S. John Paul II Homil. 759
Zakopane - 7 June 1997
1. Today on the liturgical memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we gather in Krzeptówki, in this parish church, in order to bless it, that is, to consecrate it. It is not enough for a church merely to be built; it needs to be dedicated, by a liturgical act, to the Most High. I give thanks to God for being able to consecrate your church today.I have been warmly invited to do so, and on several occasions. I thank Divine Providence that I am able to come among you today and accept your invitation. I greet you with a father's love. I greet all who live in Skalne Podhale.
What does it mean to dedicate or consecrate a Church? The best answer to this question is provided by the liturgical readings. The first reading, taken from the book of the Prophet Nehemiah, recalls the well-known event in the Old Testament when the Israelites, after returning from slavery in Babylon, set about rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. First built in the time of the great kings, it had shared in the Chosen People's periods of splendour and decadence; it had witnessed the deportation and enslavement of the sons and daughters of Israel; afterwards it had been destroyed and now needed to be rebuilt. The Chosen People experienced this moment intensely. With cries of lamentation they began the great work. And behold, their sadness was turned into joy (cf. Neh Ne 8,2-11).
Against the background of this description we can understand even better the words of the second reading, taken from the First Letter of Saint Peter, and the words of the Gospel which has just been proclaimed. "On you I will build my Church", Christ says to Peter, when the Apostle confesses his faith in the Son of God. "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it" (Mt 16,17-18).
The Church is not only a sacred building. The Lord Jesus says that the Church is built on rock, and the rock is the faith of Peter. The Church is a community of believers who profess their faith in the living God and bear witness - like Peter - to the fact that Christ is the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world. You, dear brothers and sisters, are a small part of this great community of the Church built on the faith of Peter. Together with your Bishop, together with the Pope, you proclaim and profess faith in the Son of God and on this faith you base your whole personal, family and professional life. In this way you share in the Kingdom of Heaven. For Christ said to Peter: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Mt 16,19).
This shrine of yours, which today is being consecrated to God, must serve the Church - the community, living men and women. This is even more profoundly expressed in the passage from the Letter of Peter which we have heard. In it the Apostle speaks of the Church as a house built of living stones. We ourselves are this house, we ourselves are these living stones which make up the whole spiritual temple. Its cornerstone is Christ: Christ Crucified and Risen. He himself became the cornerstone of the Church, as the great community of the People of God in the New Covenant. That community, as the Apostle Peter writes, is a holy priesthood (cf. 1P 2,5). United to Christ, it is "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people whom God has made his own, to declare the wonderful deeds of him who called us out of darkness into his marvellous light" (cf. 1P 2,9). Your beautiful church, which you have built along with your pastors, is to serve the community of the Church, and therefore needs to be blessed, consecrated, devoted to God himself, as a space in which the People of God gather and pray. Not only God's People in Krzeptówki and Zakopane, but also those who come here from different places in Poland for a restful stay in the mountains. To all the tourists and summer residents I offer good wishes that your closer contact with nature will lead you to an encounter with God in prayer.
2. Looking at your church, so beautifully decorated, I have before my eyes those wooden churches - increasingly rare nowadays - which used to rise throughout Poland, but above all in Podhale and Podkarpacie: authentic treasures of popular architecture. All of them, like your own, were built with the cooperation of the pastors and faithful of the individual parishes. They were built by a common effort, so that the Holy Sacrifice could be celebrated there, so that Christ in the Eucharist would be together with his people day and night, at times of great joy and elation, and at times of trial, suffering and humiliation, and even on plain grey days. To the International Eucharistic Congress of Wroclaw we need to add this whole great chapter of the sacramental presence of Christ which every church in Poland hides in itself.
Churches are also places where solemn celebrations are held: the Nativity of the Lord, Easter, Pentecost, Corpus Domini, the Marian feasts. Here the faithful gather for the devotions of May and June, for the rosary. Finally, churches are places where the memory of the dead is preserved. Just as the beginning of the religious life of each believer is linked to the baptismal font, so too its end, death and the funeral, take place in its shadow. Often parish cemeteries are themselves right next to the church. These churches, then, are monuments to the history of the whole nation, of individual communities, parishes, families and individual men and women.
760 The Church is a place of memory and yet of hope: it faithfully preserves the past while constantly pointing people towards the future, not only the future of time but also that of the afterlife. In churches we profess our belief in the forgiveness of sins, in the resurrection of the body and in life eternal. Here we experience daily the mystery of the communion of saints: indeed, each church has its patron saint, and very many are dedicated to Our Lady. I rejoice that in Zakopane and Podhale new churches have risen, magnificent monuments to the living faith of the people of this area. Their beauty matches the beauty of the Tatra Mountains and is the reflection of the same beauty spoken of in the inscription on the Cross by Wincenty Pol in Kolcieliska Valley: "Nothing is greater than God".
3. Dear brothers and sisters! Your shrine in Krzeptówki is particularly near and dear to me. In it you honour the statue of Our Lady of Fatima. The history of this shrine is also linked with the event which took place in Saint Peter's Square on 13 May 1981. At that time I experienced mortal danger and suffering, but also the great mercy of God. By the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima my life was given back to me. During my stay in hospital I was the object of a great outpouring of human kindness from all parts of the world: it was expressed above all in prayer. At that time I had in my mind's eye a picture of the life of the first Christians who "raised prayers to God unceasingly" (cf. Acts Ac 12,5) when the life of Peter was in grave danger.
I know that Zakopane too took part in the prayer of the Church throughout the world for my return to health and to the ministry of Peter. I know that you gathered in your parish churches and in the Chapel of Our Lady of Fatima in Krzeptówki to recite the rosary to obtain for me a recovery of health and strength. At that time plans were first made to build here, at the foot of Mount Giewont, a shrine to Our Lady of Fatima as a votive offering of thanksgiving for my life having been spared. I know that this shrine, which today I am able to consecrate, was built by many hands and many hearts united by hard work, sacrifice and love for the Pope. It is hard for me to speak of this without being moved.
Dear brothers and sisters! I have come among you to thank you for your goodness, your thoughts and your continuing prayer. I was your Pastor for twenty years; today I come among you as the Successor of Saint Peter. You have always helped me. You were with me and you understood my concerns. I felt this. It was a great support for me. Today I thank you from my heart for this attitude of faith and devotion to the Church. Here, in this land of Podhale, the Bishop always found support in you. Here too our homeland found support in you, especially in the difficult moments of her history. I have come to say to you, for all of this, "Bóg zapla!" ("May God reward you!"). Here, together with you, I wish once more to thank Our Lady of Fatima for the gift of my life having been spared, as I did at Fatima fifteen years ago. Totus tuus... I thank you all for this church. It is filled with your love for the Church and for the Pope. In some sense it is the continuation of my gratitude to God and to his Mother. Together with you I rejoice greatly in this gift.
With words of profound gratitude I also address all my fellow countrymen and the faithful of the Church, especially the sick and suffering who pray for the Pope and offer their daily crosses for him. Suffering experienced together with Christ is a very great gift and a most effective help in the apostolate. "In the Body of Christ, which is ceaselessly born of the Cross of the Redeemer, it is precisely suffering permeated by the spirit of Christ's sacrifice that is the irreplaceable mediator and author of the good things which are indispensable for the world's salvation. It is suffering, more than anything else, which clears the way for the grace which transforms human souls. Suffering, more than anything else, makes present in the history of humanity the powers of the Redemption" (Salvifici Doloris, 27).
With gratitude for the gift of prayer and sacrifice, and from my heart, I ask all of you once more, as I did on the day of the inauguration of my pontificate: "Pray for me. Help me to serve you". I too pray for you daily.
4. This shrine in Krzeptówki is linked by close spiritual bonds with Fatima in Portugal. From there too came the statue of Our Lady which you venerate. The message of Fatima, which Mary gave to the world through three poor children, consists in an exhortation to conversion, prayer, especially the rosary, and reparation for one's own sins and for those of all mankind. This message flows from the Gospel, from the words which Christ spoke at the very beginning of his public ministry: "Repent, and believe in the Gospel!" (Mc 1,15). It aims at man's interior transformation, at the defeat of sin within him and the strengthening of goodness, and at the attainment of holiness. This message is addressed in particular to the people of our century, a century which has been marked by war, hatred, the violation of fundamental human rights, the immense suffering of individuals and nations, and finally by the struggle against God, carried even to the denial of his existence. The message of Fatima is an outpouring of the love of the Heart of the Mother, who is always open to her child, never loses sight of him, thinks of him always, even when he leaves the straight path and becomes a "prodigal son" (cf. Lk Lc 15,11-32).
The Immaculate Heart of Mary, which we commemorate today in the Church's Liturgy, was opened to us on Calvary by the words of the dying Jesus: "Woman, behold your son!'. Then he said to the disciple: Behold, your mother!' And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home" (Jn 19,26-27). At the foot of the Cross Mary became the mother of all those redeemed by Christ. Under her maternal protection she took John and she takes every human being. From that time on, the greatest concern of her Immaculate Heart is the eternal salvation of all men and women.
From the beginning your shrine has proclaimed the message of Fatima and draws its life from it. You have a particular devotion to the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary; you make the Family Rosary Crusade; in prayer you embrace the important problems of the Church, the Pope, the world, the homeland, the souls in purgatory and those who have abandoned God's love, breaking the covenant made with him at Holy Baptism. Pray perseveringly for the grace of their conversion. Turn with confidence to Mary, "Refuge of Sinners", that she may defend them from becoming hardened in sin and from the slavery of Satan. Pray with faith, that people may know and acknowledge "the one true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent" (cf. Jn Jn 17,3). This prayer expresses your love for mankind, a prayer which desires the greatest good for everyone.
"At no time and in no historical period - especially at a moment as critical as our own - can the Church forget the prayer that is a cry for the mercy of God amid the many forms of evil which weigh upon humanity and threaten it" (Dives in Misericordia DM 15).
Mother, plead for us! Mother, pray for us!
761 O Mary, Mother of God,
Intercede for us!
Krakow, 8 June 1997
1. Gaude, mater Polonia! I repeat today this exhortation to joy which for centuries Poles have sung in memory of Saint Stanislaw. I repeat it because the place and the occasion are particularly appropriate. For we must turn again to the hill of Wawel, to the royal Cathedral, and place ourselves there before the relics of the Queen, the Lady of Wawel. Now the great day of her canonization has arrived! And so:
Gaude, mater Polonia,
Prole fecunda nobili,
Summi Regis magnalia
Laude frequenta vigili.
Hedwig, you have long awaited this solemn day. Almost six hundred years have passed since your death at a young age. Loved by the whole Nation, you who are at the beginning of the era of the Jagiellons, the foundress of the dynasty, foundress of the Jagiellonian University in the oldest part of Krakow, have long awaited this day of your canonization - the day on which the Church would solemnly proclaim that you are the holy Patron of Poland in its hereditary line - of the Poland by your efforts with Lithuania and Rus': the Nation of three nations. Now this day has arrived. Many longed to experience this moment and were not able. Years and centuries passed, and it seemed that your canonization was even impossible. May this day be a day of joy not only for us, who are now alive, but also for all those who have not lived to see it on this earth. May this be a great day of the Communion of Saints. Gaude, mater Polonia!
2. Today's Gospel turns our thoughts and hearts towards Baptism. Here we are again in Galilee, from which Christ sends his Apostles out to the whole world: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. God therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28,18-20). This is the missionary mandate which the Apostles took upon themselves beginning on the day of Pentecost. They took it up and transmitted it to their successors. Through them, the apostolic message gradually spread throughout the world. And, towards the end of the First Millennium, the time came when Christ's apostles reached the lands of the Piast. Then Mieszko I received Baptism and this - according to the conviction of the period - was at one and the same time the Baptism of Poland. In 1966 we celebrated the Millennium of that Baptism.
How happy the Primate of the Millennium, the Servant of God Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, would have been today if he had been able to share with us in this great day of Hedwig's canonization! She was close to his heart, as she was to the great Metropolitans of Krakow, to the Cardinal Prince Adam Stefan Sapieha and the whole Polish Episcopate. Everyone thought that the canonization of Queen Hedwig would have been the culmination of the Millennium of the Baptism of Poland. Her canonization would also have been its fulfilment because, through the efforts of Queen Hedwig, the Poles, baptized in the tenth century, four centuries later undertook the apostolic mission and contributed to the evangelization and Baptism of their neighbours. Hedwig knew that her mission was to bring the Gospel to her Lithuanian brothers and sisters. She accomplished this with the help of her consort, King Wladyslaw Jagiello. On the Baltic a new Christian country arose, reborn in the water of Baptism, just as in the tenth century the same water had brought new life to the sons and daughters of the Polish Nation.
762 Sit Trinitati gloria, laus, honor, iubilatio ... Today we thank the Most Holy Trinity for your wisdom, Hedwig. The author of the Book of Wisdom asks: "Who has learned your counsel, o Lord, unless you have given wisdom and sent your holy Spirit from on high?" (cf. Wis Sg 9,7). Let us therefore give thanks to God the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit for your wisdom, Hedwig; because you recognized God's design regarding not only your own vocation but also regarding the vocation of the nations: our own historic vocation and the vocation of Europe which, through your endeavours, as a continent completed its own evangelization, so that later it would be able to undertake the evangelization of other countries and other continents throughout the world. For Christ had said: "Go ..., make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28,19). Today we rejoice at your elevation to the altars. We rejoice in the name of all those nations of which you became mother in the faith. And we thank God for your holiness, for the mission which you carried out in our history; for your love of the Nation and the Church, for your love of Christ Crucified and Risen. Gaude, mater Polonia!
3. The greatest thing is love. "We know" - writes Saint John - "that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death" (1Jn 3,14). And, therefore, he who loves shares in life, in that life which is from God. "By this we know love" - continues Saint John - "that he [Christ] laid down his life for us" (1Jn 3,16). Thus we too should lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters (cf. 1Jn 3,16). Christ said that in this way, by giving our lives for the brethren, we show love. And this is the greatest love (cf. 1Co 13,13).
And we today, listening to the words of the Apostles, wish to tell you, our holy Queen, that you, as few others , had grasped this teaching of Christ and the Apostles. Often you would kneel at the feet of the Crucified One at Wawel to learn this generous love from Christ himself. And learn it you did. You showed by your life that the greatest thing is love. Do we not sing these words in a very ancient Polish song?
O holy Cross, tree more noble than all else,
no other is your equal in any other forest
except the tree which bears God himself. ...
To die on the Cross for another is unheard-of goodness.
Who can do so today, for whom can one give one's own soul?
Only the Lord Jesus did this, because he loved us to the end"
(cf. Crux Fidelis, 16th century)
It is from him, the Christ of Wawel, the black Crucifix to which the people of Krakow come every year on pilgrimage on Good Friday, that you learned, Queen Hedwig, to give your life for the brethren. Your deep wisdom and your intense activity flowed from contemplation, from your personal bond with the Crucified One. Here contemplatio et vita activa found the right balance. Thus you never lost the "better part", the presence of Christ. Today we wish to kneel with you, Hedwig, at the feet of the Crucified One of Wawel, to hear the echo of that lesson of love which you listened to. We wish to learn from you how to put that lesson into practice in our time.
763 4. "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave" (Mt 20,25-26). These words of Christ deeply penetrated the mind of the young sovereign of the noble house of the Angevins. The most profound characteristic of her short life and, at the same time the measure of her greatness, was her spirit of service. Her social position, her talents, her whole private life she offered completely to the service of Christ and, when it was her time to reign, she also devoted her life to the service of the people entrusted to her.
The spirit of service inspired her social commitment. She zealously devoted herself to the political life of her time. And she, the daughter of the King of Hungary, successfully combined faithfulness to Christian principles with the defence of the common weal of Poland. Undertaking great works in the national and international sphere, she desired nothing for herself. Through her generosity she enriched her second homeland with every material and spiritual good. An expert in the art of diplomacy, she laid the foundations for Poland's greatness in the 15th century. She inspired religious and cultural cooperation between the nations and her sensitivity to social wrongs was often praised by her subjects.
With a clarity that right up to the present day has enlightened all of Poland she knew that the strength of both State and Church have their origin in the Nation's careful education; that the path to the State's welfare, sovereignty and recognition in the world passes by way of thriving Universities. Hedwig was also well aware that faith seeks rational understanding, that faith needs culture and forms cultures, that faith lives in the world of culture. And she spared nothing to enrich Poland with the whole spiritual heritage both of ancient times and of the middle ages. She gave to the University even her golden sceptre, using instead one of gilded wood. This fact, while having a concrete meaning, is above all a great symbol. Throughout her life her prestige and the esteem which she enjoyed came not from royal insignia but from her strength of spirit, depth of mind and sensitivity of heart. After her death, her work continued to flourish with the wealth of wisdom and the flowering of a culture rooted in the Gospel. For all this we express our thanks to Queen Hedwig, while we turn with pride to those six hundred years which separate us from the establishment of the Faculty of Theology and the renewal of the University of Cracow, years, one can say, of an uninterrupted splendour of Polish learning.
And if we could visit the medieval hospitals in Biecz, Sandomierz, Sacz and Stradom, we would admire the many works of mercy founded by the Polish Sovereign. In these, perhaps, the exhortation to love with deeds and in the truth was accomplished (cf. 1Jn 3,18).
5. Ergo, felix Cracovia,
Sacro dotata corpore,
Deum, qui fecit omnia,
Benedic omni tempore.
"Rejoice today, Krakow!" Be joyful because at last the moment has come in which all the generations of your inhabitants can pay a homage of gratitude to the holy Lady of Wawel. You, royal throne, owe to the depth of her learning the fact that you became in Europe an important centre of thought, the cradle of Polish culture and the bridge between the Christian West and the East, making an irreplaceable contribution to the formation of the European spirit. At the Jagiellonian University people studied and taught who made the name of Poland and this city famous throughout the world, taking a skillful part in the most important debates of their age. It suffices to recall the great Rector of the Krakow Athenaeum, Pawel Wlodkowic, who already as early as the beginning of the fifteenth century laid the foundations of the modern theory of human rights, or Nicholas Copernicus, whose discoveries gave rise to a new vision of the created world.
Should not Krakow, and with it all Poland, give thanks for that work which produced such splendid fruits, fruits of the lives of holy students and professors? Today therefore they pass before us, these great figures of men and women of God, belonging to every generation, from John of Kety and Stanislas Kazimierczyk, to Blessed Joseph Sebastian Pelczar and the Servant of God Joseph Bilczewski, to be given a place in our hymn of praise to God that, thanks to the generous work of Queen Hedwig, this City became a cradle of saints.
Rejoice, Krakow! I am happy that I am today able to share your joy by being here at Blonia Krakowskie, with your Archbishop, Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, withe the Auxiliary Bishops and Bishops Emeriti, with the Canons of the Cathedral and of the Collegiate Church of Saint Anne, with the priests, consecrated persons and the whole People of God. How I have longed to come here and, in the name of the Church, solemnly assure you, Krakow, my beloved City, that you were not wrong in venerating Hedwig for centuries as a saint. I thank Divine Providence that this privilege has been given me, that I have been allowed to fix my gaze, together with you, on this figure who reflects the splendour of Christ, and to learn what it means to say "the greatest thing is love".
764 6. "Let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth", so writes the Apostle (1Jn 3,18). Brothers and Sisters, let us learn at the school of Queen Saint Hedwig how to put into practice the commandment of love. Let us think about this "Polish truth". Let us think about whether it is respected in our homes, in the means of social communication, in public offices, in parishes. Does it not sometimes escape us under the pressure of circumstances? Does it not become distorted, simplified? Is it always at the service of love?
Let us think about "Polish practice". Let us see whether it is carried out with prudence. Is it systematic and persevering? Is it courageous and magnanimous? Does it unite people or divide them? Does it treat anyone with hatred or contempt? Or is there too little practice of love, of Christian love? (cf. St. Wyspianski, Wesele [Wedding]).
"Let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth"!
Ten years ago, in an Encyclical Letter on the problems of the contemporary world, I wrote that every Nation "must discover and use to the best advantage its own area of freedom" (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 44). At that time we had before us the problem of the "discovery of freedom". Now Divine Providence is putting a new task before us: to love and to serve. To love in deed and in truth. Queen Saint Hedwig teaches us that the fulfilment of freedom is love, thanks to which man is willing to entrust himself to God and his brothers and sisters, to belong to them. She therefore entrusted her life and her rule to Christ and to the nations which she wanted to lead to him. She gave the whole Nation the example of love of Christ and of man, of man who is hungry for faith and knowledge, as he is also daily bread and clothing. God grant that this example will also be drawn from today, so that the joy of the gift of freedom may be complete.
Our Saint, Queen Hedwig, teach us today, on the threshold of the third millennium, that wisdom and love which you made your path to holiness. Lead all of us, Hedwig, to the Crucified One of Wawel, so that, like you, we may know what it means to love in deed and in truth, what it means to be truly free. Place under your protection your Nation and the Church which it serves, and intercede for us with God, that our joy may never end. Rejoice, Mother Poland! Gaude, mater Polonia!
Krosno - 10 June 1997
1. The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me" (Is 61,1).
These words of the Prophet Isaiah, which we heard in the first reading, were read by Jesus in the synagogue of Nazareth at the beginning of his public ministry: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour" (Is 61,1-2). That day, in the synagogue, Jesus proclaimed the fulfilment of those words: the Holy Spirit had anointed Jesus himself, with a view to his messianic mission. But those words have a meaning which extends to all those called and sent by God in order to continue Christ's mission. Therefore the they can certainly be applied to John of Dukla, whom I have today been enabled to number among the Church's saints.
I thank God that the canonization of Blessed John of Dukla can take place where he was born. Both his name and the glory of his holiness are linked for ever to Dukla, the small yet ancient town situated at the foot of Mount Cergowa and the Central Beskid chain. These mountains and this city have been familiar to me for years. Many times I would come here or I would go towards Bieszczady, or else in the opposite direction, from Bieszczady by way of the Lower Beskid, up to Krynica. I came to know the people of the area, kind and hospitable, although sometimes amazed at the sight of a group of young people wandering about their mountains with heavy knapsacks. I am glad to have been able to come back here and, amid these beautiful mountains and at the foot of Mount Cergowa, to proclaim your countryman and fellow townsman a saint of the Catholic Church.
John of Dukla is one of the many saints and beati who grew up Poland during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. All were linked to the royal city of Krakow. They were drawn by the Faculty of Theology in Krakow, founded through the efforts of Queen Hedwig towards the end of the fourteenth century. They enlivened the university city with the freshness of their youth and their holiness, and from there they went eastwards. Their roads led mainly to Lviv, as in the case of John of Dukla, who spent most of his life in that great city, a centre closely linked to Poland, especially since the times of Casimir the Great. Saint John of Dukla is the patron of the city of Lviv and of the whole surrounding area.
Now his name will be for ever linked not only to the city where his canonization is taking place, Krosno on the Wislok, but also to Przemysl and the Archdiocese of Przemysl, whose Pastor, Archbishop Józef Michalik, I greet cordially. Together with him I greet his predecessor, Archbishop Ignacy Tokarczuk, whose name is inscribed in a particular way in the history of the present-day Church in Poland. The Church cannot forget his great courage at the time of the Communist governments, and above all the determination which he showed in the struggle to build places of worship needed by the Church in Poland. I rejoice that on this occasion I am able once more to meet the dear Archbishop to whom I was so close during the time when I was the Metropolitan of Krakow. I cordially greet Bishop Boleslaw, for many years the Auxiliary Bishop, now emeritus, and the present Auxiliary of Przemysl, Bishop Stefan.
765 I rejoice at the presence here among us of Archbishop Marian Jaworski of Lviv, the city in which he was born and grew up, and to which he has returned as Pastor of the Church which is now experiencing rebirth: Lviv, the city rightly called semper fidelis! I greet all the Bishops of the Metropolitan Sees of Przemysl and Lviv and also the many priests present, diocesan and religious, the women religious and you, dear brothers and sisters who live in this land where I was so often a guest and which I love with all my heart.
2. Today, as we celebrate the canonization of John of Dukla, we need to examine in a broader historical context the vocation and mission of this spiritual son of Saint Francis. Four centuries earlier, Poland had accepted Christianity. Almost four hundred years had passed from the days when Saint Adalbert had worked in Poland. The following centuries had been marked by the martyrdom of Saint Stanislaus, by the further progress of evangelization and by the growth of the Church in our land. In great measure this was connected with the activity of the Benedictines. With the thirteenth century the sons of Saint Francis of Assisi arrived in Poland. The Franciscan movement found fertile soil in our lands. It too bore fruit in a host of beati and saints who, following the example of the Poor Man of Assisi, enlivened Polish Christianity with the spirit of poverty and brotherly love. To the tradition of evangelical poverty and simplicity of life they added knowledge and wisdom, which in turn had an effect on their pastoral work. It can be said that they had taken seriously the words of the Letter to Timothy which we heard in today's second reading: "I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching" (2Tm 4,1-2). This sound doctrine, already indispensable at the time of Paul, was also indispensable in the times when John of Dukla lived and worked. In those days too there were those who did not endure sound doctrine, but accumulated for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, turning away from listening to the truth and wandering into myths (cf. 2Tm 4,3-4).
The same difficulties are with us today too. So let us accept the words of Paul as if they were spoken once more to us through the life of Saint John of Dukla, spoken again to each and every one of us, and particularly to priests and men and women religious: "As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry" (2Tm 4,5).
"You have one master, the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted" (Mt 23,10-12). This was precisely the evangelical programme which Saint John of Dukla carried out in his life. It is a programme centred on Christ. Jesus Christ was his only master. Imitating without reserve the example of his Master and Lord, he desired above all else to serve. In this consists the Gospel of wisdom, love and peace. He gave expression to this Gospel in the whole of his life.And today this evangelical work of John of Dukla has attained the glory of the altars. In his native country he has been proclaimed a saint of the universal Church. His canonization is part of the path by which by the Church advances, the path which leads to the goal of the second millennium of Christ's birth. Together with all who guide the Church in Poland during this period, tertio millennio adveniente, together with Saint Adalbert, Saint Stanislaus, Saint Hedwig, Saint John of Dukla is also present. And his canonization is a new treasure of the Church in our native land. Perhaps it is a particular epilogue to the vows which John Casimir once made before our Lady of Graces in the Cathedral of Lviv.
3. Dear brothers and sisters, from this place where we can see fields green with wheat, fields which will shortly grow golden and begin inviting the farmer to labour "for his bread" - in this place I wish to recall the words spoken by King John Casimir on that historic day before the throne of Our Lady of Graces in the Cathedral of Lviv. Those words expressed a great concern for the whole nation, the desire for justice and the commitment to lift the burdens weighing down upon his subjects, especially those who worked the land.
Today, during the canonization of John of Dukla, a son of this region, I wish to pay homage to the work of farmers. I pay my respects to this land of Bieszczady, which in its history has experienced much suffering among wars and conflicts, and today is being tested by new difficulties, especially unemployment. I wish to pay homage to the farmers' love of the land, that has always been the strong support on which the identity of the nation depended. At moments of great danger, at the most dramatic moments in the nation's history, this love and this attachment to the land proved extremely important in the struggle for survival. Today, at a time of great changes, it is not right to forget this. I pay homage to the hands of the Polish people who till the soil, to these hands which from the unyielding, harsh soil produce bread for the country, and which in times of danger are prepared to guard and defend it.
Remain faithful to the traditions of your ancestors! As they raised their eyes from the ground, their gaze embraced the horizon, where the sky meets the earth, and they raised to heaven their prayers for a good harvest, for seed, for the sower and for grain, for bread. In the Name of God they began each day and all their labours, and with God they ended their work of tilling the soil. Remain faithful to this ancient tradition! It expresses the deepest truth about the meaning and fruitfulness of your work.
In this way you will be like the sower in the Gospel. Respect every seed of wheat which hides within itself the wondrous power of life. Respect too the seed of God's word. May there never disappear from the mouths of Polish farmers the beautiful greetings "Szczesc Boze" ("God bless you") and "Praised be Jesus Christ". Greet one another with these words as a way of offering your best wishes. These words express your Christian dignity. Do not let them be taken away from you - some people are trying to do so! The world is full of dangers. Through the means of communication certain messages are reaching the Polish countryside too. Build a rural culture in which, together with what is new and modern, there will still be room - as in the home of a good master - for the old things, sanctified by tradition, confirmed by the truth of centuries.
With heartfelt love for this land, I wish also to tell you of my appreciation for the sacrifices you have made in order to build places of worship. Often, from your hard work in the fields you have been able to extract that widow's mite which makes it possible for Christ to have a place in this corner of Poland. May God reward you for these beautiful churches, the fruit of the work of your hands and the fruit of your faith. And what deep faith! "I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, for ever" - we said a few minutes ago in the Psalm between the readings (Ps 89,1). You have built these new churches precisely so that you yourselves and generations to come can have a place to sing the glories of the Lord.
We must cling firmly to Christ - the Good Sower - and follow his voice along the paths which he shows us. And these are the paths of many different initiatives, growing more numerous in Poland today. I know that great effort is being put into promoting charitable groups and institutions which bear witness to solidarity towards the needy in this country and beyond its borders. We ourselves experienced such help during the difficult years: now we must be able to reciprocate by keeping others in mind. Today our country needs the Catholic laity, that People of God, which Christ and the Church expect. We need lay people who appreciate the need for constant education in the faith. How timely it is that Catholic Action has been revived in the Church in Poland! In your Archdiocese, as in other Dioceses, it is becoming, together with other movements and communities of prayer, a school of faith. Go forward with courage on this journey, remembering that the greater your involvement in the new evangelization and in social life, the greater need you will have for authentic spirituality, for that close bond with Christ and the Church which is nourished by prayer and reflection on God's word. Such a union must imbue every movement of the heart with God's grace and lead to sanctity.
4. Dear brothers and sisters! The land where we find ourselves is pervaded and overflowing with the holiness of John of Dukla. This holy Religious not only made this beautiful land of Bieszczady famous, but above all he made it holy. You are the heirs of this holiness. As you walk this land, you follow in his footsteps. Here we all mysteriously sense "the riches of the glory of Jesus Christ in his saints" (cf. Eph Ep 1,18). For this land has given many authentic witnesses of Jesus Christ, people who placed their complete trust in God and devoted their lives to proclaiming the Gospel. Follow in their steps! Fix your gaze on their life! Imitate their works, "that the world may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (cf. Mt Mt 5,16). May the faith sown by Saint John in the hearts of your ancestors become like a flourishing tree of sanctity and "bear much fruit, fruit that abides" (cf. Jn Jn 5,5)!
766 As you make this journey may you be accompanied by the Mother of Christ, who is venerated in numerous shrines in this land. Shortly I shall crown the images of our Lady of Haczów, of Jasliska and of Wielkie Oczy. May this act be the expression of our veneration for Mary and of our hope that, through her intercession, she will help us to carry out God's will to the end. At the time of the Millennium of Poland's Baptism, we learned to sing: "Mary, Queen of Poland, I am close to you, I remember you, I keep watch" (Call of Jasna Góra). We rejoice that all the holy patrons of Poland are keeping watch with us. We rejoice and we pray for the Polish nation and for the Church in our land, tertio millennio adveniente.
"For so long, Mary, you have been the Queen of Poland... Take under your protection the whole nation which lives for your glory".
S. John Paul II Homil. 759