PROSPECT HEIGHTS — In the summer of 1944, Warsaw, the Polish capital, quaked with an ill-fated uprising to oust Nazi occupiers. As the city burned, a piece of charred paper landed in the nearby village of Laski.
There, a Catholic chaplain for the resistance fighters retrieved the scrap and read the only legible words: “You Will Love.”
Father Stefan Wyszyński, the future cardinal, was said to be filled with inspiration, similar to what he felt after celebrating his first Mass. The location was the Jasna Góra monastery in Częstochowa, which holds the Black Madonna painting of the Virgin Mother.
Cardinal Wyszyński’s faith strengthened him as he helped lead Poland through the dark days of communist rule. He steadfastly fought for religious freedom, but with love and without a return to the violence his nation endured in World War II.
The cause for sainthood for this peace-loving fighter took a major step forward last month at Warsaw’s Church of Divine Providence with a Mass at which Cardinal Wyszyński was beatified. The elevation to the status of “Blessed” occurred Sept. 12 with about 8,000 people present, including Auxiliary Bishop Witold Mroziewski of the Diocese of Brooklyn.
The native of Augustow, Poland, was one of two bishops from the U.S. to attend the event, which was postponed last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Actually, I represented the U.S. — and also as a person who comes from Poland,” Bishop Mroziewski said. “I wished to be there because I have Blessed Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński as a great example of the love of God, the love of the neighbor, and of a man of great fidelity.”
Bishop Mroziewski further described his interest in the beatification:
“He was a very humble man who fought for the rights of the poor, and especially for the people of our country during the time of oppression, and during the time of communism and the Second World War. So that meant a great value to be present for this moment, when he was announced to the world as a ‘Blessed.’”
The Mass also celebrated the beatification of Mother Elisabeth Rosa Czacka, a nun who, though blind, championed a ministry to other vision-impaired people of Poland. She died in 1961.
Bishop Mroziewski was ordained in 1991, a decade after Cardinal Wyszyński died in Warsaw at age 79 from abdominal cancer. A few weeks later, the 15-year-old Mroziewski made his own pilgrimage to the Blessed Mother’s shrine at Częstochowa.
He described participating in the tradition of pilgrims “walking” on their knees around the altar. He then found his own inspiration from the Mother of Jesus, which fueled his desire to enter the seminary. Bishop Mroziewski learned more about Cardinal Wyszyński’s service to Poland and to humanity.
The story about the scrap of paper with three words was legendary, Bishop Mroziewski said. He noted that Cardinal Wyszyński led Polish bishops in issuing a letter dated Nov. 18, 1965, to their counterparts in Germany. It concerned the war, which then was 20 years in the past.
“In that letter,” Bishop Mroziewski said, “was a statement. It said, ‘We forgive. And we are asking for forgiveness.’ ”
The act of forgiveness, and Cardinal Wyszyński’s leadership in it, showed courage, Bishop Mroziewski said.
“I didn’t hear about that as a child,” he said. “I got the information during my seminary time. But I believe that the bishops realized that mistakes were made on both sides. It was very clear that the bishops made that statement, so it was very meaningful.”
Cardinal Wyszyński is also credited with inspiring a protégé — Father Karol Józef Wojtyła of Krakow, the future Pope John Paul II. Polish Catholics are fond of saying there would not be John Paul II without Cardinal Wyszyński.
Bishop Mroziewski is also pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Maspeth, Queens, which fervently prayed for the beatification, as did all the Polish congregations in the Diocese of Brooklyn. Now, he said, they will focus their prayers on canonization, to give the world “Saint Stefan Wyszyński.”