Today there was pertinent information being discussed which helped me understand Poland from a political, ideological, and religious perspective.
First, Dr.Wright had us discuss our thoughts on the Our Lady icon in Czestochowa. We collectively discussed what the icon means to the Polish nation, and the history behind it. This icon has a lot of historical narratives that ultimately cause controversy on why it is so important to the Catholic Church and how it shapes the identity of Poland. The narrative presented by Father Kordecki is a distorted vision of how the Black Madonna icon provided miraculous defense for the Polish Commonwealth from the destruction of 12,000 Swedes in Jasna Gora, 1655. Because of this protection from Our Lady, she is crowned Queen with the papal crown in 1717. This story of miraculous defense and the crowning of an icon represents a cemented ideological narrative that is passed from generation to generation. It also shows how a nation needs symbols to retain their unique identity. This image/icon was used to heighten Polish nobility, which in turn, solidifies the blurred ideological narrative being presented.
Dr. Obirek had an interesting discussion on his history relating to the present day in Poland. He ultimately left the Catholic Church because he was being silenced on his opinion of Pope John Paul II. He went on to explain the history of Poland starting from 1410, which was Battle of Grunwald. This battle was one of the largest in Medieval Europe and is regarded as the most important victory in the histories of Poland and Lithuania. It has been a source of national pride for the Poles and is seen as triumphant moment in the defeat of the Western people (Germans). This battle shapes the identity of Poland to this day.
Dr. Obirek mentions other events that give Poles their sense of nationality and identity. In 1918, the new independent Poland is reborn and takes on a new form of nationalism; however, that nationalistic stance is shaken during WW2. The case of remembrance for Poland is not obvious after the war and there is still a struggle of who the real victim is. In the year 2000, there is finally a narrative of Poles being not only victims, but perpetrators during the Holocaust.
I asked Dr. Obirek what he thought about the idea that the Catholic Church provides influence in politics, even though the separation of church and state are stated in the country’s constitution. He mentioned that the politics and religion in Poland are deeply rooted in the country’s history; the way that separation of church and state will truly happen is when the people of Poland become secular themselves. He said that the most important factor for contributing to the secularism of Catholics in Poland is the required religion class in public schools from Kindergarten through high school. This statement initially surprised me because I figure people would become secular due to the corruption of the Church. After thinking about it for a while, it made a lot of sense why that is the main cause of people not going to church anymore, leading more people to become atheist due to the required (and I’m sure strict) religion classes that all school children must take.
Dr. Obirek leaves with a statement that resonated with me and goes along with my family’s personal struggle regarding the politics of different churches:
“My mind is my church”, a quote by Thomas Paine.
I was thinking the same thing…