Sunday, February 7, 2010

Hi from Warsaw

It's wonderful to be made so welcome by brother priests! There are eight priests resident here under the paternal guidance of parish priest Father Zbigniew. Not all are 'vicars' as they call them here, or curates as we would call them. For example, my reason for coming here, Father Piotr, is from a nearby diocese but resident here for study reasons; Father Rafael is a priest of the Neo Catechumenal Way.

Anyway: first lesson I have learnt - I should have brought my cassock. Apart from the fact that all the priests were them when on duty (and birettas too), in this cold weather it would provide a little extra warmth.

In the same complex as the presbytery, there is an apartment where seven religious sisters of St Vincent Palotti live. I have only met one so far - Sister Hedwig. They are all involved in some way in the apostolate of the parish, whether in the sacristy, teaching, works of charity, etc. It seems an absolutely ideal set up. The presbytery and church are set in the midst of a densely populated area.

Currently, all the priests are engaged in house-to-house visiting which is done in a systematic way twice a year. They have record cards which they take with them and note down any significant pastoral matters that arise. In principle, everyone is of course Catholic (the practice rate is said to be about 25%), but not all admit the priest into their homes. But to those who do, the priest offers a blessing of the house and the parish team get a good picture of the state of things in their parish.

I have discussed the question of parish visiting before and I know that England is a completely different context. Yet if priests were living together and assisted by religious, it would be easier to do what is a difficult task and visit each of the households in the parish, even those who are not catholics.

I concelebrated with the parish priest at this morning's 12.30 Mass at which there was standing room only. I am told, however, that the attendance is even higher at the other Masses. Masses in the morning begin at around 6.30am and are then every hour and a half concluding with the 12.30 Mass, and then there are two further Masses in the evening. So it's quite busy!

We had an anticipatory birthday lunch for Father Piotr who celebrates his 30th birthday on 21st Feb. Since that is in Lent, they preferred to celebrate it earlier. Since my birthday is also quite soon, they also kindly included me in the celebrations as you will see.

A few photos for you to be getting on with:

Fr Piotr and Fr Zbigniew

Adoration chapel in the crypt under the main church

Notice the Benedictine arrangement of the altar (it's a modern church, as later photos will show, but Fr Sbgniew knows how important it is to give it a 'soul')
After Mass.

Sister Hedwig after Mass in the sacristy.

Yours truly with Father Piotr and Father Rafael.

Father Peter's birthday cake.

And my birthday device...

... which continued to rotate and play 'Sto lat'!

The happy household after lunch.

And with seminarian Conrad who is to be ordained deacon in May.


  1. Lovely photographs. Good to see that just because it's a modern church, it doesn't mean you can't have a 'proper' crucifix!

    Everything looks beautifully cared for too, both in the presbytery and the church. I wonder if the parish sisters have anything to do with that? :)

  2. Niech będzie pochwalony! Enjoy yourself in Poland. Do get to see some of the wonderful old churches (reconstructed after wartime destruction) in the centre of Warsaw. And Kraków is a jewel. Szczęść Boże!

  3. How does parish liturgy compare with England?

    Enjoy your break!

  4. Many thanks, Fr John, for the pics and update on matters Polish. Looks wonderful. Enjoy your visit and your forthcoming birthday.

  5. Parish visiting, eh?

    At the risk of appearing bitter: My family and I have lived at our current address for almost eighteen years. In that time not one of the several parish priests has even attempted a visit. Mind you, I'm not sure I could be civil if one was attempted now.

    In fairness I should add that in a year or so in our previous parish we had two (!) welcome visits. But, as I say, that was nearly twenty years ago!

  6. Rubricarius: that would depend on your points of reference. In this parish there would be very little if any 'mucking about' with the Mass, no gimmicks or trying to make it 'relevant' etc. This morning, when I was asked to say parts of the Eucharistic Prayer, the parish priest told me to read them in Latin rather than in English (Polish would have been impossible). This would not be conceivable in most English parishes.

    Monday evening Mass is always in Latin with chant and I will be concelebrating at that tomorrow evening.

    As for 'good liturgical practice' in the Novus Ordo I would say that in most English parishes the standard is pretty good. One could find fault with some of the finer points anywhere.

  7. I can remember when priests in England used to visit their parishioners. Then Pope John Paul came in 1982, congratulated them upon this practice, at which point they seem to have got the idea that it was over and above the call of duty and gave it up! (Does that sound cynical?)

  8. It might sound cynical but it has the ring of truth about it. One needs to examine why this has happened: increasing secularisation in society? Poorer morale amongst clergy? Lack of encouragement and mutual support? There are priests who wear a number of 'hats', doing several other 'jobs' in addition to being parish priests. Of course, there is the possibility of lack of zeal and love for souls. But each of us needs the appropriate environment in which to flourish. I do think that living on one's own is not the most conducive environment for setting out on a cold evening to knock on parishioners doors.

    Most priests I know work very hard. If you haven't had a visit from your parish clergy, I would suggest you invite him/them round and treat them to a nice meal with the family or simply a tea/coffee.

  9. I suspect, too, Fr. John, that there are a lot more women in the workforce now, and oftentimes in the past a woman might be home with the kids in the afternoon, while hubby was still at work. a lot of parish calls were made in the afternoon, now there's no one home, or young kids maybe old enough to be alone for a few hours, but not old enough to let anyone in!

    Ditto, a lot more lay people are single now too, and are oftentimes "out." It would be hard for a priest to visit eveyrone on a Saturday!

  10. Oh, and Fr. J., while you're there, could you ask about Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko? He was the priest that was murdered by the police during the Solidarity days.

    Is there a move on for him to be canonized? Surely he was a martyr for the faith.

  11. There certainly is a move to promote Fr Popieluszko's beatification. Indeed, in the parish where I am staying there is a 'shrine' at which prayers for his beatification are offered. I hope to visit places significant to the memory of Fr Jerzy and report back to my readers.

  12. Thanks, Please let your Polish priest friends know that there are quite of number of us in the West, especially of Eastern European background ardently wish for his eventual canonization. A hero of the Church and freedom loving people everywhere.

    I look forward to you posting about him.

  13. Oh Fr John..please say a prayer for me at Ven Fr Jerzy's of my heroes!


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