I know that everyone is very interested in the royal wedding but over here in Poland we’ve got bigger fish to fry. Bigger than a royal wedding? Yes! The beatification of the late Pope John Paul the Second.
Here’s an excellent article from the NY Times by Maureen Dowd entitled Hold the Halo outlining an argument against the “fast-tracked” sainthood.
I would like to recommend another article in Polish from Gazeta Wyborcza’s magazine Duży Format entitled Sekrety pokolenia JP2. The article consists of interviews of people from the “John Paul II Generation” as it is called. I was a bit surprised by the piety of some of the young people interviewed and at the same time the hypocrisy some of them reveal in their answers –but back to that in a moment.
I barely remember when John Paul II became pope, but I do remember it. I shed a tear when he died.I have mixed feelings about JP2, but I do admire him for 2 things. I admire him for his unwavering stance on the beliefs of the Catholic church - saying something to the effect that the beliefs of the Catholic church are not like a buffet table to pick or choose from - a kind of ‘take it or leave it’ attitude. I also listened intently to his opinion on physical suffering and our duty to endure it. As a person who suffered from an illness whose main symptom was pain, I identified with that opinion, admired his strength in his suffering and tried to take some strength for myself from it.
Some folks condemn the late Pope for the same unwavering stance that I admire especially regarding such issues as birth control, homosexuality, women’s rights in the church, etc. I do not regard myself as a member of the church any longer so those issues don’t bother me. My mixed feelings stem not from these issues but from the late Pope’s lack of definitive action regarding child abuse in the church.
In case you haven’t heard, the late Pope John Paul II is due to be sainted - this Sunday to be exact. That seems like a pretty hot topic for folks here in Poland (Pope John Paul II was Polish), but just try to discuss it with some of them. And I mean really discuss it…not just say how great it is. It’s quite a difficult feat.
OK, I don’t want to exaggerate, a few people will discuss it with you in a rational way – turning over such topics as is the sainthood deserved, why it is so fast (compared to previous granting of sainthood), what it means for Poland and for the church, etc. Some other people, suffering from the JP2 media- blitz overkill, don’t want to discuss it anymore. They’ve just had enough. And then there are those who are unable to discuss it at all. They can certainly talk about it, talk in circles actually, but discuss it, no. Every question (intended with a sincere desire to discuss and in no way to mock the church) is answered with some form of the same answer…that it is a wonderful and magical event for Poland (why only for Poland?), that our pope deserves it (with no concrete reasons why), that those who wish to discuss it are only jealous of the faith of others, and so on.
On the radio, I heard a bit of a cabaret that was, well, practically identical to the real conversations you can have with some people about the beatification. In the end of the cabaret, the man who had extolled the virtues of JP2 was asked if he could cite at least one quotation of Pope John Paul II. After thinking for a moment, he shouted proudly, “We used to go there for kremówki!” Pope John Paul II’s famous quote while visiting his hometown of Wadowice where he pointed out for all the bakery where he and his friends used to go for a cake called kremówka. It’s actually delicious and you can buy the package mix from Gellwe for authentic papal kremówka.
Here’s the original quote: A tam była cukiernia. Po maturze chodziliśmy na kremówki. Że myśmy to wszystko wytrzymali, te kremówki po maturze.
Now back to the DF article . Here’s a quick summary in English.
The first interview is of Marzena, age 25, mother and wife, whose husband is a religion teacher. She states that what she liked best about JP2 was his openness and his humanity citing the example that JP2 went to confession too. She admits that she doesn’t agree with all the beliefs of the church, but that she does not use contraceptives and even her husband the religion teacher laughs at her for this. She expresses surprise when she explains how many of her Catholic friends are unaware that the church forbids contraceptives. She also admits that she and her husband, though they tried not to, did engage in pre-marital sex. Regarding the end of the world, she is sure it will happen in her lifetime. She was considering a career in the police force, but as her husband disapproves she says that she will probably give up that idea.
The next is Justyna, aged 27, mother and wife. She is a bit fed up with all the media coverage of JP2 and also doesn’t like that some people already pray to the late Pope. She and her husband did not engage in pre-marital sex and had a “real wedding night”. Now they dream of creating a close family for their son. She does feel that in the family the man has the last word because in her opinion and in the writings of the Bible, the man has a greater responsibility to the family than the woman.
My favorite is next, Andrzej a 26-year-old hairdresser who suffers from a painful illness of the spine. His attitude to the church is to suffer with dignity and try to help others (I can’t argue with that). He believes that faith is a personal thing separate from priests, the church, prayer and whatnot. He feels that his homosexuality is not a sin and that he lives in a committed and normal relationship, and although he would like to have the option of filing taxes jointly with his partner he would never agree to homosexual couples adopting children. He feels that children should not be exposed to such unnaturalness as homosexuality. The local priest did visit their apartment and although the priest did not wish to bless their apartment, he did take the envelope (with a donation) quite easily. Andrzej’s biggest fear is that he will die alone.
Next comes Aleksandra, a 22-year-old biology student. In Aleksandra’s interview I learned a new word in Polish świętokradztwa which is sacrilege in English but sounds a whole lot better in Polish (“holy stealing”). As a kid she felt uncomfortable confessing all her sins and held back some, hence the sacrilege until the guilt finally caught up with her and she asked her religion teacher to give her confession to clear her conscience. Aleksandra has interesting views on in vitro, homosexuality, AIDS and condom use in Africa that can only be chalked up to ignorance. Aleksandra does feel close to JP2 and even with her family had an opportunity to meet the late Pope. She, however, cannot agree with the stance that JP2 was infallible and that some hold him in higher regard (or as high regard) as God. Now, her greatest achievement is to overcome her fear of confession and stand bravely in the confession line.
Waldek is 31 years old, single and lives with his parents and younger sister. His biggest issue with his faith seems to be sex and that apparently he likes to have a lot of it with many different women. Lucky for him, he heard on Radio Józef that if something such as sex or masturbation became an addiction they no longer qualify as sins, so he is not worried.
Michał is 28 years old, married with a child and smiling throughout the whole interview. He takes from the teachings of JP2 the model of dealing with your problems head on, not trying to get out of them. He also liked that the late Pope set the bar high for youth and encouraged young people to do better and be better. My favorite part is when he says that he has personal contact with JP2 not from guessing what JP2 thought but from reading his teachings.
Last but not least is Edyta, age 29, music and cat lover. Edyta has one failed marriage behind her. What that failed marriage and unsuccessful stay abroad have given her, she says, is a greater tolerance and a knowledge that all things don’t depend solely on us.
Enjoy the beatification. Amen.