I find much much to be distressed about in the news of the times and the latest charlatans. But if I remain distressed, it is due to a combination of my failures. First, is the failure of faith and then is the failure to appreciate history.
An example to make my point: What if we were dropped into Poland in 1918? Would we be more of less pessimistic than the average U.S. citizen today? If you were to have followed the local blogs at the time, you would probably have been informed of the following through the years:
- 1918 – Partitioned for 123 years among her three predatory neighbors–Russia, Prussia and Austria–the newly resurrected Polish Second Republic came into existence following WWI.
- Reborn Poland faced a host of daunting challenges: extensive war damage, a ravaged economy, a population one-third composed of wary national minorities, an economy largely under control of German industrial interests, and a need to reintegrate the three zones that had been forcibly kept apart during the era of partition.
- 1919 – Treaty of Versailles settled the German-Polish borders in the Baltic region.
- 1919 – The Polish-Soviet war began.
- May 1920 – Poland gained its first major military victory since the battle of Vienna in 1683 and a conquering hero, Marshall Pilsudski.
- 1921 – Poland adopted a constitution designed as a republic, modeled after the French Third Republic, vesting most authority in the legislature. The postwar Polish parliamentary system proved unstable and erratic, much like that of the French Third Republic.
- May 1926 – Piłsudski assumed power in a Coup d’État. For the next decade, he dominated Polish affairs as strongman of a generally popular centrist regime.
- The center of Poland’s postwar foreign policy was a political and military alliance with France, which guaranteed Poland’s independence and territorial integrity.
- 1932 – Poland signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviets.
- 1934 – Poland concluded another pact, with Germany’s new Nazi government, subsequently rejecting French proposals for a security pact directed against Germany, as it involved no guarantee of Poland’s eastern frontier with the Soviet Union.
- September 1939 – Germany invaded Poland.
Here’s what we would likely have not been aware of.
- August 1905 – Helena Kowalska was born in Glogowiec, a small villiage near Lodz.
- 1912 – Kowalska heard a voice in her soul calling her to a more perfect way of life.
- 1920 – Kowalska made her parents aware of desire to enter into the convent.
- May 1920 – Karol Wojtyla was born in Wadowice, a small town near Krakow.
- August 1925 – Kowalska applied for the second time to the Congregation of The Sister’s of Our Lady of Mercy and was accepted.
- April 1926 – Kowalska received her habit and her name in religion, Sister Mary Faustina.
- April 1929 – Karol Wojtyla’s mother died.
- February 1931 – Sister Faustina had a vision of the Lord.
- December 1932 – Wojtyla’s older brother Edmund, a doctor, contracted scarlet fever from one of his patients and died within five days. Edmund Wojtyla was 26 and Karol’s hero.
- June 1934 – The Image of Divine Mercy was completed by artist E. Kazimierowski under the guidance of Sister Faustina.
- April 1938 – Sister Faustina’s superiors decide to send her to the hospital in Pradnik. She is suffering from asthma and tuberculosis.
- Summer 1938 – Karol Wojtyła and his father left Wadowice and moved to Kraków, where he enrolled at the Jagiellonian University.
- October 1938 – Sister Mary Faustina dies.
- 1939 – Nazi German occupation forces closed the Jagiellonian University. All able-bodied males were required to work.
- 1940 – Wojtyła begins working various jobs–including a manual laborer in a limestone quarry–to avoid being deported to Germany.
- February 1941 – Karol Wojtyla Senior died. The son had lost his entire family before he turned 21 and was greatly bothered that he had not been present for any of the deaths. He would later reminisce, “I never felt so alone.”
- October 1942 – Wojtyla applies for the priesthood.
Which of the above sets of events do you think matter most today?
One final event:
- April 2000 – Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska was canonized at St. Peter’s in Rome, Pope John Paul II presiding.
Lodz PL and Krakow PL are 188 kilometers apart [or about 117 miles], which is about the same distance between Miami and Ft Myers. So next time your faith is running low, just drive towards Ft Myers in silence and contemplate the saintly possibilities.