All posts tagged: Poland

Fitting a Saddle Onto a Cow

Joseph Stalin once remarked that imposing Communism on Poland was akin to “fitting a saddle onto a cow.”[1] Władysław Gomułka, Poland’s head of the Communist party from 1956 to 1970, attempted to fit the saddle onto the cow by ushering in a period of détente with the Polish Catholic Church, offering the Church a reprieve from the more brutal suppression of the Stalinist era. Of all of the conflicts between the Church and state, a little-explicated one is the antithetical conceptualizations of power and influence at play. I intend to give a brief overview of these divergent understandings of power and how they manifested themselves in two specific incidents of power struggle between Władysław Gomułka and the Polish Church, led by the formidable Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński. Gomułka’s idea of power was material in a true Leninist fashion, though not without abstraction. Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński and the Church used material power, but understood the true power of the Church on the spiritual and moral levels. Gomułka would ultimately be outmaneuvered by a Church that held a …

Whence Comes the Arresting Sorrow of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa?

At Jasna Góra There is David’s Ladder which Angels ascend and descend Holy envoys, reconciling man, With God.[1] Watching my three daughters during the Christmas season is not exactly a tranquil experience. What begins with an honest and innocent desire to play and re-tell the Christmas story using Playmobil or Fontanini nativity figurines ends up in a squabble over who gets to hold the kitschy statue of Mary and play with her (detachable!) veil, resulting in looks of self-satisfaction in the one who in the end possesses Mary, and tragic resentment on the part of those who are stuck with a dinky shepherd instead. Like my girls, I have been fascinated by this woman since my childhood. She has beckoned and drawn me, and waited for me, wherever it is that she has led me. When I encountered her in her home on Jasna Gora in Częstochowa at the age of nine, I knew she was my queen, my mother, my protectress, my patroness, and my advocate. But I did not know why. I found myself …

The Polish Romantic Messianism of Saint John Paul II

On 18 May 2000 the front page of the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza featured a surprising poem by Nobelist poet Czesław Miłosz entitled,“Ode for the Eightieth Birthday of Pope John Paul II.” The most outstanding Polish poet of the 20th century paid an extraordinary tribute to the great Polish pope on the pages of the country’s most widely-circulated liberal daily: We come to you, men of weak faith, So that you might fortify us with the example of your life And liberate us from anxiety About tomorrow and next year. Your twentieth century Was made famous by the names of powerful tyrants And by the annihilation of their rapacious states. You knew it must happen. You taught hope: For only Christ is the lord and master of history. This was probably the first such unambiguously positive statement by Miłosz about John Paul II. Earlier Miłosz could not overcome his distance towards the pope’s work, even though he met him in private and attended discussions with him at Castel Gandolfo. He saw dangerous nationalist and theocratic threads in the …