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Father and Shepherd #10 | Cardinal Wyszyński, the father of the Second Vatican Council

Family News Service / 30.11.2021
fot. Instytut Prymasowski Kardynała Stefana Wyszyńskiego
fot. Instytut Prymasowski Kardynała Stefana Wyszyńskiego

Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński the Primate of Poland has remained in the memory of Poles as a statesman, defender of faith and freedom of the homeland, advocate of unconditional human dignity.

With the reliable pastoral program of Poland’s preparation for the Millennium, coinciding with a great event in the universal Church, the Second Vatican Council, which was held from 1962–1965. It was the 21st ecumenical council in history. 2,540 bishops from all over the world participated.

Cardinal Wyszyński participated in the work of the Council at the central level from the very beginning. He was a member of the Central Preparatory Commission established in 1960, whose task was to work out the norms defining the course of Vatican II. Then, from 1962, he was a member of the Secretariat extra ordine. From 1963, by the decision of the Holy Father Paul VI, he became a member of the Presidium of the Council.

The testimony of Cardinal Wyszyński’s work and his contribution to the concept of the Council’s deliberations are his notes from that period. We learn from them, amongst other things, that in 1962 he brought the question of the participation of lay people in the Council’s deliberations. The proposal was accepted.

A special subject of the Council, connected with the person of Cardinal Wyszyński and Polish bishops, is the teaching about the Blessed Virgin Mary and the proclamation of the Church’s Mother. During his stay in Rome, in May 1964, Primate Wyszyński learned from the Holy Father Paul VI that theologians had a problem with the title “Mother of the Church”, so that he would not be mistaken with the term Mother – Church, and also for ecumenical reasons.

After returning to Poland, he asked Bishop Antoni Pawłowski – a Mariologist, to write a letter to the Holy Father on this matter. The letter was accepted by bishops as the Memorial of the Polish Episcopate.

The request was supported by the experiences of our nation, which owes so much to the Mother of God. In a speech at the Council Hall on 16th September 1964, t1he Primate said:

“The Blessed Virgin Mary through so many centuries through which the fate of our nation has unfolded, shows through specific events how great is the power of her mediation in strengthening the virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit, for the defence of our land under her overwhelming protection. ”

God listened to the filial desire of the Primate and the Church in Poland – Mary was proclaimed the Mother of the Church.

The Holy Father Paul VI made the proclamation in the conciliar hall at the end of the third session of the Council on 21st November 1964. On this day, the Primate wrote: “(…) The Holy Father gives his speech, in which he describes the results of the works of the third session, especially he devotes more time to the constitution De Ecclesia and collegiality. – The great, final fragment of his speech is devoted to cp. VIII De Ecclesia – about the Holy Mother in the Church of Christ. It ends by declaring the Holy Mother the Mother of the Church. – Fantastic enthusiasm fills the auditorium, long-lasting applause continues. All bishops rise from their seats. The rapture – perhaps equal to that of Ephesus, lasts a long while. It is a testimony to the unity of the Council Fathers, there are neither conservatives nor progressives – there are simply believing bishops who want a Mother. – It is difficult to describe my own feelings – I am at Jasna Góra, among my children, who prayed on their bare knees on the cold floor for this triumph of the Blessed Mother. You can see how sensitive the Mother is to humble prayers. He now looks at [this] enthusiasm from the two large tapestries that hang from the balconies under the dome – one – the Nativity of Jesus, the other – the Assumption of Mary. Slowly everything goes silent and the Pope goes on. (…) The conciliar auditorium is filled with an eminently sublime atmosphere of great joy and relief. ”

For the Primate, the announcement of Mary as the Mother of the Church was a confirmation that the Marian way of defending the faith it is right and victorious in every way.

“The Church is Christ and Marian. He was like this from the beginning, but we only now understand it more deeply when the Council introduced Mariology into the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, reminding us of the important truth that Mary always stands by her Son in the Church. It would be a great mistake if we wanted to “divorce” – only Christ remains in the Church, and Mary goes down in history. No, she is timeless; that means also today. If we say: Mary is the Mother of the Church, then we must also remember another statement of the Council that she leads us to the Church. Already at Cana, she advised her disciples: “Whatever (my Son) commands you, do.”

In line with this truth, Primate Wyszyński established the Movement of Helpers of the Mother of the Church. Mary, present in the life of the Church, should not only be adored and imitated, but also collaborate with her for the salvation of people, bring her help through prayer, suffering and the witness of life.

The Millennium Year 1966 – for Poles the great jubilee of the Millennium of the Baptism of our Nation was an examination of faith and Christian maturity. Jubilee celebrations were celebrated throughout the country, in all dioceses. Thousands of people in churches, streets and squares. In the Millennium Year, Poles felt free and the barrier of fear broke. It was then that the collapse of communism began.

The government of the Polish People’s Republic, dependent on Moscow, persisted in persecuting the Church. For the main celebration on 3rd May 1966, the Holy Father, Paul VI, wished to come to Jasna Gora. The communist authorities closed the Polish borders to him. No foreign delegation was allowed to attend the Millennium Celebrations. In this situation, Mary’s entrustment gains special strength.

On a dangerous historical pass, the Primate gave everything to the Mother of God. He entrusted all the matters of Christ’s Church in his homeland to her, convinced that this is God’s will for our nation. “The power of Catholic Poland,” he said, “is now in her, because God wills it”.

In a situation of a threat to faith, Cardinal Wyszyński, together with the entire Episcopate, decided to once again give Poland over to the Blessed Mother in a complete, irreversible way, into the slavery of love. Speaking to priests in 1961, he said: “Whenever it is particularly difficult, when the darkness covers the earth and the sun is already dying out and the stars do not give light, we must give everything to Mary.”

He did the on 3rd May 1966, surrendering Poland to Mary. In the Millennium Deed of Dedication to Poland, we read: “From now on, the Best Mother and our Queen of Poland, consider us Poles as a Nation for your total property, as a tool in your hands for the Holy Church, to whom we owe the light of Faith, the strength of the Cross, spiritual unity and the peace of God. . Do what you want with us! We want to do everything you ask, if only Poland would keep the untouched treasure of the Holy Faith for all ages, and the Church in our Homeland would enjoy the freedom it deserves, if we could become a true help of the Universal Church with you and through You, Mother of the Church and Virgin Help of Christians – to build up the Body of Christ on earth! For this purpose, we wish to live from now on, as a Catholic nation, by working for God’s glory and for the good of our earthly homeland. Put into your slavery, we want to make in our personal, family, social and national life, not my own will, but Your and Your Son’s will, which is Love itself. ”

This Millennial surrender of Poland to Mary is like an insurance policy for the faith of young generations. There will be difficulties, there will be crises, and Our Lady will not fail. This heroic act was an expression of the Primate’s love for Poland, about which he said: “I love my homeland more than my own heart. Whatever I do for the Church, I do for her. ”

The most profound meaning of surrender to Mary was explained by the Holy Father John Paul II at Jasna Góra during his first pilgrimage to his homeland: “The meaning of the word” slavery “so acute for Poles, hides a similar paradox to the words of the Gospel about one’s own life, which must be lost, in order to gain them [cf. Mt. 10.39]. Freedom is a great gift from God. You have to use it well. Love is the fulfilment of freedom, and at the same time one must belong to its essence – that is, not be free, or rather be free in a mature way! However, this “non-being-free” in love never feels like a bondage. The mother does not feel that she is tied to a sick child as a bondage, but as an affirmation of her freedom, as its fulfilment. Then she is most free! Slavery, therefore, indicates a “special dependence”, a holy dependence and an “absolute trust”. Without this holy dependence, without this heroic trust, human life is bland! ”.

The Millennium Age was a struggle between Christian love and hatred. The Millennium Celebrations in Warsaw on 24th June 1966 became a special spectacle of hatred. On that day, the entire Old Town, all streets were blocked by groups of drunken party fighters brought from various parts of Poland, who, preventing access to the cathedral, chanted: “We don’t forgive, we don’t forgive.” It was a protest against the message of the Polish bishops to the German bishops, which was a step towards the reconciliation of our nations.

Cardinal Wyszyński, in his millennium sermon in the capital, asked us not to give in to hatred. He said:

“Here is the nation baptized throughout its history, today looking to tomorrow (…) as an equipment for the future, it teaches about the high dignity of every human being: great or battered, powerful or inept, along with the instruction: You will love your neighbour (Mt 22.39). And that’s everyone! The one who has heartfelt eyes and the one who has glass eyes. What has a heat in his chest and what has a stone in his heart. The one who has a brotherly hand out towards you and the one who stabs you with his eyes. Every! (…) I keep telling you that the one who wins – even if he is struck down and trampled on – who loves, and not the one who tramples in hatred. The latter has lost. Who hates – has already lost! Whoever mobilizes hatred – has lost! Who fights with God – has lost! And he has already triumphed today – even if he is trampled on the ground – who loves and forgives, who, like Christ, gives his heart and even his life for his enemies. ”

After the end of the millennium celebrations, in Warsaw in front of the Primate’s residence, at Miodowa Street 17/19, a group of communist militants stood up shouting: “Wyszyński to Rome!” “Away!” “Traitor!”. Burning torches were thrown through the closed gate into the courtyard of the primate’s residence. The offended Primate stood in the window in the left wing of the residence, in the so-called deans’ room and bless those screaming.

In this way, he taught the spirit of forgiveness and social dialogue, and educated the nation to solidarity. When the Holy Father John Paul II exclaimed in Victory Square in Warsaw in 1979: “Let your Spirit descend and renew the face of the earth, this earth” – the Motherland was already prepared to accept these words.

Primate Wyszyński, persecuted by the authorities, was loved and admired by the society. He was called the Father of the Nation. These were not empty words. He really cared for the nation like a father. After the events of March in 1968, he said in the Warsaw cathedral: “I, the bishop of the capital, how painfully I experience this” spectacle “- because I cannot name it otherwise. What is left for me? I must remind you, dear children, to protect your own hearts, thoughts and feelings against the monstrous hatred and lies that are happening before our eyes. That you may have the courage to defend your right to truth, love, mutual respect and justice, to the unity of Christ and the peace of God! Only this will save us! Nothing else will save us in our homeland (…).

If I could do it, as I desire it with my heart, then I would fall on my knees in front of all those who are insulted in our homeland and I would ask: Brother, forgive them! … forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing! … because they do not understand yet! the laws of love. And we want to be governed by the law of love! I have announced to you the Social Crusade of Love. From this pulpit I said: I would like the Capital to become a City of beautiful love for all Poland, because only this guarantees peace, truth and freedom.

However, when I kneel in spirit before all those who are insulted and ask them to save their love, which is to save their own humanity, I kneel before those who have insulted and insulted in word and deed. All the more I say to them: Friend! … Friend! … – as Christ spoke to the disciple who kissed Him … Friend, what are you doing? I also apologize to you that you have insulted your humanity with a lie and with hatred that was allowed into your heart. And I’m sorry … “.

He cared not only for believers and those who came to the Church, but also for those who considered themselves enemies or who lost their way in life. He taught forgiveness and unconditional love. “Our whole life,” he said, “is worth as much as there is love in it.” This is how Cardinal Wyszyński understood the mission of the Church towards man and the nation.

He taught that the Church is like the soul of the Nation. Throughout history, it has always strengthened and united the Nation, especially when Poland was not on the world map. Never in the history of our homeland has the Church used her power against the nation. He took up the task of supporting man and society with the powers of the Gospel over and over again.

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