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After the war, Fr. Wyszynski returned to his home diocese of Wloclawek. Whereas, before the war, he had been greatly drawn to academic work, Providence was about to mark his destiny as that of a pastor and father to the nation. As always, his heavenly Mother would accompany him on each stage of the journey.

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Our Lady of Czestochowa

On the feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 1946, Cardinal Hlond, the Primate, summoned Fr.

Wyszynski to Poznan to inform him that Pope Pius XII, had nominated him as Bishop of Lublin.
Convinced that the call of Christ and the Holy Father could not be refused, Fr. Wyszynski resigned himself to leaving Wloclawek, and with it, the joy of serving as professor, editor, and social activist.

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Augustin Cardinal Hlond

The date of his consecration was set for May 12 at his beloved Jasna Gora, where he had offered his first Mass. Bishop-elect Wyszynski decided to include the Madonna of Jasna Gora-Virgo Auxiliatrix in his coat-of-arms. Later, he would say that this was not meant merely as a decoration or symbol, but rather as a program of his work in the Church of Poland.

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Bishop Wyszynski’s Coat of Arms

Before his consecration, he made an eight-day retreat in Czestochowa to prepare himself for his coming mission. Consecrated on May 12, 1946, feast of Our Lady of Grace, Stefan Wyszynski was strengthened in his sense of living under Our Lady’s special care.

As Andrzej Micewski relates to us, “Later, as Primate, instead of precious stones and saints’ relics, Wyszynski’s ring carried a likeness of the Madonna of Czestochowa. Eventually, he would expand his personal motto from Soli Deo to Per Mariam Soli Deo. His consecration picture bore the inscription Mother of God’s Grace!’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

His eyes firmly fixed on his heavenly Mother, and his hand firmly holding hers, Bishop Wyszynski issued one of his first pastoral letters in August, on the day of the dedication of the Polish nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, explaining the ways in which this dedication springs from history.

Doing everything possible to teach his people to love the Mother of God, he issued another pastoral to school-age children on the daily recitation of the Rosary, while convening a Rosary congress on July 2, l947. The following year, on Sept. 7, he convened the first Marian congress in Chelm.

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Bishop Wyszynski in 1947

 

 

With the new bishop’s reputation as a good and holy shepherd spreading, the Primate, Cardinal Hlond, remarked to a visitor that Bishop Wyszynski had made a great impression on him, calling him, ‘young, intelligent, and brave.’ (Micewski, 40)

Three years later, a dying Cardinal Hlond would write Pope Pius XII, requesting that the Bishop of Lublin be named his successor. Unbeknownst to him, the Polish episcopate would also be making the same request.

The dying Cardinal Hlond’s spiritual testament would be the program of his successor, “Keep working under the protection of our Blessed Mother. Victory, when it comes, will be the victory of the Most Blessed Virgin. Nil desperandum! (Never despair!)’ (Micewski, 42)

When the funeral of Augustine Cardinal Hlond came, the Catholics who filled the capital of Warsaw to be pay tribute to their primate looked to the future with heavy hearts, as the Soviet-controlled government had just introduced the first five-year plan to Communize the country.

Many wondered whether the next man to be elevated to the highest ecclesiastical office in Poland would not also be taking on with it a condemnation to martyrdom.

On November 12, 1948, the feast day of the five martyred Polish brothers, Pope Pius XII named Stefan Wyszynski as Archbishop of Gniezno and Warsaw, Primate of Poland. The nominating letter was signed on November 16, the feast day of the Blessed Virgin of Ostra Brama, to whom the Primate’s mother had such great devotion.

The future treatment the new Archbishop would receive at the hands of the Communists was made clear as the new Primate traveled along the road to Gniezno. Although everyone already knew who the traveler was, his car was repeatedly stopped and his identity checked along the way.

Continuing his life-long path of consecration to Mary, Archbishop Wyszynski’s ingress to Gniezno occurred on Candlemas, the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, February 2, 1949.

Who is the “Black Madonna of Czestochowa”? What is her place in the hearts of the Polish people and of the Polish nation? What part did she play in defending the faith and culture of Poland in the second half of the 20th century? These are but a few of the points we will be exploring in the early part of this series of articles.

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Our Lady of Czestochowa, ‘The Black Madonna’

In the final set of installments, we will look at the attempted destruction of Polish Catholicism and culture by Soviet Communism in the 20th century. We will then compare what the Soviets attempted to accomplish in Poland with the present attempt of atheistic secularism to erase the memory of Catholic faith and culture on Long Island.

Our Lady of Czestochowa is most aptly described as the Mother of the Polish Nation. It is she who is sent by God to protect her Polish sons and daughters from every “confrontation” that “…lies within the plans of Divine Providence” (Karol Cardinal Wojyla, Farewell address 1976 Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia)

 

She is the “Woman” promised in Genesis 3:15 who comes to comfort, love and guide her children, as “…in God’s Plan”, they confront every trial which the Church “…must take up, and face courageously.”(ibid)

The Black Madonna of Czestochowa icon was, according to legend, painted by St. Luke on a cypress table top taken from the house of the Holy Family. In this beautiful icon, the Blessed Virgin Mary manifests both her humility and shows us our path by pointing with her right hand

to Jesus, the source of our salvation.

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Jasna Gora MonasteryIn the 17th century, she saved the Jasnan Gora monastery from The Deluge, changing the course of the war in the fight against the Sweedish invasion. In thanksgiving for this great favour from Heaven, King Jan Kazimierz crowned the Black Madonna as Queen and Protector of Poland in the Cathedral of Lwow on April 1, 1656. From that moment on, she became the “Mother of the Polish Nation” serving as the icon of unity for all her Polish children.

Her maternal bond with the people of Poland reaches perhaps it’s zenith in the 20th century, beginning with the “Miracle on the Vistula”, otherwise known as “The Battle of Warsaw”, fought in August of 1920.

This is the story of the decisive confrontation against the Red Army for control of Warsaw. Most observers had given Poland up for dead against the Soviets. Interestingly enough, all of the diplomatic corps had left in anticipation of the impending defeat with one exception, Msgr. Achille Ratti, the Pope’s representative, and future Pius XI.

Another man not willing to concede Catholic Poland to the atheistic forces of Soviet communism was Marshall Jozef Pilsudski, a brave soul who dominated the life of the Second Polish Republic from its inception in 1918 until his death in 1935.

As George Weigel tells us in his seminal work, Witness To Hope, “In a daring move, Pilsudski’s intelligence operatives had detected a gap between the two corps of Trotsky’s army…On August 16, the Poles attacked, and by the night of the 17th, the Red Army, which had begun its own attack on Warsaw on the 14th, had been reduced to a rabble of fleeing refugees at a cost of fewer than 200 Polish casualities” (p.17)

Pilsudski had inflicted a “gigantic, unheard-of defeat”(p.18) on the cause of world revolution, and although Lenin opined that “we will keep shifting from a defensive to an offensive strategy over and over again until we finish them off for good”, for the moment, the expansion of Communism had been stopped. (ibid)

Because of the indomitable faith of one man, and the trust of a nation in the Mother of God, the program of Soviet atheism for Poland was put on hold.This courage and bravery would allow a young boy who had been born a few months earlier to grow up in a free Poland. This boy would be totally consecrated to the Mother of the Polish Nation, and would himself one day in union with her, reverse the expansion of the Soviets in both Poland, and much of the world. His name was Karol Jozef Wojtyla.

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Karol and his mother

On August 3rd, 1924, Stefan Wyszynski (pronounced Shteh-fahn Vih-shinski) was ordained to the holy priesthood by Auxiliary Bishop Wojciech Owczarek in the chapel of the Blessed Virgin in Wloclawek’s Cathedral.

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Bishop Wyszynski

Immediately after his ordination, he travelled to Czestochowa in order to be able to offer his first Solemn Mass before the miraculous icon of Our Lady of Jasna Gora, Queen of Poland. As he was in frail health, he was barely able to stay on his feet, beseeching Our Lady to let him live to be a Priest for at least one year.

Having lost his mother at the age of nine, he came to Czestochowa in search of his heavenly Mother. “I went to Jasna Gora to say my First Mass so that I could have a Mother, a Mother who is forever and does not die.” (Micewski, p.7)

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Stefan (in rear) with his family

Our Lady was to give Fr. Wyszynski many more than the one year he had asked for, as Providence intended this son, consecrated to the Mother of the Polish Nation, to be deeply bound with its destiny for more than half a century to come.

Going on to study at the Catholic University of Lublin, (commonly referred to by its Polish initials KUL), he received his doctorate in Canon Law in 1929, defending his thesis which was entitled, The Rights of The Family, The Church, and The State in Relation To Schools.

Continuing the preparation for his future mission, he served as editor-in-chief of the diocesan newspaper until the outbreak of World War Two, all the while serving as Defender of the Bond in the Wloclawek curia. He accomplished all this while lecturing on social ethics in the seminary, heading the Christian Worker’s University, as well as being active in the Christian trade unions.

This close contact with workers helped form his belief that the influence of Russia, “fighting against God,” was already very strong, yet he also knew that the growth in communist sympathy amont the Poles was “…not so much Bolshevik propaganda as the lack of work, of bread, and of a roof over one’s head.” (Micewski, p.16)

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Soviet propaganda

He stated in 1934 that the “…enormous salaries of high officials …so absorb institutional budgets that there is nothing left over to pay junior officials and workers…Such a state of things does not accord with Catholic ideas of just distribution…”. (Ibid.)

Highly trained in Catholic social ethics, as well as being a student of the social sciences, Fr. Wyszynski knew that “…Violating the balance of incomes in society is bound to lead to a shaking of the whole social order; these are the causes of an inclination toward Bolshevism.” (Ibid.)

Thus the future Primate of Poland already had embraced the conviction that a third road exists between liberal capitalism and revolutionary Marxism. As Micewski puts it, “His early conviction later blossomed into the idea that Poland, lying between East and West, has a definite, well-understood mission: based on the social strength of a Catholicism that had stood firm through the long battle with atheism – a political system that opposed not only the inherent mistakes of collectivism but also the structural weaknesses and egotistical tendencies of capitalism” (Ibid., pp. 18-19)

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Nazi rally

With the outbreak of war in September of 1939, Fr. Wyszynski was ordered by Bishop Michal Kozal of Wloklawek to flee for his safety, as the Nazis had targeted him due to his pre-war publications on Nazism.

The warning of his superiors was a prescient one, for as Fr. Wyszynski attempted to return to his apartment to locate a forgotten book, he was told at the Wloklawek train station that the Gestapo had already been to his apartment.

With that news he was destined to spend the rest of the war moving from place to place hiding from the Gestapo, knowing that if he was caught it would mean certain death.

While in hiding, Fr. Wysynski served as chaplain to a group of sisters and blind people, as well as giving lectures wherever possible on Catholic social thought, and on the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ. He even served as a midwife on one occasion, delivering the child of a poor, emaciated expectant mother he came across while hiding in the forest.

In an amusing aside, Fr. Wyszynski had to operate under a pseudonym to avoid capture, and as his biographer tells us, “Wyszynski chose for himself the underground pseudonym, Sister Cecilia, and before long people were asking, ‘Is Sister Cecilia saying Mass today? When is she hearing confessions?’ ” (Micewski, p.26)

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Warsaw Uprising, 1944

When the Warsaw uprising started, in which 240,000 people died, Fr. Wyszynski found himself in Laski, just outside the city. Ministering to allied and enemy soldiers alike, in his free moments (and with no one watching) he would lie prostrate on the chapel floor in the form of a cross, praying both for the dying and those destined to survive.

As the uprising came to an end, he found a shred of paper on which the burning fire had left only three, “Thou shalt love.” (Ibid.)

The war came to an end, with Fr. Wyszynski having been preserved by the woman he so loved, referring to her often as “Beautiful Splendid Star, Mary of Czestochowa.”

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