Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Lessons From Nowa Huta

In 1949, the Soviets decided to build what they deemed a "workers’ paradise" in a town on the outskirts of Krakow. This new town was part of their campaign to break down the resistance of middle-class Krakowians to the Soviet program for Poland, a program that entailed the denial of one thousand years of Polish religious and cultural heritage.

The name of their new town was to be "Nowa Huta", and the Soviets intended it to be a model example of the communist ideal of "a city without God". This new town was to be filled with enormous blocks of workers’ apartments, some containing as many as 450 flats.

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Nowa Huta 2006.

The breakdown of community was essential to this new "city without God", as there was to be no easy way for the Polish worker to vist with his neighbors. To quote the distinguished George Weigel, in his seminal work Witness To Hope, "If you wanted to visit a neighbor outside the two or three apartment module in which you lived, you went down the stair or elevator, left the building, reentered through another door, and then climbed the stairs or took the elevator up to your neighbor’s module." (P.189)

In other words, you were to have little or no contact with your neighbor, because "Nowa Huta’s apartment blocks were aptly described as human filing cabinets, and the cabinets were deliberately designed to keep the files separated."(Ibid.)

If the average Pole were to have minimal contact with his neighbor in this new Soviet "workers’paradise", his contact with God was to be even less, for Nowa Huta was to be a town without a Church, and in Catholic Poland, this meant that Christ would not be allowed a place to dwell among his people. There lterally would "be no place for Him in the Inn".

As the Communists refused the initial permits to build a Church in Nowa Huta, it was quickly destined to become a symbol of the implacable opposition between the Communist state and the Catholic Church.

Since this town fell in the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Krakow, the young newly appointed auxiliary Bishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyla, opened the offensive by celebrating an open air Midnight Mass in Nowa Huta in 1959. To quote Witness To Hope again, "The great symbol for Nowa Hutas’ soul was the building of what became known as the ‘Ark Church’, which arose from the field in the Bienczyce neighborhood where Wojtyla had celebrated Midnight Mass since 1959."(P.190)

This struggle for the soul of Nowa Huta (and with it, the Polish Nation) was not an easy one, and it was to go on for many years. It is a testimony to the indomitable faith of Poles, as it is the exercise of the episcopacy both bold and brave, for the future Archbishop of Krakow was to celebrate Midnight Mass in the open air cold for many years to come.

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Cardinal Wojtyla 1970.

In his Christmas Day Mass in the Wawel celebrated on December 25, 1963, he spoke of the Mass he had clebrated only hours earlier in a very cold Nowa Huta, "The Midnight Mass which I just said was celebrated in a great freeze. Several thousand people participated...What a closeness between this Midnight Mass in Nowa Huta and what I had seen in Bethlehem: a humble grotto open to the elements..." (Kalendarium P.225)

This heroic example of episcopal faith and perserverance inspired a courageous laity to not lose hope, for this struggle was to continue on. Led by the outanding now Cardinal Archbishop Wojtyla of Krakow, the citizens of Krakow gathered yet again in the cold and frigid open air of Nowa Huta for Midnight Mass on December 25, 1972. This is, in part, the exhortation given them by the now battle tested and proven Archbishop, "And we stand here, at this place, where the new - born Christ does not have a roof over his head...over His head. All of us gathered here invite Him and plead that here...where God is being born, unto these people, unto these many thousands of people, new people, people of hard work, people of great accomplishment - - that God may be born here, in accordance with the traditions of our Polish culture: under a roof!!!" (Ibid.)

This moving example of patient and humble perserverance was to eventually pay off, for on May 15, 1977, the great Cardinal of Krakow was able to consecrate the new ‘Ark Church’, in which Mary, Queen of Poland was saving her people. What is especially noteworthy and instructive, is that the cornerstone for this great Church was stone taken from the tomb of St. Peter, donated by Pope Paul VI.

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Surveying the Ark Church at Nowa Huta.

So, on this Christmas Day 2006, may we on Long Island find strength and hope in this beautiful story, one intended by Providence to inspire Catholics around the world with an example of the heroism a courageous Bishop can inspire in his laity, all the while attatched in faith and spirit to the Succesor of St. Peter.

May all of us on Long Island pray this Christmas, that the sacrifices necessary to preserve our Catholic faith in the face of more subtle yet similar attempts to weaken it, be never lacking. May the example of Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, give similar encouragement to our Bishops, always united in mind and heart with our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI

Nolite timere. Be not afraid! Merry Christmas!!!


NCTradCatholic said...

Here's an interesting picture -- the Polish prime minister and defense minister, while visiting their troops in Iraq, placing candles before a plaque with the names of their men who had fallen in battle there. It appears to be taking place in a church; notice the altar and the pictures of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts in the background!

There is a move afoot in the Polish parliament, supported by lawmakers from both major political parties (but opposed by the bishops) to proclaim Our Lord the King of Poland. This 50 years after Our Lady was similarly declared Queen of the country.

Let's hope very little more of their blood gets spilled in Iraq.

Veritas of Humanae Vitae said...

wonderful article Mater and Jasna, I'd like to share one or two of my own. Christmas Eve 1962, Communist Yugoslavia. My uncle and my mother and their sister told my grandfather that the local island school they attended had informed them from the communist authorities that any child who did not attend school classes the next day would fail for the year. The only problem being that this island was devoutly Catholic and the only Mass being offered the next day was at noon when school was supposed to be in session. What to do? My grandfather with very firm conviction told my uncle(the oldest) that he and his sisters were going to Mass the next day. They did attend Mass the next day. When they returned to school the following day, my uncle was told that he was going to be failed for the year. Upon hearing this my grandfather threw down his hoe (he was a farmer and fisherman) and said "Thats it!" The decision had been made. The next day he applied for a tourist Visa for him in his family to go to Italy. In those days, my father tells me, they didn't kill you if you tried to leave, like in the 40's and 50's, then they would only bring you back and "interrogate you" (how compassionate of them). Well it was no secret to the local authorities where they were going, but if the mainstream authorities ever found out they would be caught. So that evening, after saying a tearful goodbye to my greatgrandparents, who they knew they would never see again (they were living with them and were in their 80's) they left under the cover of night with everything they owned. The leaving had to be so secret that my greatgrandparents werent even told until l hour before they left. Can you imagine the heartache? They never did see them again. They had to row my grandfathers fishing boat out of earshot of the island and then they were picked up by a speedboat that took them to Trieste Italy where they checked into a hotel. After three days their money was exhausted and they went to the equivalent of the Italian State Dept and declared political asylum. They were put into a refugee camp where they were allowed to leave on a daily basis to earn money, my grandfather working in vinyards, my grandmother cleaning houses, whatever they could do. They told stories of hiding a bit of salami under the covers at night they had managed to get. 18 months later they were allowed to make the journey to the States (via visas obtained from another relative in the States). My grandfather had been approached before all this by the communists with them saying "you'll be one of us; your children will be one of us" so much so that once a priest initially refused to hear his confession because it had begun to be rumored that he might be a communist. There are many more true stories like that I heard about him and also my other grandfather. Escaping from the Nazis (a Nazi lifting the lid of olive oil press my granfather was hiding in, when he was in the resistance, only for the Nazi to be called away before getting a chance to look in), my other grandfather (a harbormaster in a very important industrial shipping port) literally looking the other way at his post at the edge of the harbor as a sentry who was supposed to stop people from leaving, only to have these people return decades later to thank him amid tears. One grandfather dressing up as an Italian mailman when Italy capitulated to avoid Nazi capture and then rowing (yes rowing, over 90 miles traveling only at night) only, with only a loaf of bread a bottle of wine back to Croatia to escape German retaliation. So many many more. These are treasures of faith I intend to tell my children. This way they will know how many people made such sacrifices and took SUCH risks, to be allowed to practice their faith. They weren't brilliant men, (not dumb either) they had never read an encylical, couldnt explain theological points, and barely had a 8th grade education, but they unequivocally new what was important; they truly loved GOD. My uncle went on to become a parish priest. I asked my grandfather once how he felt the day of my uncles' ordination. He said it was the proudest day of his life. For him, that was his treasure. And what a treasure it was, because 2 and a half years ago my grandfather died in my uncles' arms as he was giving him final absoloution in what was one of the most grace-filled deaths I have ever heard of. My uncle once told me, that my grandfather would at night point to the North Star and tell my uncle, "Keep your eyes fixed on The North Star and you will never get lost." Funny, for an uneducated man he could still bring forth a poignant analogy to our faith. Remember "Be not afraid!" As bad as things may seem, we have more then we truly know, we are free to worship God.

Ave Maria and Merry Christmas to all.


Mater Catolica and Jasna Gorak said...

Dear NCTrad,

As always,so nice to hear from you.

Unfortunately, we weren't able to open the link to the article you so kindly sent us.

As we are interested in all things Polish, could you send it to us again?

We are especially interested in more information regarding the claim you made about the Polish Bishops.

Merry Christmas, and remember, as our Italian brethren say, non abbiate paura (be not afraid)!!!

In Domino et Domina,

Jasna Gorak

Mater Catolica and Jasna Gorak said...

Dear Veritas,

Many thanks for your inspirational story.

It is further proof of the fact that the story of the Church in Eastern Europe this century past is one of great perserverence and heroism, under great trial.

It is a story that needs to continue to be told, as it serves as a necessary counterbalance to the examples of material excess and loss of faith we have seen among some in the West.

May Our Lady, Queen of Poland, help us to continue to chronicle some of these beautiful examples of heroism under fire, so we may be filled with the certainty that 'where sin abounds, there does grace all the more abound' (St. Paul).

Would you mind if we arranged your article in paragraph form, editing it slightly and adding pictures to publish this as an article on our Blog?

We would, of course,send it to you for your approval before posting.

Maria Mater Ecclesiae, ora pro nobis.


Jasna Gorak

Veritas of Humanae Vitae said...

That would be fine. I am deeply humbled and touched that you would like to do so. I will send a couple of pictures via email that you may also want to include at your discretion.


NCTradCatholic said...


The link to the article about Polish troops in Iraq is:

Make sure you paste the whole URL, up to and including the "posts" part into your browser. It's on the Free Republic blog. The picture I refered to is the 7th from the top. If you have a slow connection it will take a long time for all the pictures to download. If that doesn't work, go to, and type KACZYNSKI (the name of the Polish PM) in the search window. It'll be one of the first articles that comes up under the search results.

God willing I will have time to respond to Veritas & Filius on the new catechism tonight. The last couple of weeks have been very hairy.

NCTradCatholic said...


An article on the move to declare Our Lord the King of Poland, and the opposition from the Polish bishops, is at

Or go to and search on JESUS. It's about the 6th article down.

NCTradCatholic said...

OK, what happened to Veritas's article? Did Marshall Tito's censors get to it?

Mater Catolica and Jasna Gorak said...

Dear NCTrad,

Thank you again for the information you sent.

As there are (according to the latest information given us by our good Una Voce brethren)approximately one hundred and thirteen Polish Bishops, it is not really possible to draw conclusions on the views of the conference as a whole, since only two bishops are quoted in the article you sent.

As far as the doctrinal issues concerned, we at Nolite-timere certainly subscribe to the marvelous encyclical Quas Primas, by Pope Pius XI. We would add though, that there is no dichotomy between that beautiful letter, and the doctrinal principles addressed in Dignitatis Humanae, for as the Conciliar document states at the outset;

"Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ."(Dignitatis Humanae #1)

Additionally,dear NCTrad, we find it most uplifting and significant that Marek Jurek (the Marshall of the Sejm mentioned in the article) is also one of the signers of that wonderful petition sent to Pope Benedict XVI (see for 12/29/06)by a distinguished group of Poles seeking the de-restriction of the Old Rite.

We are touched by both the tremendous clarity of content, as well as the tone of this document, so deeply reflecting the "romanitas" that should be in the heart of any Catholic.

Additionally, we believe that their bravery in "letting their light shine before men", is an uplifting and faithful application of the universal call to holiness found in the documents of the Vatican Council - especially Lumen Gentium, Sacrosanctum Concilium and Apostolicam Actuositatem.

So, dear NCTrad, let us all resolve to pray for each other, that we may always be examples of fidelity to the total Tradition of the Church, in the spirit of that "hermeneutic of continuity" called for by Pope Benedict XVI in his 12/05 address to the Roman Curia.

May all of us grow in our knowledge of and attatchment to the doctrinal, liturgical and spiritual patrimony of the Faith, all the while striving to live the traditional "communio cum et sub Petro" that has always marked those found among the household of faith.

In Our Lady, Queen of Poland,

Jasna Gorak