Holy Mass for the Fatherland on October 31 1982 was celebrated by Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko who delivered the sermon.
[opening remarks] We are living through the eleventh month of martial law. The month of October, which we end today was again filled with painful and tragic events. Once more we have bled. This month a young miner was killed. This month the union “Solidarity’’ was deprived of its legal status. When it happened, Holy Father stated that such action violates the basic laws of our nation and of the individuals. He also asserted that the Vatican and the Church in Poland will continue defending the rights of the working classes. This month saw further numerous arrests and interments. Still, this month, the month dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, had a happy event. One of our nation’s native sons has been included among the Holy Martyrs. We have received as a gift a Patron of Poland Persecuted. We offer all the happenings of the past month to God at this Holy Mass and we ask God to give us and our nation strength of spirit and love of truth, Let us, in spite of the external pressures, remain spiritually free.
[homily] We stand at Christ’s altar facing your portrait, Holy Maximilian, Patron of Poland Persecuted. We stand here to send a prayer up to the throne of God, so that through your inter- cession, we can speak with God in our name and in the name of others who suffer for the cause of justice and truth. All the heartwarming events of the past few years are related to the election of a Pole to the Apostolic Throne, events related to the first, in a very rich history of our nation, visit of the Holy Father on our soil, events related to the birth of “Solidarity”.
All that was to prepare us and strengthen us for bravely facing our suffering and humiliations we are experiencing over more than ten months.
On the other hand, the inclusion of you, Father Maximilian, you, the martyr of our times, among the saints, shows us and assures us of the realization that the power of evil, lies, contempt and hate towards man must be conquered. You, St. Maximilian, are the symbol of victory which a man forcefully deprived of freedom can experience because his spirit remains free.
In order to retain a free spirit one must live in Truth. Life in Truth means proclaiming it, admitting it, requiring it in every situation Truth does not change. Truth cannot be destroyed by any decision, any command. Our lack of freedom comes essentially from our giving into the reign of lies, not exposing them, not protesting against it every day. We do not protest, we keep silent or we pretend that we do not believe them. We then live in lies. The brave declaration of truth is the direct path to freedom. The man who declares truth is a free man even when he is enslaved, even in prison. If the majority of Poles today followed the way of Truth, if a majority of them did not forget that which was their Truth only barely one year ago, we would now have a nation whose spirit is free. And freedom, external or political would follow sooner or later as a consequence of the spirit of freedom and faithfulness to the Truth.
The basic prerequisite for freeing an individual and the nation is to overcome fear. Fear is clearly born of threat. We are afraid of suffering, of loss of possessions. Loss of freedom, health or position threatens us. We act against our conscience which, after all, determines truth. We conquer our fear when we accept suffering or loss in the name of higher values. If truth becomes of such value for us, value worth suffering for, worth taking the risk, we will overcome fear, that fear which was the reason for our enslavement. Christ often reminded His disciples: “Do not be afraid, don’t fear those who kill the flesh but cannot do more”. You, St. Maximilian, were faithful to this teaching of Christ. You were not afraid to go to Japan in order to preach truth about Christ. You did not fear suffering and loss of life. Thanks to this, your free spirit lives and bears fruit.
The late Primate of Poland, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, while in prison for Truth, wrote in his note on October 5, 1954, that: “the greatest enemy of an apostle is fear… It squeezes the heart and cramps the throat. Everyone who re- mains silent facing his enemies’ argument makes them only more aggressive. The first step of godless strategy is to silence by fear. Silence has its apostolic meaning when we do not turn away from those who strike us…” ¹ .
We need you so very much, St Maximilian, as an example of a man who does not give into fear, who is not afraid. We need you as a saint whom we can call the Patron of Poland Persecuted. Which one of the other saints, who have been beaten and abused can better plead for his persecutors. You, who watched your frightened brothers in prison, in the con- centration camp, in hunger barracks, you who have been taken prisoner without being sentenced, only because you were one of the sons of Poland who loved their country and loved truth, you who took on yourself someone else’s death sentence. Volunteering to suffer for another is a lot greater than just suffering. This type of decision can only be made by someone who is free within himself.
Today, here in our church are present both persons who enjoy authority and Sin place of fathers and mothers taken away from their families. These volunteers were willing to take up the crosses of their brothers in order to relieve the suffering of some families. Yet, they have not been allowed to make that sacrifice for their brothers.
How much has our nation suffered throughout our history! It is so different even today, to speak of the painful past of those horrific years of occupation. Still, the more we re- member what our nation has lived through in the past, under the occupation of hate, the better we understand the words of our Holy Father directed to the Poles during the audience on October 11 of this year:
It is not good – said the Holy Father tearfully – it is not good, if the countrymen come to the canonization of one of their own, in tears. Because these were not tears of joy. They were accompanied sometimes with words of petition. A call not only from this hall, calls from afar. So now, I want to answer these calls. Through you, who are here present, I want to answer those who are not here, above all those who are interned, in prisons. I want to answer those who suffer in any way in Poland. I wish, from this place, to turn to the authorities of the Polish Peoples Republic to stop these tears. Our nation, my people do not deserve to be brought to tears of despair and depression, what they deserve instead, is a better future for our Nation…
Yes, the nation which suffered so much in the near past does not deserve to have many of its best sons and daughters interned or imprisoned, it does not deserve its youth abused and beaten, crimes committed. The nation does not deserve to be, against its will, deprived of was won by suffering and blood of the workers, the free, Independent, Self-governing Trade Union “Solidarity” about which the late Primate said, on April 2, 1981 that in a matter of but a few months “they achieved more than could have been achieved by the most efficient political body”. ²
The General Episcopal Council on December 15, last year said of “Solidarity” as being vital to the return of balance in the life of the nation. The current Primate of Poland also took an active part in a last minute attempt to reactivate “Solidarity” by putting his own and the Church’s authority on the balance scale.
We are called to Truth, we are called to testify for the Truth with our lives. “Learn the truth” – calls Christ in today’s Gospel – “and the truth will free you.”
We end our deliberations, Holy Maximilian and ask that you, in a simple prayer, through the hands of the Most Holy Immaculate Mother whom you have served faithfully all your life, take them to the throne of God. We end our deliberations reminding ourselves of the words of the Holy Father when he was only a bishop in Cracow, “The nation which accepts defeat is weak when it forgets that is was sent to watch until its hour comes. Because, on the great shields of history, the hours keep coming round”.
May the Hour of Truth come quickly to the great heroic shield of our Nation and may Truth be the final triumph of our Country.
¹ Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, Prison Notes, Editions du Dialogue, Paris 1982, p. 94.
² Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, Don’t let them take your land from you! To “Solidarity” of individual farmers. Warsaw 4/2/1981, also see: Church in Service of the Nation, p. 278.