Monday, April 14, 2014

Poland Was Baptized Today

Baptism of King Mieszko I
Over 1,050 years ago on April 14th, 966 Poland as a nation turned from its pagan ways and adopted the Christian religion. This was due in large part to the marriage of King Mieszko I and Dobrawa of Bohemia. 

In the end, while it may have been politically expedient to convert to the Christian religion, it nevertheless ushered in a Millenium of Christian faith that proved to be the foundation for great Saints. In fact, the fruit of this act that happened so far in the past would been seen by all with the election of the first Polish Pope, who would change the world with his example of holiness.

So let us be thankful this day for the Baptism of Poland; without it, the world would not be changed.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Beauty of a Polish Palm Sunday

One beautiful Polish tradition that can still be seen in the Fatherland today is the dazzling colors found on Palm Sunday. Lacking access to the indigenous palm trees of Jerusalem, the Polish people over the centuries would simply use whatever plants or flowers were available in their particular region. This led to very unique and beautiful arrangements, befitting the King of Kings who rides upon a donkey towards His death upon a cross. Here are just a few examples of "palms" that can be found in Poland:

Palm Sunday in Lipnica Murowana, Poland
Source: Maciej Szczepańczyk

Palm Sunday, village of Łyse. Kurpie region, Poland
Source: Mariusz Cieszewski

Do you have any pictures of a Polish Palm Sunday (whether in Poland or in the US)? Send them in! I will post them as a separate post featuring the many varieties of palms used in Polish culture. Send me an e-mail.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Bread & Salt: How to Greet a Polish Cardinal

Continuing our series investigating the visit of future Pope John Paul II to a rural Polish community in Central Wisconsin in 1976, we pick-up the thread from our previous post and start to unravel a jam packed visit that only lasted a little more than 24 hours.

As expected, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla and his personal secretary Father Stanisław Dziwisz arrived on the morning of August 23rd at the small municipal airport in Stevens Point, Wisconsin via a personal jet, courtesy of Sentry Insurance, from a short stop in Chicago. His plane touched down around 9:10 am on Monday morning and the Cardinal was greeted by a small group of representatives of the local community.

Among those who greeted him were Mrs. Jane Staples, a representative of Sentry Insurance, as well as Zofia and Waclaw Soroka on behalf of the Annual Lectures on Poland. Additionally, Bishop Frederick Freking of the Diocese of La Crosse, and Father Chester Zielinski greeted the Polish Cardinal in the name of the Catholic communities of the area. The greeting party was also comprised of Dean John Nowak, Maynard and Mary Jane Zdroik, the Mayor of Stevens Point, James Fiegelson and his wife, additional representatives of the Annual Lectures on Poland and the Wisla Polish Dance Group, a company of Knights of Columbus members dressed in their finery, and lastly a few other representatives of the local community. All in all it was a greeting befitting of a highly revered foreign dignitary.

Example of the greeting with Bread and Salt
VP Joe Biden greeted in Kiev, Ukraine
Bread and Salt

Friday, April 4, 2014

Christ Thirsts For You! Comfort Him With Your Soul

Chrystus Frasobliwy Statue in Poland
Photo:Mateusz Sz.
Each year during Lent we are reminded of the sacred Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Yet, too often we view Good Friday as a mere historical event that occurred 2,000 years ago. We forget that Jesus specifically died for you and me in a personal way that is often beyond comprehension. Indeed, we often do not accompany Christ on the via dolorosa or we fall asleep in the garden as the apostles did. We do not allow Christ's personal love to penetrate our hearts. He remains a historical figure who died many ages ago.

This is where the traditional Polish statue of "Chrystus Frasobliwy" becomes a constant reminder to us of Christ's sorrow and rejection. The statue depicts Christ bent over in contemplation and sorrow. He wears the crown of thorns and often holds a reed in His hand, reminding us of how He was mocked by the Roman soldiers. He awaits the crucifixion and is "sorrowful unto death."

This image beckons us to comfort Him and to allow Him to enter into our lives. It shows the humanity of Jesus and how He had human emotions and feelings. The statue reveals to us the rejection He felt, most especially the rejection He feels now each time we sin. For each time we sin we turn away from God and turn our backs from His sorrow.

He Thirsts For Our Souls

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Looking Forward While Looking Back: God, Honor, Fatherland

In the Fall of 2012, I started a blog, Into the West, and primarily focused on articles related to the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien. It was my first experiment with blogging and I did not know where exactly I would end up.

Over the following year, I learned a lot about myself as a writer and felt I needed to expand my focus to include more articles about a variety of topics. Thus, in November of 2013 I started this particular blog and have featured a number of articles. There has been no consistent theme as I have written articles on Tolkien, John Paul II, artistic photography and a few other random topics. I have been trying to refine my skill as a writer and actively discern what I should focus on.

Well, after much feedback and discernment I have decided upon that theme. I have chosen to focus on inspiring others by the lives of modern-day Polish Saints as well as the beauty of Polish culture. I will try to accomplish this task through inspirational articles and published books. With the canonization of John Paul II swiftly approaching as well as the upcoming World Youth Day in Krakow in 2016, the eyes of the world will be on Poland. I firmly believe there is something unique about Poland and we have much to learn from the courageous people who have lived there over the centuries.
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