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Saints call youth of the world to another celebration in Poland

Krakow was the site for a huge gathering of young people with Pope Francis. More than 2 million youth trekked to Poland from all over the world. They made their way in pilgrimage to centuries-old shrines, magnificent cathedrals and sites of saints.

There were other places of great historical importance as well – the Warsaw Ghetto and the death camps where the descendants of Abraham, the people of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, were targeted for extermination. Here, millennials by the thousands came face-to-face with incomprehensible evil. We pray they departed with the lasting lesson, "never forget; never again."

This was Poland’s second World Youth Day. In 1991, then Pope John Paul II attracted several hundred thousand pilgrims to Jasna Gora near Czestochowa. A new era dawned – the Berlin Wall had come down and the Soviet Union was imploding. The youth expressed deep, long pent-up desires for freedom.

Now, 25 years later in a Jubilee of Mercy, recent Polish saints called a new generation to this country of history and mystery. St. Faustina beckoned pilgrims to experience the limitless divine mercy, and St. John Paul, who canonized her, brought this throng to his home place.

Krakow also was home to another saint canonized by St. John Paul II, Adam Chmielowski. Adam was a 19th century freedom-fighter, accomplished painter, and as Brother Albert, a man who came to make his home among the homeless poor.

Adam was a national hero of the Polish people and certainly of Karol Wojtyla, who as a young priest wrote the play, "Our God’s Brother," in tribute to this heroic disciple. While faithful to the details of Adam’s life, the play discloses the deep drama of Adam’s struggle to answer Christ’s question, "Who do you say I am?"

In a style typical of roots of St. John Paul II, the drama unfolds in Adam’s inner conversations. Forced to find shelter from a sudden storm, he and his friends come to safety inside an abandoned building. Adam realizes they are not alone and sees the people who make their home there. He can’t get the scene out of his mind.

Months go by. His artsy friends try to persuade him to let it go and return to his painting, but he can’t. Instead, he enters a prolonged conversation with a Lenin-like character called "The Other," whose only solutions, political and violent, betoken the "tyranny of intelligence." Adam receives another option from his confessor, "Let yourself be molded by love."

The final scene is years later. Adam, now Brother Albert, returns from his rounds of begging. A violent uprising has begun. Albert acknowledges its roots in just anger, but then offers a final word, "I know for certain that I have chosen a greater freedom."


Bill Beckman is director of the archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis. Contact him at

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