COVID-19 restrictions limited attendance at the beatification Mass of Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński on Sunday in Warsaw, Poland, to seven thousand of the faithful. The beatification had already been delayed more than a year due to the virus lockdowns. But the restrictions and cloudy weather could not limit the sheer joy of the Cardinal’s countrymen, nor their gratitude for the long-awaited event.
Wyszyński, beloved prelate and primate of Poland throughout the mid-twentieth century, who faced down both the National Socialists of Germany during World War II and the repressive postwar Communist regime, is a revered figure in Poland, on par with his colleague more well-known in the wider world, St. John Paul II. Wyszyński’s landmark 1953 document Non Possumus, in which he denounced the Communist regime’s attempts to suppress the power of and interfere with the autonomy of the Church and the Faith in Poland as the last straw with which no compliance could be made, was a manly, stalwart, and truly pastoral response in the face of the forces of anti-Christ.
Indeed, Wyszyński’s efforts as a prominent figure in the Universal Church through the sixties and seventies in great part paved the way to the election of the Polish Pontiff himself, who credited Wyszyński with his papacy and who became the man most responsible for the downfall of the Soviet Union. After Wyszyński’s virtuous opposition became apparent, he suffered three years of imprisonment and isolation, forced to watch the torture of other prisoners. Shifting politics allowed for his begrudging release in 1956, after which he secured the rights of the Church as untouchable by the state. The Communists did not dare again to challenge the authority of the Church in Poland.
The impact of Cardinal Wyszyński is a clear witness of the Faith, a white martyrdom that flies in the face of tyranny unto the glory of God. His testimony has potent implications for the hierarchy and the state of the world today, when the Church struggles not only against the powers of the world that have always attempted to confound her confession of Christ but also against the growing submission within her own ranks to earthly authority over divine authority.
When the Church seems to acquiesce to government-imposed mandates without due cause, when She seems to ignore politicians who openly defy the teachings of the Church, when She struggles against the government’s desire to force its own false ideas of humanity on Catholic institutions, when She fails to resist Communists’ attempts to usurp ecclesial autonomy in China, when She cowers and approaches submission to the opinions of the secularists and atheists on the very doctrines She holds dear, when She eschews Her own holy tradition in the liturgy—discarding the cross Christ has given to her to suffer for His cause—let Cardinal Wyszyński’s message ring out boldly: Non Possumus! We Cannot!
The vision of the Blessed’s beatification Mass has particularly profound implications for the faithful of his own country, beset in recent years by the relentless attempts of the Western progressivists in the European Union, especially from Germany, to force the nation to submit to the spirit of the age through massive foreign funding and misrepresentation of the nation’s largely Catholic and traditional government by Western media. Seeing President Andrzej Duda and First Lady Agata Duda kneel for Communion at a beatification Mass held during a year the Polish parliament designated the Year of Cardinal Wyszyński must have stirred the hearts of the as-yet deeply patriotic, deeply religious Polish people.
It is also profoundly symbolic that the beatification took place on September 12, the date of the momentous victory in 1683 of Polish King Jan III Sobieski, in relief of the army of the Holy Roman Empire at the Battle of Vienna, against the Ottoman Turks (the origin of the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary). It was the day Christendom was finally saved from a Muslim threat by the Polish Catholics riding under the banner of Our Lady Queen of Poland, to whom Cardinal Wyszyński had also entrusted his life and people.
It was Wyszyński who requested St. Paul VI declare her “Mother of the Church” during the Second Vatican Council. Under her mantle, Poland was not only spared but granted the great gift of holy martyrs and confessors—and a Pope. As Pius XII wrote in his 1950 letter Decennium Dum Expletur to the episcopate of Poland, “Only one thing Poland has not known: to desert Jesus Christ and His Church. This is the badge of [Poland’s] nobility, to act strenuously, to suffer bravely, to hope indomitably, to achieve great things.”
Cardinal Wyszyński stood as a living embodiment of these pronouncements, and he now stands in the Heavenly Court as one of the saints, “many and great,” for which Pius XII commended the Polish nation. May the beatification of this great hero, the uncrowned king of Poland, be a sign to both the nation of Poland and the Universal Church today, wracked within and beset without, never to bow in the face of anti-Christ.
Blessed Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński, the Primate of the Millennium, pray for Poland, the Church, and all of us.
[Photo: Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński and Karol Cardinal Wojtyla]