Much like today’s “garbled” Catholic faith, recently discovered 104 year-old letters to God prove to be nearly undecipherable.

They bent over their school desks, 104 years ago, putting pencils to paper.

Writing letters to God.

Onto paper the students poured thoughts and prayers they hoped would ascend, like so many curling wisps of smoke, into the skies above turn-of-the-century Buffalo.

Their writings would remain hidden from view for more than a century.

Now — long after the schoolchildren who wrote them grew old and went to their graves — the letters written by students at Corpus Christi School on Clark Street have been rediscovered.

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The little known story of Polish Catholicism in the United States

Not too long ago I received a copy of a history of the sixteen Polish parishes in Milwaukee. It is a tremendously moving story of how the poorest of the immigrants from Europe built the most spectacular churches, at incredible cost. The Basilica of St. Josaphat, most imposing of the structures, at one time boasted the second largest dome in the nation after the U.S. Capitol Building. The people who built it were the most despised of the European immigrants, taking dangerous and unsavory jobs no one else would take, huddled in crowded conditions. And yet the parishioners of that parish took out second mortgages on their homes, and contributed up to a year’s factory wages, in order to build the church to the glory of God.

It is said that when the Germans came to Milwaukee they built factories, and when the Polish came to Milwaukee they built churches. The church was at the very center of the life of the Polish community. And soon there were schools — grammar and high schools — and benevolent institutions, orphanages, and cultural organizations, including an opera company.

This is only Milwaukee. There are a dozen cities, mostly the Lake Cities — Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo — where more or less the same phenomenon occurred. And then a hundred other small towns and villages, from Texas to Nebraska to New England, where coal miners, farmers, and other working folk gave their best to the Church, which had been their spiritual home for a millennium.

In the nineteenth century, a great crisis erupted in the American Catholic Church. It centered around the issue of who would control the churches. Called the “Trustee Controversy,” the issue of church ownership was aggravated by the practice of the American Church hierarchy of removing Polish pastors from their immigrant flocks and imposing non-Poles as the leaders of those flocks. This was especially painful in a city like Milwaukee where the Church leadership was German; the Poles had immigrated from Prussia, fleeing German cultural oppression. (Poland had been partitioned a century before, between Prussia, Russia, and Austria, so no one came from Poland in “the Great Immigration” since that country did not exist.) The Poles were seen as fractious and quarrelsome, in America as in Europe; in other circumstances, this characteristic was lauded as “freedom-loving.” To wit, a fairly recent history of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, commissioned by former Archbishop Rembert Weakland, describes them as “intractable.”

The Poles, for their part, felt that, because by the 1920s they constituted twenty percent of the American Catholic Church, they should have at least some representation in the hierarchy. That representation was very late in coming, too late for the members of the Polish National Church, who had gone into schism by the turn of the nineteenth century.

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Submitted by Doria2

Reminding Us Who We Are

johnpaulwavenh.jpg

During a recent lecture, George Weigel, the noted Catholic writer, professor, and the official biographer of the late Pope John Paul II, briefly spoke about the Pope’s pivotal role in support of the Polish Labor Union “Solidarity” … which of course, led to the liberation of the Polish people, the eventual demolition of the Berlin Wall, the liberation of Eastern Europe, and a few years later … on August 15th … the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary … to the fall of the Soviet Union.

Mr. Weigel explained that when John Paul II addressed the Polish people (and indirectly, General Jaruzelski, who threatened to put down any rebellion, using force, if necessary) the Pontiff invoked the power of the Holy Spirit, and then he simply reminded the Polish people precisely WHO they WERE.

http://www.redcafe.net/1256343-post11.html

According to the site mentioned above: The Pope’s epic June 1979 pilgrimage to his homeland there were nine days on which the history of the 20th century pivoted. In those forty-some sermons, addresses, lectures, and impromptu remarks, the Pope told his fellow-countrymen, in so many words:

“You are not who they say you are.
Let me remind you who you are.”
“It is not possible to understand the history
of the Polish nation without Christ.”

By restoring to the Polish people their authentic history and culture, John Paul created a revolution of conscience that, fourteen months later, produced the nonviolent Solidarity resistance movement, a unique hybrid of workers and intellectuals – a “forest planed by aroused consciences,” as the Pope’s friend, the philosopher Jozef Tischner once put it.

And by restoring to his people a form of freedom and a fearlessness that communism could not reach, John Paul II set in motion the human dynamics that eventually led, over a decade, to what we know as the Revolution of 1989.

In this election year, when many of the the choices seem to be so limited and so uninspiring, it would be useful for each and every one of us to remember who we are … in Christ.

     George Weigel

Here’s a link to George Weigel’s blog:

http://georgeweigel.blogspot.com/