). As each month, so also today we are in this church, reunited through the prayer for our Nation with one another and with those who suffer for Her. We are here to fulfill the call of Isaiah in relation to each other. In our meeting with God, we are to strengthen our hearts so as to be able to love more, clean our conscience, become stronger with God’s help and be able to say to our suffering brothers: Courage! Do not be afraid! Remain hopeful! Our prayer today will be accompanied by someone who, in a wonderful way, could join his love of God with his love for Country. The figure of Romuald Traugutt, leader of the January Rebellion, and today, a candidate for sainthood.

Holy Mass for the Fatherland on January 29 1984 was celebrated by Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko who delivered the sermon.January 29 1984, To Retain Human Dignity


“God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3, 16). God so loved man that He made him His child. He raised him to the status of God’s child. Do we sufficiently realize the meaning of this great distinction that being a child of God signifies? Do we realize what a great Honor it is? However, since God gave us freedom, He has also challenged us with it, and so it also is with man’s honor. It is a challenge for our entire life. And it depends on us whether we will stay true to this gift of being a child of God, till the end of our journey on earth.General Romuald Traugutt is an example of man who served God, his family and his Nation, with his whole heart till the very end. He was the most outstanding leader of the January Rebellion. Today he is a candidate for sainthood. The late Primate of the Millenium said of him – “he united his love of God with his love of Country” – when he wrote to general Josef Hauke Bosak:

(…) the Polish soldier should be a true soldier of Christ: cleanliness of his morals, unblemished virtue, and not self- will or lack of morals should he display…1

He combined his love of God and Country when he was giving the deposition to the Russian Investigation Committee:

(…) the only, and the real goal of our rebellion is regaining our independence and establishing in the country an order based on Christian love, respect for law and justice.2

He combined his love of God and Country when he ex- plained his taking over the command:

Only the unlimited trust in Providence and the unshakeable faith in the sanctity of our cause, gave me the strength and courage to take over, in these circumstances, the neglected command. I realized that command is an act of sacrifice and not ambition…3

He combined his love of God and Country when he wrote to Holy Father Pius IX:

Moscow understands that it will not overcome Catholic Poland and that is why it now imposes its greatest fury on our spiritual shepherds…4

He retained his dignity when life did not spare him experiences.

When God took five of his dearest people within less than two years.

He retained his dignity when he wrote to the nations of Europe:

(…) It is not becoming to whine and beg to one who represents the name of the offended and trampled upon human rights, who with unwavering faith in Holy Justice, and un- armed, fights for more than half a year with an infuriated enemy, ignoring his numbers and might. Fights for the sanctity of his cause and the principles which he defends…5 And he remained true to these principle the it is better to suffer for God’s cause that to be praised by the enemies of God and Church for being wise.

He retained his dignity when calm and resigned to God’s will, with true Christian courage, with folded hands and eyes raised to heaven, he offered his life on the altar of God of his Country. The people of Warsaw appreciated this, when a crowd of 10,000 gathered below the nearby citadel praying and singing: “Swiety Boze, Swiety Mocny”.

Romuald Traugutt is for us an example of a Pole, who believed in not saving himself in a cause where others sacrificed everything. A Pole who knew that those who want to do much for their Country, cannot overshadow God, but must cooperate with Him.
The January Rebellion has confirmed, once again, that physical power, no matter how great, cannot honestly and permanently resolve national problems. Because, Czar’s might suffocated the rebellion, but could not suffocate the drive of Polish Nation to a life of truth, justice, freedom and love.

Life must be lived respectfully because we only have one life.

“Today we have to speak a lot about dignity of man to understand that man overcomes everything that may exist in the world, except God, man can overcome the wisdom of the whole world…”6

To retain the dignity of man means to remain free within yourself, even in an external state of enslavement. To be one- self – to live with truth – is a certain minimum, in order not to erase within oneself the picture of the child of God.

“Each human being’s carrier on this earth – said the late Primate – starts in a diaper – even if today he wears a uniform of an ambassador or general and, in a diaper, may be somewhat bigger, it ends…” That is why it is not enough to be born just a human being. One has yet to become a human being.

To retain one’s dignity means to be oneself in every situation of life. To stand by the truth, even if it costs a lot. Because truth, spoken out, costs. Only weeds are free. For a grain of wheat one has to pay. Everything, each important matter must cost, must be difficult. Only small and cheap things are easy. The poet Novalis said that:

“Man is supported by truth. If he denies truth, he denies himself…” Lies belittle human dignity and are always the characteristic of slaves, of small people.

The Holy Father called out in February last year:

“You are not a slave. You are not allowed to be a slave. You are a son…”7.

Having dignity means living in harmony with your conscience. It is the waking up and shaping within oneself the right conscience, it is the nurturing of the conscience of the nation. Because we know that when the conscience of our Nation was failing, great tragedies occurred to us. However, when national conscience begins to wake up, to nurture itself with a feeling of responsibility for our country, the rebirth will follow. That is what happened with the rebellions and uprisings. That is how it was in the January Rebellion, and that is how it was at the time of “Solidarity”. “Poles – here again I quote the Primate –

have a good national conscience, they can fight for order in the nation, for fulfilling our duties, for God’s peace, ability to make good use of freedom to which we are all entitled…”8

We have to nurture this ability to fight, if we want to remain a free nation which, in spite of the cross on our shoulders, honorably marches towards resurrection.
True freedom is the first characteristic of a nation. It is the primary sign of God in man. It was given to us by God. Given not only to us, but to our brothers. Hence comes the duty of obtaining it for those who are unjustly deprived.
To retain human dignity, the dignity of child of God, means living without lies. You must be either hot or cold.

“How many people like this do we have in Poland? – cried out, already quoted today, Primate of the Millenium – those who pretended to be atheists because they were afraid, scared. This is a serious injury to human mind, and it bears its fruit later with results showing up in the future…”9

You will not fully retain your dignity when you carry the rosary in one pocket and in the other a notebook of contrary ide- ology. You can not serve God and mammon at the same time, you have to make a choice, but it must be made after serious thinking.
There is a trace of God in every man. Look to see whether you have erased it too much. Regardless of what you do, you are a human being, Yes, a human being.
In 1983, there was a pilgrimage of policemen to Jasna Gora. On the plaque offered to the Mother of God, they wrote:

“The faith of our grandfathers, our fathers, will be our faith, the faith of our children, our grandchildren…”.

Retain your dignity because you are a human being. No matter what job you have. Because the occupation is for man and not man for the occupation, just as the full truth about man demands that man not be for the system, but the system is for man.
God will never give up on His children, even those who stand with their backs to Him. Therefore everybody has a chance. Even if he loses all, in human ways, if he loses his dignity, sells himself, he still has time. Pick yourself up, get up. Start from scratch. Try to build on this which comes from God. Try, because you only have one life.
Eventually human dignity is also the dignity of human work. It is the right to such working conditions where man’s energy is not weakened, that man is not worn out prematurely. It is not vital that man produces a lot in a short period of time, rather that he should do good work for a long time. One can degrade man, deprive him of his dignity even through work when one makes him just a tool of production, when excessive incentives awake an excessive effort which abuses God’s order of things. Civilization with purely materialistic profile makes man a slave of his own desires and strips him of his value.
We must not forget the truth that in order to preserve faith and dignity one can sacrifice even freedom, but to pre- serve freedom, one must never sacrifice faith and the dignity of the child of God Holy Father prayed in August 1982 with these words:

Let our Mother’s heart cause that we may not stop our search for truth and justice, for freedom and dignity of our life…10

So let us persevere on the road of truth and freedom, the road of simple human rights, the road of respect of conscience. The road of solidarity with our innocently imprisoned brothers, the road of constructing solidarity of hearts and minds. Let us continue on the road of preserving human dignity as sons of God.

Let the Omnipotent Lord and She, who is our Mother and Queen help us in our perseverance.

[closing remarks] 

I want to thank especially all who have supported me with their prayers during the court hearings. Next Thursday at 9 am I shall again have a court hearing in Mostowski Palace. This will be the fourth hearing in twenty days. I will appreciate prayers for me on this day. Let us accept God’s blessing for remaining in faith, hope and love, for retaining our human dignity, the dignity of children of God. I don’t think I need to remind anyone that we shall be leaving our encounter with God. Therefore, as always we leave in concentration and complete silence.

1 Central National Committee 1862–1864 Documents, E. Halicz, St. Kieniewicz, I. Solomonovic-Miller, Ossolineum, Wroclaw 1968, p. 346.
2 The case of Romuald Traugutt and members of National Council in Documents of Field Auditorium 1863/64. E. Halicz (editor), A. Borkiewicz- Celinska, Cz. Milewski, K. Morawska, PWN, Warsaw 1960, vol. 1, p. 218.
3 Fr. Polieluszko took all quotes from the writings of Romuald Traugutt from the monthly “On the Way” 2/1/1983, p. 122-125, and Romuald Traugutt About the Rebellion.
4 Polish Diplomatic Activities 1863–1864. Collection of documents, A. Lewak (editor), PWN Warsaw 1963, vol. 2, p. 245.
5 Appeal to the people and the governments of Europe due to the declaration of martial law in Galicia calls for the defense of common ideals against the pressures and barbarities in Russia and the governments of Prussia and Austria. Also, V. I, p. 76.
6 Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, Peoples Call for the Presence of Church in Today’s World – after Vatican II to the faithful in Warsaw 1/6/1966. Also, Social Teachings 1946–1981, p. 267.
7 John Paul II, Gift given to people of good will. Sermon on the XV World Day of Peace, “L’OR” 1/1982.
8 Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, In the hour of great examination of con- science – during the blessing of coal. Oltarzew 10/2/1980, see Church Serving the Nation, p. 76.
9 Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, Release of today’s slaves – on the opening of the Annual Congress of Deacons, Warsaw 9/24/1980 in Church in Service of the Nation, p. 69.
10 John Paul II, Sermon transmitted from the chapel in Castel Gondolfo to Poland 8/26/1982, “L’OR” 8/7/1982.