On Sunday, October 2nd, 2011, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Pulaski Day Parade celebration began at 9:00 AM with the Liturgy of the Eucharist. This grand Cathedral in Manhattan was filled with a holy silence despite being crowded with worshipers dressed in their Sunday finery. Grand Marshall Darek Knapik and his family were seated in the center of the first row. While on the other side of the aisle were the representatives of Polish Consulate with Mrs. Ewa Junczyk Ziomecka and the Parade Committee. Polish faithful of all ages waited serenely for the first sounds of the organ and the choir. Cadets of the West Point Military Academy lead the procession to the altar followed by the members of the Knights of Columbus, Sea League, Polish Scouts, lectors and lastly the celebrants of the Mass, which included the Very Reverend Marian Rojek, Auxiliary Bishop of Przemysl, Poland as well as the Rector of the Cathedral, Rev. Msgr. Robert T. Ritchie who presided at the concelebrated Mass.
Natalia Hetnar who graduated last year from St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Academy read the first reading at the Mass in Polish and Nicholas Kaponyas who is a current student of St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Academy read the reading in English. Mr. Michael Pajak read the petitions. All three participants in the Mass are from St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish. It was an extreme privilege and an immense opportunity for Rev. Marek Sobczak CM, give the sermon in English from the main ambo of the Cathedral. Bishop Rojek gave the sermon in Polish. During this High Mass, the Polish–American Choir sang four songs in Polish. At the conclusion of the Mass, just before the final blessing, the Most Reverend Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, entered the sanctuary and greeted the people with a hearty “Witam” which made the Polish attendees respond in delight. He then welcomed Bishop Rojek and the Grand Marshal of the Pulaski Day Parade, Mr. Knapik. In conclusion, His Excellency addressed the multitude with a few words which included an invitation to visit the Our Lady of Czestochowa Chapel located on the side aisle of the Cathedral after the Mass.
Fr. Marek’s homily:
Today’s Sunday is designated by Catholic Bishops in the United States as Respect Life Sunday. All Catholics are invited to pray and reflect on how each of us might renew our commitment and witness to respecting, promoting and teaching the transcendent nature of the human person. Contemporary culture and governments of many countries promote values that are contrary to the true happiness and true good of individuals and society. The unborn child, the aging parent, the person in a coma, the impaired—each today is at risk of being dismissed as a ‘life unworthy of life’… Last Thursday one of NY’s newspapers had an article about a person who was sentenced to 5 years of prison for cruelty to a cat. Another man who was charged with cruelty to a young boy almost killing him was given only 4 months of prison on weekends! Dogs, cats, dolphins and other animals have more rights than human beings, especially the unborn. The facts are scary. The number of unborn children slaughtered in the wombs of their mothers in the last 25 years is 1.2 billion in the world and 37 million in the U.S.A. Embryos are constantly destroyed for scientific experiments. Hundreds of old or terminally ill people are killed in advanced countries, under the names “mercy killing” or euthanasia. “I came that all might have life and have it to the full” said Jesus. The teaching of the Church is simple: Life is God’s gift. We need to respect and protect all forms of human life from conception to natural death. The culture of death must end. Protecting human life is no more a sectarian creed than the Declaration of Independence is a sectarian document. Because all rights depend on life, the right to life is the most fundamental issue of all; if that is eliminated, the rest will follow. The common message of today’s readings is the necessity of bearing good fruit in the Christian life and the consequent punishment for ingratitude and wickedness. Jesus, in today’s gospel, warns us, Christians, that we cease being either God’s vineyard or the tenants of God’s vineyard when we stop doing God’s will. Our Savior teaches us that since we are the "new" Chosen Nation, enriched with additional blessings and provisions in the Church, we are expected to show our gratitude to God by bearing fruits of the kingdom, fruits of the Holy Spirit, in our lives. We should realize that Jesus has given us, the Church, everything necessary to make Christians fruit-bearing: ** The Bible to know the will of God; ** The priesthood to lead the people in God’s ways; ** The sacraments for our spiritual growth and a dynamic life of faith and love; ** The family made by husband, wife and children, the fundamental unit of the Church; ** Role models of thousands of saints. We are expected to make use of these gifts and produce fruits for God by doing God’s will, by transforming society with the good example of living our faith to the full. Today we celebrate proudly Polish Heritage Day. Thousands of Poles, Polish Americans, people with Polish roots and our friends will march proudly up Fifth Ave showing off our red and white colors. In the history of Poland, our symbols had clear and significant meanings. Our white and red flag, white eagle and crucifix have always stand for freedom, independence, a fight for equal rights for all people, for religious tolerance, for our close friendship with God and our dedication to Him, just to name a few. Over the centuries Polish people tried to live up to the values of our Polish heritage. As a country we stood out among other nations, we were recognized for our national spirit. Unfortunately and sadly, fascinated by false European Union’s dream and so called freedom, the Polish government and many of Polish people, started to disrespect God’s laws and to accept the man’s made rules of the ungodly, unjust world. Self proclaimed leaders of Europe force the rest of us to adopt laws which have nothing to do with the law of God that is just for every person. False pretense is used by public mass media to drag people away from God, the source of justice, love and life. We, Poles, are proud of our red and white national colors as you will see today on the Fifth Avenue. We are proud of the achievements of Polish businessmen, artists, scientists, and people of culture. However, we, Poles, should not be proud of our law that allows killing of unborn children. We, Poles, should not be proud of the law that changes the traditional definition of family once established by God. We, Poles, should not be proud of the law that promotes sexuality outside marriage because that always leads to degradation of a human person. Those laws are not in accord with the law of the God of Abraham, the God of Mahomet, the one God of us all. Some contemporary Poles do not want to be recognized for the traditional values. Are we to replace old values with modern ones for the sake of some? Would the next step be putting away our white and red colors and replacing them with EU blue flags or even rainbow flags? But then, we will be unrecognized in a crowd. We will be Europeans, not Poles. We will become anonymous Citizens of the world. Is this what we want for us and our children? God has blessed Poland, His vineyard, with many graces. We are more and more like the ungrateful tenants who acted against God in today’s Gospel. God gave us so much and now we act against Him. I conclude my homily with an anecdote. The owner of a small business, a friend of the Brazilian poet Olavo Bilac, met him on the street and asked him: “Mr. Bilac, I need to sell my small farm, the one you know so well. Could you please write an announcement for me for the paper?” Bilac wrote "For sale: a beautiful property, where birds sing at dawn in extensive woodlands, bisected by the brilliant and sparkling waters of a large stream. The house is bathed by the rising sun. It offers tranquil shade in the evenings on the veranda.” Sometime later, the poet met his friend and asked whether he had sold the property? To which he replied: “I’ve changed my mind. When I read what you had written, I realized the treasure that was mine.” Sometimes we underestimate the good things we have, chasing after the mirages of false treasures. We throw away what God has given us, too freely. Today God invites us all to be in union with Him who gives in abundance what we need. God plead with us that we keep what He has given us and use it to promote not ourselves but true life and true justice for all, especially the unborn. Let us work hard and together in God’s vineyard for the glory of God.
October 2, 2011