Archive for March, 2009

Yesterday, Father Damian Wojtyska died in Poland. I knew him as a holy, prayerful man with very strong convictions. My only visit to Poland was at his invitation to give a talk to the members of the Polish Province when he was Provincial. Here’s a summary of his life’s work from Polish Wikipredia and other sources:

Father Damian Wojtyska, historian, theologian, priest, Passionist, died yesterday at Lodz, Poland. He was 75 years old.

Requiem Mass will be celebrated on 26 March at 9.00 a.m. in the Passionist Church in Lodz (Aleja Pasjonistów 23), and burial on the same day at 1.00 p.m. at the Passionist Church in Rawa Mazowiecka.

Henryk Damian Wojtyska was born on 13 May 1933 near Regiminie Ciechanów. He entered the Passionist Congregation in 1950 and was ordained a priest in 1957. In the years 1958 to 1962, he studied church history at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. His doctoral thesis was on the work of Cardinal Hosius, Legate to the Council of Trent (published in 1967).

In 1969 he became a researcher and lecturer at the Catholic University of Lublin. He obtained his Habilitation (post-doctoral degree) in 1975 on Diplomatic Relations between Poland and the Papacy 1548-1563 (published in 1977), and was appointed the first Professor of the History of Theology at the Catholic University of Lublin, a post he held from 1976 to 1998. Between 1981 and 1983 he was the University’s Vice-Rector for Youth. In the difficult period of martial law, he was accustomed to visiting students who were in custody and accompanying them to court. He organized active assistance for those who need it. For this reason, he enjoyed great respect and the confidence of young people.
From 1985 to 2004, he was a member of the Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences in the Vatican. In the years 1985-94, he was Vice-President of the Polish Historical Institute in Rome. During these years, he began editing the series Acta Nuntiaturae Polonae, the first ten volumes of which appeared between 1990 and 1994, under his direction. He is the author of the first volume in the series (Acta Nuntiaturae Polonae. T. 1: De fontibus eorumque investigatione et editionibus. Instructio ad editionem. Nuntiorum series chronologica. Rome 1991). He also published studies in the same series on individual nuncios.
A member of the Scientific Society of Lublin and the Scientific Society of the Catholic University of Lublin, the Accademia di San Carlo (Borromeo) and the Reformation Commission of the Historical Committee of the Polska Akademia Nauk. Until 2004, he was a Consultor of the Doctrine of the Faith Commission (Historical Section) for the Polish episcopate.

He was Provincial of the Polish Passionist Province from 1994 to1998. In the years 2006-07, he published a monumental work on the history of the Passionist Congregation in Poland (volume 1 – Prehistory and Foundational Period to 1938, Lodz 2006; volume 2 – War and Occupation 1939-1945, Przasnysz 2007). He also published a book on the Polish Passionist Martyrs of World War II (Przasnysz 2008).

After a long and severe illness, Father Damian died in the Passionist monastery in Lodz, Poland, on 24 March 2009.

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Pope Benedict’s Message for this year’s World Youth Day (celebrated on Palm Sunday) is on the theme of Christian Hope. The Pope says that a text from Saint Paul’s letter to Timothy We have set our hope on the living God (1 Tim 4:10) is the key text for this year’s preparation for the 2011 World Youth Day in Madrid, while next year we will reflect on the question put to Jesus by the rich young man: Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? (Mk 10:17). In his message, published today, the Pope relates the theme of hope to the questions young people have to struggle with in life:
Youth is a special time of hope because it looks to the future with a whole range of expectations. When we are young we cherish ideals, dreams and plans. Youth is the time when decisive choices concerning the rest of our lives come to fruition. Perhaps this is why it is the time of life when fundamental questions assert themselves strongly: Why am I here on earth? What is the meaning of life? What will my life be like? And again: How can I attain happiness? Why is there suffering, illness and death? What lies beyond death? These are questions that become insistent when we are faced with obstacles that sometimes seem insurmountable: difficulties with studies, unemployment, family arguments, crises in friendships or in building good loving relationships, illness or disability, lack of adequate resources as a result of the present widespread economic and social crisis. We then ask ourselves: where can I obtain and how can I keep alive the flame of hope burning in my heart?

Pope Benedict speaks of his compassion and concern for those young people who are caught in tragic situations and encourages young Catholics to be evangelisers of youth, bringing the message of hope to those who seem lost in hopelessness:
My dear young friends, I have in mind so many of your contemporaries who have been wounded by life. They often suffer from personal immaturity caused by dysfunctional family situations, by permissive and libertarian elements in their education, and by difficult and traumatic experience. For some – unfortunately a significant number – the almost unavoidable way out involves an alienating escape into dangerous and violent behaviour, dependence on drugs and alcohol, and many other such traps for the unwary. Yet, even for those who find themselves in difficult situations, having been led astray by bad role models, the desire for true love and authentic happiness is not extinguished. But how can we speak of this hope to those young people? We know that it is in God alone that a human person finds true fulfilment. The main task for us all is that of a new evangelization aimed at helping younger generations to rediscover the true face of God, who is Love. To you young people, who are in search of a firm hope, I address the very words that Saint Paul wrote to the persecuted Christians in Rome at that time: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom 15:13). During this Jubilee Year dedicated to the Apostle of the Gentiles on the occasion of the two thousandth anniversary of his birth, let us learn from him how to become credible witnesses of Christian hope.

The Holy Father offers Saint Paul the Apostle as a model and inspiration of Christian Hope and he concludes his message by invoking the intercession of Our Lady, using a title dear to Passionists – Mary, Mother of Hope:
Following in the footsteps of the people of hope – composed of prophets and saints of every age – we continue to advance towards the fulfilment of the Kingdom, and on this spiritual path we are accompanied by the Virgin Mary, Mother of Hope. She who incarnated the hope of Israel, who gave the world its Saviour, and who remained at the foot of the Cross with steadfast hope, is our model and our support. Most of all, Mary intercedes for us and leads us through the darkness of our trials to the radiant dawn of an encounter with the Risen Christ.

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