I never saw you. I never heard you. But you have shaped the world I see and hear now. How can I repay the gratitude for that which I do not fully understand? How can I begin to understand your prolific life?
From the See of Stanisław to the See of Peter, you were chosen to fulfill the prophetic words of the late Polish Primate, Cardinal Wyszyński, “to lead the Church into the Third Millennium”(EWTN).
Today marks the centenary of your birth. You understood the significance of anniversaries and jubilees, often going to great lengths to commemorate the occasion. The millennium of the Baptism of Poland in 1966; your first papal trip to Poland in 1979 to mark the nonacentennial of St. Stanisław’s martyrdom; and the great jubilee year of 2000 are a few that come to mind.
Why were anniversaries of importance to you? Perhaps the answer lies within your understanding of the sanctity of time, as George Weigel reflects: “Time is the dramatic arena that God chose to enter for the salvation of the world” (Witness to Hope). Thus, to celebrate anniversaries is to celebrate the role of God’s hand in history. The Author of Life writes the course of history; anniversaries and jubilees honor those words.
One hundred years ago today, your name was first written in the annals of history. However, your name was inscribed in the palm of your Father’s hand before the world began. Today, your name is called upon to intercede on our behalf to the Father.
To many you were Lolek, Fr. Karol, Cardinal Wojtyła, and later, John Paul II. To me, you are Wujek – uncle. As you were to the members of Środowisko, so you are to me.
What does your centenary birthday commemorate? Fr. Raymond de Souza has often said there is no greater honour than to be an instrument in the hand of the Lord. You were the instrument of the 20th century that awakened the Church, sowed the seeds of peace, lived the “Spirit of Vatican II”, and turned the world upside down on its axis mundi – Calvary’s cross.
The summation of the good accomplished is reason enough to honor this day. Likewise, the pain you endured as a model of redemptive suffering is equal cause for your veneration. However, today is of the greatest importance to me simply because you are Wujek, that is, family.
Before your 22nd birthday you lost your family – sister, mother, brother, and father. Yet, you have been and will continue to be a member of mine. My sister, mother, brother, and father are yours, too, in the mystery of the Church as a communio. Through that familial bond, your presence and intercession has been inspiring.
I want to become a holy priest because my uncle was one. I want to stand for truth against ideological forces because my uncle did. I want my life to be a testament of the Gospel joy because my uncle’s life was. I want to dedicate my life to Jesus through Mary – Totus Tuus Ergo Sum – because my uncle has. I want to become a saint because my uncle is.
The world is indebted to the gift of your life. I pray with countless brothers and sisters, in solidarity, as a psalm of thanksgiving for the instrument you were in writing the course of history. To express the inexpressible, the words printed on the holy cards during your ordination in 1946 resonate fittingly to your centenary, Fecit mihi magna – “He has done great things for me" (Luke 1:49). Indeed, through your birth the Lord has done great things for the world, the catholic church, and me.
I never saw you. I never heard you. But thank you for shaping the world I see and hear now.
Happy 100th Birthday, Wujek.
A son of the tertio millennio.