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Raising a Martyr (Part 4)

Interview With the Mother of Polish Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko

ROME, May 10, 2013 (Zenit.org) - Here is the fourth and final part of an interview with Marianna Popieluszko, the mother of Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko. She was interviewed (in Polish) by Wlodzimierz Redzioch. ZENIT has published now a translation of the interview in parts. Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 ran earlier this week.

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Did you wonder why the communist authorities were persecuting your son so much?

In the Holy Scripture it is written that when a pastor is attacked, his sheep will get dispersed. Communists were fighting against the Church and its pastors. They were persecuting Father Jerzy, because they thought that when they frightened one priest, then others will be scared of them.

Thanks to the intervention of Bishop Bronislaw Dabrowski your son was released from prison after two days...

I heard about Father Jerzy being freed on the radio. Everybody spoke about it. He was also slandered on the radio and accused of having a double life, of deceiving people and the Church.

Did you ask your son, when meeting him, to be sensible in what he was doing?

He was an adult and knew what he was supposed to do. He entrusted himself to God in prayer all the time and he trusted Him. And, besides, I thought that as God's priest he had help from the Holy Spirit. So, I think that he was sensible even when his priestly duty ordered him to do that for which he was later persecuted. He was persecuted for Holy Masses for the Homeland till the end, but I think that these Holy Masses were necessary, especially for the young generation, in order to remind about the need of love of God and Homeland.

When did you last see your son?

It was in September. He arrived home unexpectedly. He did not say anything about himself but I knew that he was still being persecuted. Cars of the Security Services were even seen through a window. But he was brave, although he was physically weak. At that time he brought me his cassock to sew, saying: 'I will take it back next time; or mum will have it as a remembrance'. And saying farewell to us, he said: 'In case I am killed, please, do not cry about me.' I was petrified, because he had never spoken so.

When did you find out that something terrible had happened with your son?

On 20 October, in the evening, I was watching the news, during which a presenter read out a message about the kidnapping of Father Jerzy Popieluszko, which had taken place on the 19th near Torun. Nobody knew that my son was no longer alive, therefore the ecclesiastical authorities and ordinary people undertook attempts of searching for Father Jerzy. Everybody was praying for him everywhere, I was also praying at home.

On 30 October there was information about the finding of the corpse of Father Jerzy in river Vistula...

I found out about it on TV. My husband was crying and yelling and I was silently sitting motionless. In the early morning Father Gniedziejko, my nephew, arrived to us and took us to the church of St. Stanislaw Kostka in Warsaw, where there was Holy Mass celebrated for my son. Next day we had to go to Bialystok, where the autopsy had been done. My son Józef and priests from the Warsaw curia entered a mortuary. I was not present at identifying the body, because my heart would not have endured it. But I knew that, finally, I had to see Father Jerzy. I and my husband entered and started crying – it was my beloved son. I kissed his legs and hands because I felt unworthy of kissing his face. Then I felt the relationship with Mary – she also saw her dead Son and was suffering, but she agreed with God's will. So did I agree with suffering.

Did you think that your son, who had become a priest, might die as a martyr?

Of course I didn't. But today I think that if he decided to become a priest, he must have known that he might become a martyr, because it is inscribed in the priestly vocation.

Why did you agree to have Father Jerzy buried in Warsaw, far away from your family home?

He had worked in Warsaw, loved people and suffered with them, and people, who loved him were there, therefore he should be with them. I gave him to the Church in Warsaw so that he would serve it, and he belonged to it. My son was to be buried in the graveyard in Powazki, but he was buried at the church where he had served, at the request of many people.

Do you visit your son's grave?

I used to visit it every month and there were always a lot of people, flowers and gravelights there. Now I rarely go there.

Father Jerzy was acknowledged as a martyr for the faith. Do you perceive him in this way?

Since his death, my son has been considered as a martyr for the faith, for the cross and love of Homeland. In my opinion, the murderers were fighting not against my son, but against God. It was an expression of hatred of the faith and the Church, and my son was a victim of this hatred.

At your son's grave you started meeting powerful people of this world, prime ministers, presidents...

That's true, but the most important thing for me was meeting with John Paul II, when he arrived on his pilgrimage in 1987. The Pope was praying at my son's grave for a long time, and later he kissed the plate of the grave. Later he cuddled me and kissed me on my head and said: 'Mother, you gave us a great son'. I answered him that it was God who had given him to the world through me. After that I fell onto my knees, kissed the Holy Father and asked him for a prayer for Father Jerzy.

What did the pope say to you?

He assured me that he remembered him. I was moved and glad because the Pope convinced me that my son had chosen a right way in his life. I do not want to judge anybody, as God will judge the murderers by himself. I would be glad the most, if they experienced conversion. I have already forgiven them.

At the end of the year 1984, the judicial process was started, against functionaries of communist security services, the murderers of Father Jerzy. Were you watching this process?

My doctor forbade me that because of my heart problems. Especially that at that time I had to take care of my daughter-in-law, who was pregnant and I had to look after the household, because my sons were taking part in the process. Anyway, I do not want to judge anyone, as God will judge the murderers one day. I would be glad the most if they were converted. I and my husband have already forgiven them.

Since the moment of his death, people have considered Father Jerzy as a martyr who had given his life for faith; he was surrounded by the so-called 'glory of holiness'. Many people declared that they had experienced graces through his intercession and asked the ecclesiastical authorities to begin the beatification process, which started in the year 1997. Did you testify in the process?

When the process started I was very happy. I was testifying for a few days. I was asked about everything from the life of Father Jerzy – about his childhood, youth and seminary years. When the diocesan process in Warsaw finished, I was very grateful to God and I thought that if God allowed, I would be able to live till the beatification.

And you have been able to live to the beatification of your son - on 19 December 2009, Benedict XVI promulgated a decree concerning the martyrdom of God's servant Jerzy Popieluszko, and the beatification took place in Warsaw on 6 June 2010. Before the Holy Mass you presided over the Rosary with people gathered on the Square of Pilsudski (there were 150,000 of them, including 100 bishops and 1600 priests)...

It was a great day for me. I was emotionally moved by the words which were said by Archbishop Amato from the Vatican. And later, the primate of the Czech Republic, Archbishop Dominik Duka came up to me and asked me for blessing. I was emotionally moved, because at that time I really felt I was the mother of the blessed.

Do you pray to Blessed Father Jerzy?

I pray to God. We can ask the saints and the blessed only for their intercession. I have experienced many graces through the intercession of Father Jerzy.

What is the most important message of Blessed Father Jerzy in your opinion?

'Overcome evil by good.' If people implemented these words in life, they would be better and the world would be better.

You repeat that you have had 'a good life'. Where do you get this optimism?

I am always glad because all is good as it is. Our life is in God's hands, and God knows what he is doing. In our life there is also suffering, but every suffering makes sense if you devote it to God. It is impossible to get to Heaven without the cross – he who is sowing in tears, he will reap in joy.

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