Monday, November 28, 2011

(46) 1 - The Church in Poland I: The Catholic Culture

       After my mother died in January 2006, my wife Jaga wanted to take care of her ailing father.  Thus we decided to give our four children the opportunity to learn the culture and language of Poland by having them go to school there.  They arrived in June 2006 and I joined them a week before Christmas.  I taught during the spring semester and we returned to the United States in August 2007.  The next year I returned to teach in March 2008 and the rest of the family rejoined me in May.  We returned to Rio Grande, Ohio in August and took John-Paul to Ave Maria University near Naples, Florida to begin college.  Our experience there as a family and my teaching in Poland is detailed in Blogs 43, 44, and 45.    
       While in Poland, I wrote about our experiences in there, but did not have much chance to share it with others.  The following is what I wrote up on the Church in Poland while there to share with you in a series of four articles.  Even though we're talking about Poland 2007 and 2008,  You can still get a good idea about living in Poland and its reality today.
       I am sharing my observations of different aspects of Poland in six sets or chapters:  1) The Church; 2) The Economy (Blog #53); 3) Tourist Attractions; 4) The People and Their Culture; 5) The Schools and the Youth; and 6) Contributions of Poland to America and Western Civilization.  If you are of Polish descent, the last one will make you really proud of your heritage.  I found the research I did on it to be fascinating.  

       This set of observations or Chapter 1 is a series or four on The Church in Poland. 

        I love the Catholic culture here.  Generally parents name their new babies after a saint.  Here they don't celebrate the birthday of a friend, but his/her name day, the feast day of  the saint with the same name.  Within families, they celebrate both.  It's easier to remember that way.  Little roadside shrines dot the countryside.
        Vocations to the priesthood and the religious life are abundant, although decreasing under the influence of secularism.  Mass and the sacraments are so available here…..four masses per day at the cathedral and the evening mass is usually concelebrated by at least three priests.  Thus daily mass is so easy for us.  In addition, there is Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament throughout the day when Mass is not going on.  Usually at least one of the eight priests assigned to the cathedral, three of whom are retired, is on duty to hear confessions most of the day, everyday (6 am – 7 pm) throughout the year and they are occupied for the most part.  In the U.S. priests are not easily accessible to hear confessions as when I was a kid.  Our Christmas and Easter Penance services with a team of three or four priests are a great idea, but most parishioners don’t bother.  Have we Americans lost our sense of sin?
        Priests walk through the town in their cassocks and nuns in their traditional religious habits.  In Mexico, a law still on the books (now ignored) from the persecutions of the 1920s, prohibits that.  As much as they tried through the schools, the controlled press, and outright persecution, the Communists could not stamp out the faith in Poland.  In fact, people were stronger in their faith under Communism than now due to the current influence of European secularism and materialistic consumerism.  Maybe (tongue in cheek) what the Americas and Western Europe need is an old fashioned strengthen the Faith.
       Mass is packed on Sundays and new churches are being built even though only 30-35% of Catholics regularly attend weekly.  That’s about the same as for Catholics in the United States.  Fallen away and drifting Catholics are also common here.  Similarly cohabitation before marriage and divorce are problems.  Since most people cannot or will not adequately support the Church, most priests manage financially through mass stipends and teaching Religion in the public schools.
        People participate reasonably well at Mass.  Instead of using missalettes or songbooks in church, they project PowerPoint slides onto a screen to the left or right of the main altar......quite innovative and economical.  
        As in many parts of the world, the pillars of the Church are the women, not the men.  My Polish wife, Jadwiga, strongly advocates that the men must take the lead in the home regarding the faith.  According to research, if the mother take the lead, there is only a 17% probability that the children will be faithful to the Church in later life.  However, if the father takes the lead, the probability jumps to about 70%.  Measures are already taken to strengthen fatherhood .  See the international websites, of the St. Joseph Covenant Keepers, and the Polish  The Knights of Columbus ( should do much more in that area with its members in Poland and the Americas.

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