October 19, 2010
Blessed Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko
The harsh political climate of Communist Poland gave birth to Blessed Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko. Today, October 19 is his day.
In the 1980s I was glued to the television for the latest news about Solidarity, the Polish shipyard workers union. It started in Gdansk and spread to the steelworkers in Warsaw, Poland's capitol. There were many clashes between Union members and supporters and the Communist government, violent clashes. The world watched closely, every night. We read about it too. Especially in my home town, an enclave of decedents of Polish folks who came to America in the 1880s.
Father Popieluszko, while a young priest in Warsaw, became the spiritual leader for Solidarity. He instituted workers masses where he preached against the Communist regime and it's inhumane treatment of its own citizens. The Communist regime hated Father Popieluszko. Other priests picked up on the the workers masses and they, too, began preaching against the regime.
When Solidarity was declared an illegal organization and marshal law was declared in Poland in 1981, Father Popieluszko stepped up his criticism of the government.
On October 19, 1984, the Communist government decided they had had enough. Shortly after leaving a meeting with Cardinal Glemp in Warsaw, Father Popieluszko was kidnapped by agents of the secret police. He was beaten and tortured, forced into a bag weighted with stones and thrown into the Vistula Water Reservoir.
His body was recovered on October 30. People poured into Warsaw for his funeral, some estimates place the crowd at a million strong. They filled the church and stood in the street and mourned the man who lead them, and prayed for them, and gave them strength.
That was the beginning of the end of the Communist regime. The Polish people had had enough.
On June 6, 2010, people once again poured into Warsaw for the Beatification of Fr. Popieluszko. Included among those was his 100 year old mother.
I was reminded of all of this by a friend of Fr. Popieluszko. Thank you, Father Andrew. Thank you for coming to this town and reminding us about your dear friend.
“If we must die suddenly, it is surely better to meet death defending a worthwhile cause than sitting back and letting injustice win.” Father Jerzy Popieluszko