Sunday May 30, 1982 – Mass For The Fatherland

(By:Paul Hensler)

On Sunday May 30, 1982 Father Jerzy noticed that the congregations had swelled to the to the pre-martial law numbers.

People stood on parked cars the length and breadth of Felikiego Street, which adjoins the church boundaries.  A typical father-land Sunday saw young workers, earnest bearded men holding high their small tape- recorders, and out of town priests, (the ultimate compliment, for few priests stray into other parishes on a Sunday) taking notes. The steelworker ushers, wearing black armbands, were officious. Their task was to prevent any provocations that would allow the lurking ZOMO units to intervene. The congregation loved it and responded generously when the collection basket was passed on behalf of political prisoners.

Father Popieluszko loved it too. He was proud that anything spontaneous could flourish in the desert of martial law. There was shouting and clapping in response to his sermon proving that there was dignity of prayer, of patriotic feelings.

In Warsaw’s Rakowiecka Street, seat of the secret police, nobody was interested in the dignity of prayer. Popieluszko had made the transition in the first months of martial law from being a mild irritant to a first-order problem.  The Warsaw militia were complaining. Popieluszko was a crowd control problem forcing the police to deploy month after month heavy concentrations of riot troopers. To the average ZOMO trooper Popieluszko was the best known priest in Poland not because of his sermons but because he cost them their free Sundays. The message meanwhile reaching Department Four, the clandestine church monitoring department, was that Popieluszko was a political stumbling block.

May 30 1982 – Father Jerzy’s Road to Sainthood

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Basilica of Jasna Gora in Czestochowa Poland - © WDGPhoto, Father Jerzy

Basilica of Jasna Gora in Czestochowa Poland – © WDGPhoto