[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his video is a trailer for the forthcoming docu-film Jerzy: Messenger of Truth. Jerzy Popieluszko, a Polish priest, was murdered by the Communist authorities in 1984 at the age of 37.
He was beatified in June of 2010.
On this occasion, Pope Benedict XVI sent a message to the Church in Poland saying that Fr Jerzy’s “zealous service and… martyrdom are a special sign of the victory of good over evil”.
A Deeper Look
Fr Jerzy is one of many martyrs of modern times: the 20th Century has seen more people die for the faith than any other in the 2000 years of the Church’s history. In the video he is described as a ‘hero’. But Blessed Jerzy is also seen to be an ordinary young priest: his friend describes him sleeping on the sofa, and he was known to have a sense of humor, on one occasion offering coffee to the agents who were tailing him. His mother, brothers and sisters were present at his beatification.
What is it that makes an ordinary man a hero, and more than that, what makes him holy?
The answer is simple: Jerzy Popieluszko, like many others before him, did ordinary things in an extraordinary way. He celebrated mass, heard confessions, carried out the duties of a priest in the face of accusations, intimidation, arrests and even attempted murder. His actions were directed towards God and out of love for others. He knew that the only truth which can make men free is God, he spoke that truth and he was prepared to die for the sake of it.
In his own words:
Overcoming fear is a key element in the process of setting Man free. Fear springs from threat. We fear suffering; we fear the loss of some goods, the loss of freedom, health or job. This fear makes us act against our conscience and it is by means of conscience that we measure Truth. We overcome fear the moment we agree to lose something for the sake of higher values. If Truth becomes a value worth suffering for, worth taking a risk, then we will overcome fear that keeps us in slavery. On many occasions Christ said to His apostles: “Do not fear. Do no fear those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do” (Lk 12:4).
The video speaks of Fr Jerzy’s “followers”, but these followers rather followed the One who Blessed Jerzy followed, the Lord Jesus.
Unless we live in a part of the world in which the Church is violently persecuted (and if you are reading this post then you probably aren’t) then we are unlikely to be required to die for our faith. However, in this day and age, to be a Christian is counter-cultural and we need to be martyrs of daily life. This means putting truth ahead of our personal preferences, and meeting mockery and abuse with love and forgiveness. The truth which Blessed Jerzy, and so many others like him, died to defend is constantly attacked on many fronts. Instead of being a source of division, the truth is an opportunity to encounter others and show them what their hearts long for. Rather than dying to defend the truth, we have to live proclaiming the truth with our words and actions.
We are all called to holiness. This does not (necessarily) mean performing miracles or being martyrs but living, each of us in our own situation and circumstances, the life that God calls us to, offering everything we have to Him and striving always to be more like the Lord Jesus.
The Church and the Christian Faith are often attacked or criticized. We have a responsibility to be ‘signs of contradiction’, and to defend our Church and the Faith. In order to do that we must make sure we are well formed, because how can we defend something we do not know?!
The saints are excellent models we can imitate in striving to live like Jesus, because they in turn did everything in their power to be like Him. We can also pray for their intercession, that God will give us the grace we need to grow in holiness. More information about Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko is available here.
We should also pray for Christians in places where the Church is violently persecuted, for example in China and the Middle East(which the Holy Father has particularly asked prayers for).