Sunday, August 21, 2011

It was St. Cajetan's feastday again, and it would unfold well nigh identically to the year before. It would begin with a pleasant morning cool that in spite of our newly broken-in feet, we would embrace with gusto, stopping for a pleasant second breakfast on the way. Later, the heat would be scorching one of our longest routes (22 miles that day), and in spite of my best efforts (more food and more hydration than the year before), I would still nearly faint in the church of Goszczyn during Mass, though knowing what was happening that time, I remained for Holy Communion. Aï! It would appear that what is past is indeed prologue.

Still, even if events do not change, we do. I cannot speak for the whole group, but as the heat intensified, those around me seemed to grow more silent, turning their thoughts towards personal ruminations of their own choosing. That is certainly what I did, and I found myself thinking more fervently than ever of Brother Cajetan Gavronich.

All those of the Slavic tongue would be amused at my family's American way of saying our dear friend's name, /Kædʒetæn Gævrənɪtʃ/, but the homeliness of the pronunciation suited what he was in life. He was like an immortal ray from the moon momentarily imprisoned in flesh, yet never varying according to the flesh. I knew him when he was old, and from the first
day to the last, his face was as smiling and unwrinkled as that of a child's. His spirit was as energetic and joyful, yet he was as selfless and giving as a column of the Earth. He had a massive impact on my spiritual life, and he was forever entangled with my personal devotion to the Church, so I found myself that day thinking more of the second Saint Cajetan than the first. And a saint he is indeed.

I met him when my mother took me as a little girl to say rosaries outside the now vanquished abortion mill of our city. He was the only cleric of the group that I remember ever being there, an Alexian brother not allowed to bury the victims of that place, but at least piously rendering them recognition. At that time, he was but to me a nice, old man, who I remember giving me holy cards of Saint Faustina Kowalska and who instructed
me concerning the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Rosaries would become the Koronka do Miłosierdzia Bożego if Protestants should come to join us in prayer for an end to abortion. They could not say an Ave perhaps, but they could ask God for mercy. They even swallowed their scruples in repeating the request over and over again. I suppose that is when the seed was planted in me, which would one day become a vine, pulling me
into Poland. Yet, devotion to Our Lady of Częstochowa had not yet been instilled. That came later.

My mother and Brother Cajetan had a great deal in common on the grounds of promoting the Gospel of Life over the Culture of Death, but there was more to the intellectual nature of their friendship. At the age of twelve, I was soon to be acquainted with the word 'geopolitical.' That year, my mother gave me a book she had bought years before, one with a title that had always intrigued me: The Keys of This Blood, to read for my history class that year (I was homeschooled from twelve to seventeen). Whenever she and Brother Cajetan met, there was often an exchange of taped interviews and books by the same author, and so I came to have the greatest faith in--and personal attachment to--the man who would become my spiritual father, Malachi Martin, S.J.

It was this Irish priest who introduced the 'Primate of the Millenium' to my family, and as my child's mind was beginning to comprehend the diabolic, global political and social mechanisms in place against all that I held most dear, it was to these words of Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński that I clung:

Certain historical developments are willed by the Lord of History, and they shall take place. About many other--mostly minor--developments, that same Lord is willing. He allows men the free will to choose between various options, and He will go along with those choices; for, in the end, all human choices wll be co-opted as grist into God's mill, which grinds slowly, but always grinds exceedingly fine.
(Malachi Martin, The Keys of this Blood, Prologue: The Servant of the Grand Design)

As I progressed through the work, I was awed at how the Jesuit delved into the intricate histories of the three major world powers (the Church as headed by John Paul II, Communism as led by Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, and the Capitalist West). Nearing the close of the book, the writer brought me to a place that at the time, I could not have even pronounced the name:

By the time that much prepared date August 26, 1968, rolled around, there was nobody in Poland who was unaware of what would be transacted at the monastery of
Częstochowa on Jasna Góra--the Bright Mountain--with Mary as Queen of Poland...

....Wyszyński himself presided over the ceremonies at
Częstochowa. Over a quarter of a million pilgrims gathered on the hillside around the monastery and again responded to the words of national dedication. True, the militia was present. Extra government troops, police battalions and teams of Zomos--bully boys--stood by watchfully, but not daring to make any move. While the voices of that quarter million rang out again and again--''Yes! We swear it!''--in response to the ritual requests for their assent to the dedication, the same ceremony was being performed at literally thousands of locations throughout Poland...

...It was Archbishop Wojtyła's function to piece all of it together in words. He spoke of the ''supernatural current'' let loose by the millenial celebrations of
Jasna Góra...he hammered home the supreme lesson: "Our temporal theology demands that we dedicate ourselves into the hands of the Holy Mother. May we all live up to our tasks."

(ibid., Book II: The Geopolitics of Faith, Part Six: The Vision of the Servant, Chapter 30: Papal Training Ground: Under the Sign of Solidarność)

Half a year before I was reading this, my mother had been in a religious article shop in Memphis, Tennessee. We were all suffering while one of my younger sisters was heroically battling childhood cancer, and thus we were constantly searching the realm of Sacraments and sacramentals for consolation. The store was owned by a convert to the Russian Orthodox Church, and perhaps that was what had lured my mother in, as we none of us had a liking for religious kitsch, and saccharine Virgin Marys dressed in anæmic pink and baby blue are not the stock and store of the Eastern churches.

My mother did tell the man she was Catholic (and proud of the fact on seeing his adverse reaction) and asked if there was anything he would recommend her purchasing. She walked out of his store with an icon of Our Lady of Vladimir and the Black Madonna. He had not exactly been very informative about the latter, saying mostly that she was a 'bridge between East and West,' but that is how she came to be in our family. As a girl, I only knew that her image and Our Lady of Guadalupe's dominated my mind and devotions with a fearful power. It was the serene, regal face with a delicate nose, oriental eyes, and pensive mouth that I beheld during the family rosaries. The then unpronounceable name of the city from whence she presided was as distant and exalted in my imagination as Eden.

And now, I was going there on foot for the second time! I find that
discomfort has a dual tendency in me to either render a trial more mundane or more mystical by its presence. Amidst my contemplations, I seesawed between the two extremes the whole day, sometimes humourously setting each visibile landmark as my next goal before I would ask someone to carry me, then putting off the question until the next landmark.

Other times, I thought of the past that had brought me on the journey again, and wondered if a certain Alexian religious brother might be gazing down on me and using my efforts for some purpose dear to him on Earth.

God love you, Brother Cajetan!

(Evidence of the aforementioned heat, as Father Grzegorz here rather fittingly looks the part of Lawrence of Polonia :)


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Warsaw, Poland
Domine, spero quia mundum vicisti. Lord, I trust that Thou hast overcome the world. Panie, ufam, żeś pokonał świat.
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