Fr. Jacek Norkowski
I am a physician by education and the subject of inner healing is close to me. Every physician is trained to stimulate the process of healing in the patient by a proper treatment. When as an absolvent of the Medical University I heard the voice of my vocation I was asking God, why I should not to be a physician. Later on I realized that God wants me still to be a healer, somebody, who is supposed to help the sick but on the deeper level. Together with my tween brother, Steve, who studied with me and also entered the Dominican Order, we used to joke, that we are doing the specialization in the “Interna profunda”.
What do I mean by making a comparison between a priest and a physician? The answer is quite simple. A physician is curing the physical illnesses whereas the priest, especially as confessor and spiritual director – the spiritual ones. We know, of course, that these two spheres overlap, but generally, such a division between the areas of medicine and pastoral activity can be accepted. Both want to help the people in their suffering. Moreover, both are very much visible in the activities of Jesus and usually where accompanying His preaching of the Gospel. When we read the Gospel we can notice, that he always was doing three things one after another: preaching, healing the sick and casting out the demons. His activity was practically never limited to only one of these elements – in His preaching of the Kingdom of God He was using usually all of them.
What was limiting these activities of Jesus was only the lack of faith of the people, He encountered. The Gospel is showing, what we are supposed to do, when we want to preach. However, sometimes the problem of healing can be found not only on the individual level. Healing may be needed for the relationships, beginning with married couples, siblings and relatives. Healing may be needed also for the relationships between whole families, societies or nations. We can say that we need the spiritual healing on all levels of our lives, both physical and spiritual, individual and communitarian.
The Holy Spirit in the History
Everybody knows about the prayer groups dispersed all over the Christian countries, which form the movement called “Renewal in the Holy Spirit”. In my opinion, however, we shouldn’t think, that Holy Spirit is limiting Himself only to this particular movement. In reality He is the Mover of the whole Church, of the nations and of the history.
Poland – 10 centuries of the difficult history
The historical experience of Poland is certainly a good example of it. We become a Christian state in the year 966, by the baptism of the duke Mieszko 1. We received this baptism straight from Rome and become an independent Christian, Roman – Catholic nation. Our history wasn’t easy, especially because of the Swedish invasion in the XVII century, and the destruction of the state towards the end of the XVIII century, when Poland was partitioned between Russia, Prussia and Austria.
Nevertheless, after the First World War Poland became independent again. However, the relationship with the neighboring countries and nations were much tensed. After the short period of twenty years the Second World War broke. This war was very tragic for Poland. The country was once more divided between Germany and Soviet Union, the polish elites were deliberately exterminated by the both occupants. More than 6 million of Polish citizens were killed (about 3 millions of them were ethnic Jews) and the country was largely devastated. Father Maximilian Kolbe, who died in Auschwitz, was one of the thousands of the polish priests and religious people, who were exterminated both by the German and by the Soviet States. The Soviet Union invaded invasion and occupied Poland’s eastern half during World War II. Early in the war, in 1941, the Soviet secret police murdered 22,000 Polish officers in the so-called Katyn massacres, while the Soviets also deported about 2 million Poles to Siberia.
After the Second World War Poland was forced to accept the changing of the borders accompanied by the loss of the part of the territory and the Soviet political domination. It was equaled with the loss of the real independence. Again, the polish patriots were brutally persecuted, many thousands of them – tortured and killed. The state, like in the Soviet Union, was launching the policy first of the apparent tolerance of the Church, followed by the brutal persecutions, when the communist government stabilized.
In all these extremely difficult circumstances, the Polish nation was able to continue to be catholic and trusting God. Especially important was in this period, as it was in the whole history of Poland, the cult of the Mother of God, in Her many sanctuaries spread in the country. The most famous Black Madonna Sanctuary in Częstochowa, is one of them. Mary, the Mother of God, helped the Primate Wyszyński, to resist the persecutions, imprisonment and total isolation for about three years.
The communists had to remodel the way of political practice after he riots in Poznań in the 1957, and Primate Wyszyński become suddenly a very much welcomed person for the First Secretary Gomułka. It was the time of the so called “small stabilization”. The Church was able to function easier, but still very much under the control of the state. The activities of the Church ware limited to the liturgy in the parishes, for practically all Kindergartens, schools and hospitals were nationalized by the communist government.
The strong leaders of the Church
Nevertheless, in this harsh period, the polish Church had some of good and creative pastors and laic leaders. One of the especially gifted young pastors was the professor of the theology, a priest and later on the – archbishop of Kraków – Karol Wojtyła. He and some other young pastors of that period invented a way of acting with the young people, which can be called “informal” . The formation included the prayer meetings, the holy masses, adorations of the Blessed Sacrament, discussions, but also spending time together in the friendly atmosphere. From time to time trips were organized, the groups of the youngsters, especially students, were spending the vacation time together.
It happened, that I experience this way of life of the polish Catholic youth in the years, when Karol Wojtyła was still in Kraków, and also His election for the Holy See and the first years of His pontificate. As I mentioned, I was a student of medicine, but I was a member of the Catholic Center for the Students. I remember the day, when Karol Wojtyła was elected pope. Practically nobody could sleep in our dormitory. We were sure, that in our situation something change profoundly and that this change will finally give us freedom.
During His first pilgrimage to Poland, John Paul II was welcomed enthusiastically by the whole nation. In Warsaw, celebrating a mass in the open air, He said a prayer, which was a real prophesy for us, and really changed the situation in our country. This prayer was as follows: Niech zstąpi Duch Twój… I remember something like a small earthquake going through the place. After this pilgrimage of the pope to Poland in 1978, we became really a free nation in spite of the same political situation which was still suggesting something quite opposite.
The fall of Communism
In a short time Solidarność as a national movement exploded and challenged the whole political system. What was moving all of us in that period was the desire of freedom and truth, more than the hope for material wellbeing. In a way, Poland inspired all communist nations, including these in the Soviet Union. Slowly, all these peoples discovered that they also want to be free. Finally, the Communism as a political system and as an ideology felled down and was finished by the beginning of the years 1990. And according to me, it was first of all the work of the Holy Spirit, His constant calling for the truth and freedom, which He inspired in our hearts.
Nevertheless, there were in us many wounds left. Some of them were healed but certainly not all and not fully. The new wounds are also being caused by the sense of injustice concerning the way of transformation in Poland. The mighty post-communists or their children are once again dominating force in economy and politics and the Catholic and patriotic majority experience all hardships of the new situation. Many of the first group or the people connected with them are millionaires and the others have to emigrate from the country because of the joblessness and the sense of the lack of any perspective in Poland.
However, the deepest level of the wounds is usually spiritual. This is not merely a political, sociological or even psychological level. The deepest wounds are caused by our mistrust to the Lord being a result of the lack of our faith in the given circumstances of our lives. Both in the past and in the nowadays many were or are tempted to build their lives on something else than the Lord, than Jesus, who told us, that He is the Rock, on which we should built everything.
The challenge of the contemporary culture against the faith is enormous. The people, especially the young ones want to live according to the rules proposed by the mass-media. They present the reality in a way, I which the real happiness seems to be possible on the earth. In this vision God is not necessary in the common life, is simply a matter of the private choice. Faith also becomes private and it seems that in the opinion of many there is almost no place for it in the public, social and political life.
For everybody, who still remembers the communistic period it is a mystery. How the consumerism could be stronger than persecutions in the past, how the desire of wealth and pleasure could defeat the faith in the hearts of the people easier than the suffering and misery of the former life?
In a way, the competition between the two visions of reality: one – with God in the center, and another one, without God, is becoming global. In the most Christian countries the believers are under the pressure of the culture hostile to the religion.
Signs of hope
Nevertheless the life of the catholic Church and of the all other Christian Churches and communities demonstrates great vitality. There are many prayer groups, and in quite many cases, the people being out of the visible community of the Church are coming back to the sacramental life. For example, in my country, there are still many active priests and there is no great problem to find a confessor or even a spiritual director. In my experience of the priestly life the understanding of the importance of confession is still growing. I can simply feel the acting of the Spirit of the Lord in the sacrament of penitence and the presence of Jesus in it. Jesus is really present in all sacraments and constantly is giving the gift of the Holy Spirit to everybody who is coming to Him. We should be aware of the treasures which Jesus had given to the Church.
In the harsh combat of our times the faith of many becomes more mature than ever before. Many people are looking the special places in which they can experience God, many are travelling or walking to the old, mostly Marian, sanctuaries and to the places, like Medjugorie, where, as they believe, the new apparitions of Mary and the saints or Jesus Himself took place. They want to be closer to the Lord, they want to experience His presence and His love.
A relatively new phenomenon in Poland is the popularity of the so called “healing masses”, during which the present priests impose their hands on those, who are in need of internal healing. In many instances I could see the real good spiritual fruits of such a prayer besides the healing on the corporal or psychological level.
True Life in God
In this panorama, the movement, which is called “True Life in God” has a special place. Some of the messages of The Most Holy Trinity, of Mary and angels are speaking about the necessity of the reconciliation between the Orthodox and the Catholic Church with an unprecedented strength. The words about the situation of the Church and of the entire world are, in my opinion, extremely accurate.
This messages helped me very much to accept my situation as a priest, who could see many dangerous tendencies in the Church, in my Dominican Order and in the World and felt very much alone with this knowledge. I received a confirmation of my own observations that there exist real dangers for the Church and for the whole humanity in this period. Back in the nineties, it seemed, that the World was entering in the era of prosperity. Nowadays we can see, how different the reality is. The West is plunged in the financial crisis, and the political situation is becoming also more and more difficult. Now we can only pray, that the next possible war in the Middle East not become the beginning of a major military conflict. These dangers seem to be real.
The issue of the need of reconciliation between Catholic and Orthodox Church has been known for years. However, it is really interesting to know what Jesus is saying about this problem. Of course, there is nothing in the messages under the title “True Life in God” which is not in accordance with the theological reflection and the policy of the hierarchy of the respective Churches. Both sides acknowledge the necessity of reconciliation and don’t exclude the unification in the future. However, the pace of this process seems to be slow. This stays in contrast with the urgency of the call of God in the messages being received by Vassula Ryden. Jesus apparently doesn’t give us too much time left.
For me, as for somebody coming from Poland, the issue of reconciliation and reunification between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church is critical. We are neighbors of many orthodox nations, which are also mostly Slavic as we are. The biggest of these nations is Russian and the Russian Orthodox Church plays central role among others. One thing is obvious: the thousand years of the relationship between polish Church and the Orthodox Churches of Russia and other Slavic countries, between the respective nations and states would have been much different, if the reconciliation after the Great Schism of 1054 had been done quickly. We can imagine, that the mutual relationships could have been much more friendly and much less of wounds would be caused reciprocally. How much we could gain even now, if this would happen! If we believe, that this is the will of god and desire of the heart of Jesus, we should certainly do everything to make it possible.
The fulfillment desire seems to be approaching. Recently we were informed, that the Russian Patriarch Kirill will come to Poland for the 4 days long visit. The key moment of this visit will be the signing of a document appealing to Poles and Russians to forgive each other for past wrongs and injustices. We hope it will gradually lead to reconciliation between our nations, even if we know, that this is only the first step. Let Holy Spirit cure all of these wounds, and let charity, the gift of the God, replace hatred and mistrust.
I would like to finish with the prayer from the “True Life in God”: O Father, fulfill what must be fulfilled. May Your words penetrate, bless and purify the hearts of Your Children. Father, do as Your Heart desires and may Your will be done. Amen.
Jacek Maria Norkowski OP