By Tom Quiner
A proud country has been crushed by an evil adversary, beaten into the ground, one-fifth of their population killed in a mere six years.
It gets worse.
The county is then taken over by another, equally sinister country, one that, much like the soul-sucking Dementors in a Harry Potter book, attempts to suck the very soul out of the country.
The tyrants attempt to suppress the rich heritage of their victims.
They prevent churches from being built.
They carry crosses out of existing churches.
They demand that merchants remove any vestiges of God and Jesus from their walls.
Free enterprise is halted.
What follows is 34 years of hell for a nation abandoned by her friends.
And then things changed 31 years ago yesterday. A plane landed in the weary country’s capital. A man in white stepped off the plane. He smiled and knelt and kissed the ground.
Karol Wojtyla was home. Now known as Pope John Paul II, he was about to unleash a force beyond the understanding of the Nazis or the Communists. Stalin had once mocked a Pope because he has no troops.
He was wrong.
Following a few remarks, the Pope was taken to Victory Square in the heart of Warsaw. The Communist government had restricted publicity on the Pope’s itinerary in the hopes of minimizing crowds.
It didn’t work.
One million people were there. One million! Joyous humanity stretched as far as the eye could see. Hope was tangible. Hope! Poland desperately thirsted for a mere drop of hope. They were about to receive a gusher.
The Pope came to celebrate Mass before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. His homily changed the world.
The Pope asked rhetorically “why, precisely in 1978, after so many centuries of a well established tradition in this field, a son of the Polish Nation, of the land of Poland, was called to the chair of Saint Peter? Christ demanded of Peter and of the other Apostles that they should be his “witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
“Have we not the right, with reference to these words of Christ, to think thatPoland has become nowadays the land of a particularly responsible witness?
But if we accept all that I have dared to affirm in this moment, how many great duties and obligations arise? Are we capable of them?”
The communists were beginning to squirm.
All of this was taking place on the Vigil of Pentecost, the birth of the Church when Christ sent the Holy Spirit upon the earth. Catholics believe in the “communion of the saints,” that during the Mass, all the angels and all the saints are present.
The Pope invoked them: “It is good that my pilgrimage to Poland on the ninth centenary of the martyrdom of Saint Stanislaus should fall in the Pentecost period and on the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.Fulfilling the desire of Paul VI after his death, I am able to relive the Millennium of the Baptism on Polish soil and to inscribe this year’s jubilee of Saint Stanislaus in the Millennium since the beginning of the nation and the Church.
“The Solemnity of Pentecost and that of the Most Holy Trinity bring us close to this beginning. In the apostles who receive the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost are spiritually present in a way all their successors, all the Bishops, including those whose task it has been for a thousand years to proclaim the Gospel on Polish soil. Among them was this Stanislaus of Szczepanow, who paid with his blood for his mission on the episcopal chair of Krakow nine centuries ago.”
Saint Stanislaus is revered in Poland with an intensity that Americans may not fully understand.
What the Pope said next was amazing:
“To Poland the Church brought Christ, the key to understanding that great and fundamental reality that is man. For man cannot be fully understood without Christ. Or rather, man is incapable of understanding himself fully without Christ. He cannot understand who he is, nor what his true dignity is, nor what his vocation is, nor what his final end is. He cannot understand any of this without Christ.”
Christ was the enemy of communism. And yet the Pope proclaimed to one million down trodden Poles that it was Christ, not the State, that is the true reality!
He was provocative …
“Therefore Christ cannot be kept out of the history of man in any part of the globe, at any longitude or latitude of geography.”
He was adamant …
“The exclusion of Christ from the history of man is an act against man. Without Christ it is impossible to understand the history of Poland, especially the history of the people who have passed or are passing through this land. The history of people. The history of the nation is above all the history of people. And the history of each person unfolds in Jesus Christ. In him it becomes the history of salvation.”
At that moment, the Pope ruled Poland.
He gazed at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier:
“The history of the motherland written through the tomb of an Unknown Soldier!”
He talked about redemptive sacrifice:
“I wish to kneel before this tomb to venerate every seed that falls into the earth and dies and thus bears fruit. It may be the seed of the blood of a soldier shed on the battlefield, or the sacrifice of martyrdom in concentration camps or in prisons. It may be the seed of hard daily toil, with the sweat of one’s brow, in the fields, the workshop, the mine, the foundries and the factories. It may be the seed of the love of parents who do not refuse to give life to a new human being and undertake the whole of the task of bringing him up. It may be the seed of creative work in the universities, the higher institutes, the libraries and the places where the national culture is built. It may be the seed of prayer, of service of the sick, the suffering, the abandoned—all that of which Poland is made.”
Poland’s blood, sweat, and tears were about to bear fruit.
For fourteen minutes, the crowd interrupted the Pontiff with cheers, with songs, with a primal cry of “We want God! We want God! We want God!”
He let them go on, because he knew they needed it. Deliverance was at hand in the presence of an army of saints and angels in communion with a million praying souls in Victory Square in the heart of Warsaw, Poland, in the heart of communism.
The crowd quieted, and the Pope said:
“All that in the hands of the Mother of God—at the foot of the cross on Calvary and in the Upper Room of Pentecost!”
And he invoked their history:
“All that—the history of the motherland shaped for a thousand years by the succession of the generations (among them the present generation and the coming generation) and by each son and daughter of the motherland, even if they are anonymous and unknown like the Soldier before whose tomb we are now.”
And he invoked the many who sacrificed for Poland:
“All that—including the history of the peoples that have lived with us and among us, such as those who died in their hundreds of thousands within the walls of the Warsaw ghetto.
And then he cried out to the Holy Spirit:
“And I cry—I who am a Son of the land of Poland and who am also Pope John Paul II—I cry from all the depths of this Millennium, I cry on the vigil of Pentecost:
Let your Spirit descend.
Let your Spirit descend.
and renew the face of the earth,
the face of this land!”
The day was June 2nd, 1979. Fast forward to June 4th, 1989: Lech Walesa is elected President of Poland. Communism is dead, beaten by a humble Pope and his army of a million praying Poles and angels and saints.
It was so impossible. But it happened.
Is there hope for tomorrow? Ask anyone in Poland.
I am writing a musical based on the Pope’s epic visit to Poland, tentatively titled “The Pope of the People.” Check back to this blog for updates. In the meantime, to experience the magnitude of his trip to Poland, you can order an incredible documentary titled: “Nine Days that Changed the World” at Gingrich Productions: http://www.gingrichproductions.com/