Of unlikely martyrs and unlikely converts

I draw your attention to a DVD/movie I saw recently: Jerzy Popieluszko: Messenger of Truth – A Polish Martyr and 21st Century Hero.  I get a message that the DVD isn’t available at the moment, but when it is again, consider it.  I found it informative and moving, especially as a priest.  An amazing man in a horrific time.  I hope we will see his like when it is out turn.

This dovetails well with the next item, from CWN and Phil Lawler:

A happy epilogue for the Cold War

One of the most enduring visual images of the Cold War—one of the early signs that the Soviet empire was doomed—was the sight of General Wojciech Jaruzelski, the Polish strongman, literally shaking as he addressed the enormous crowd that gathered to greet St. John Paul II on his triumphant return to his homeland.

Make no mistake about it; Jaruzelski was a formidable enemy of the Catholic Church. With his Soviet comrades watching over his shoulder, he launched a harsh crackdown on the Solidarity movement. He was responsible for the imprisonment of hundreds of human-rights activists. He probably gave the order for troops to fire on striking workers, killing several; he may well have approved the brutal murder of Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko, the “Solidarity priest” who was bludgeoned to death in 1984. But Jaruzelski was also a realist, and when the Pope arrived in Poland, the general knew in his heart that he was overmatched. As indeed he was—not only by the man, but by the spiritual force the Pontiff represented.

General Jaruzelski lost the battle for Poland, of course. But for years he kept fighting another battle: to justify his leadership, to rationalize the decisions he made while he held power. Shortly before his death last week he surrendered that battle as well. Before he lost consciousness, Reuters reports, Jaruzelski “asked a Catholic priest to administer the last rites.” No longer an atheist, no longer an enemy; Wojciech Jaruzelski died a Catholic.

God’s ways are not our ways.  Our strength is not His strength.  He chooses the least likely to do great things.  His timeline is a mystery.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. excalibur says:

    Thank you for posting this Father. Much celebrating by the angels that day.

  2. Back pew sitter says:

    He was reconciled with the Church before he died. What a fortunate man. That’s what it’s all about. Deo gratias.

  3. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Martyrs are the seed of the Church. Even within those who have killed the martyrs.

  4. benedetta says:

    Thank you Father.

    May all of the Church’s persecutors be profoundly blessed with the knowledge and peace of the Lord. Viva Cristo Rey!

  5. djc says:

    One of the many reasons I frequent this blog is the excellent news I find nowhere else. I doubt anyone would hear this on NBC news.


  6. Facta Non Verba says:

    Wow. Just wow.

  7. stephen c says:

    Both John Paul (according to his own statements, unless I misunderstood) and his countryman, who recently died as a Christian (and maybe not such a recent Christian as many might think), had many misdeeds that they deeply regretted (as do I, and as does almost everyone who reads comments on this or any other blog. If you are an exception, please let me know, I would love to hear about your blissful sinlessness). One of the two (i.e., Wojtyla) was blessed with near saintly parents, was blessed with wonderful teachers, and was blessed with the comforting grace of God from youth; not to mention health, good friends, and universally recognized charisma. The other (Jaruzelski) probably had semi-vicious parents, a longer time in the wilderness far from the voice of the Lord, nasty decades in an unpleasant military cursed by a propinquity to the constantly threatening Soviets, and no good and effective Christian teachers or friends. Who knows whether the first one would have willingly and charitably exchanged his initial lot in life with the second one? In any event, my guess is that neither the one nor the other would wish to be more celebrated (than his friend) in heaven, and that neither the one nor the other would want those of us still stuck in this vale of tears to try too hard to quantify the level of suffering caused by their mistakes and deficiencies of love. Of course John Paul is the better example to follow, but, to tell the truth, at this point in time I am not sure that anyone can say that John Paul has not been in more need, over the last decade or two, of our prayers, than his formerly despised countryman who died so recently, and who apparently died so well.

  8. Priam1184 says:

    Deo gratias! Deo gratias! Deo gratias!

  9. MichaelTMS says:

    I know that St. John Paul II does not need our prayers, because he is a saint! We need his prayers to bring us closer to what he is. Of course he needed our prayers to combat homosexual priests and the bishops who protected them for some unholy reason. St. John Paul was such a holy priest he could not even begin to contemplate that a priest who break his vows.

  10. St Donatus says:

    The movie is available at http://www.messengerofthetruth.com/about.

    Thanks for this post. He was a model for Religious freedom whom we all need to follow now. In a sense Father Z is a similar voice for Truth. Sadly unlike in Poland with a deeply religious populace, there are few who even care today. In fact, a larger percentage of Catholics support homosexual marriage than any other Christian religion. This is because there are very few priests with the spine of Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko to help guide us to the truths of the Catholic Church.

  11. LarryW2LJ says:

    I would suggest that we pray fervently to Fr. Popieluszko and St. John Paul II that they would aid us in laying before the feet of our Lord, our hopes and desires for a change of heart for our own POTUS.

  12. Ed the Roman says:

    St. John Paul was also used to the Communists smearing priests with sexual libels for years; he was predisposed to discount charges like them.

  13. stephen c says:

    St John Paul of course does not need our prayers for himself, but I always understood that when we pray for the intentions of the church we are also praying for the intentions of the saints in heaven, whose mission on earth does not end when they move from one part of the church (the one we are in) to another part (heaven).

  14. JustaSinner says:

    I pray that God will allow me to visit Poland before the new Soviet Union invades them again.

  15. Wiktor says:

    Once I have been to the place of Popieluszko’s death. He was beaten and thrown from the top of a dam into water.
    There’s now a big cross standing nearby in his memory.

  16. Pingback: The One Unforgivable Modern Sin - BigPulpit.com

  17. Bea says:

    God’s mercy is boundless.
    For Him, nothing is impossible.
    I understand Plutarco Elias Calles, the persecutor of Mexico’s Catholics, also died with the last rites (and I assume repentant) in a Catholic hospital in San Diego.
    Viva Cristo Rey!
    Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!

  18. tzabiega says:

    It is an interesting ending for a man that reminds me of the movie “Angels with Dirty Faces.” Jaruzelski came from a good, noble Catholic family that was deported to Siberia after Poland was occupied in 1939 by both the Soviets and Nazis. He didn’t make it out on time in 1941 to join the Polish forces that were forming in the Soviet southern republics under General Anders which then escaped to British Occupied Iran and fought for the Allies in Italy (with the 70th anniversary of the monumental Battle of Monte Cassino where the Poles had the most important contribution being celebrated last month). Instead, he had to settle with joining the Polish forces that were formed by the Soviets to fight the Nazi Germans in retaking Poland and occupying Berlin. So he made a rapid career in the Polish Communist Army and lost his soul. I am glad he regained it at the end. Two of my Polish uncles who were members of the Polish Communist Party also died in recent years with Last Rites. God is truly merciful to his wayward sons and daughters–but in Poland priests actively seek out and ask patients in hospitals about Annointing of the Sick. Meanwhile in the U.S., so many souls are lost because the sacrament is not offered to them, despite their sins being much less severe than those of Jaruzelski.

  19. BLB Oregon says:

    Gary Haugen, first found guilty of the murder of his girlfriend’s mother and later of murdering a fellow inmate while in prison, exhausted his legal efforts to refuse Gov. John Kitzhaber’s stay on his death sentence. He sought to have his own life ended by execution until the US Supreme Court refused to hear his case earlier this year.

    He was received the Sacrament of Confirmation from Archbishop Sample last week:

    *(It was noted in the comments that the piece contains errors, including “The Sacrament of Confirmation is one of the seven sacraments that Catholics receive during their religious upbringing.”)

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