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Our little family

In the Church we are all family. Children of the same Father, created according to His image and likeness, brothers and sisters in Christ, united by grace, members of the same Body. When one member suffers, its pain in some way affects the whole Body. When one member lives in sin, it affects the others, just as growth in grace and holiness contributes to the good of the whole Church. St. John Paul II lived this mystery of unity among the members of the Mystical Body of the Church in a very profound way. He said that “by adding the adjective mystical to the Body of Christ, one wishes to emphasize, without questioning its visibility, the spiritual and invisible dimension of the Church. It indicates that under a form of a human community, there is hidden a divine reality that cannot be grasped through a sensible experience but only by faith.”

He himself had had a profound experience of the solidarity that exists among the members of the Mystical Body of the Church, as taught by St. Paul: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I make up for what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for his body, which is the Church. (Col. 1:24) The Holy Pope emphasizes that “it seems to be part of the very essence of Christ’s redemptive suffering that it must be completed without ceasing.” And he explains: “Christ saves through the death of his body of flesh; man is saved and helps to save by the tribulations of Christ, who offers to each one the gift of suffering as He did with Him, in order to continue to save in Him, also through the suffering of his own flesh. The sufferings of the Christian, lived together with the tribulations of Christ, make it possible to give the benefits of Christ to his Mystical Body. Christ continues to save the world through the sufferings of his members. These thus complete, by vocation received from the Lord, the tribulations of Christ. “St. John Paul II attributed his vocation and the fruits of his priestly ministry to the salvific suffering of other people:

My priesthood, already from its birth, has been inscribed in the great sacrifice of so many men and women of my generation. Providence has spared me the most painful experiences, which is why I am even more deeply indebted to the people I know, as well as to those more numerous whom I do not know, without distinction of nation or language, who by their sacrifice on the great altar of history have contributed to the realization of my priestly vocation. In some way, they have introduced me to this path by showing me in the dimension of sacrifice the deepest and most essential truth of the priesthood of Christ.”[1]

On September 15, 2023, I had the great grace to meet personally with one of those people of whom John Paul II says that his sufferings spared him the most painful experiences.

Wanda Poltavska, describes her terrible sufferings in the Ravensbrück concentration camp in her book “And I was afraid of my dreams“. She was subjected to painful and deforming medical experiments and all kinds of other sufferings, which she finally managed to unite with the sufferings of Christ. She turned to the young priest Karol Wojtila in search of answers after her traumatic experiences and a deep brotherhood was born between them, as we can read in another book by her hand called “Diary of a Friendship“. During my visit to Krakow, having obtained her address, I dared to ring the doorbell that said “Poltavska” and it was opened to me.

For two hours I was able to be with Wanda, who despite her 102 years of age and physical weakness, gave me a masterful lesson in spiritual life that I will never forget. I would like to share here some thoughts that she transmitted to me, which I consider to be another legacy of St. John Paul II. I hope that these notes can encourage all those who have taken on the monthly responsibility of praying during the 40 hours for the increase and perseverance of priestly and religious vocations for the Church, since I recognize that I am indebted to their prayers and would like to thank them for their intercession before God the Father, aware that what they offer is powerful and very necessary.

Wanda told me that recently a woman had come to talk to her and asked for prayers for her to be a saint. With a little sparkle she said to me, “I told her I couldn’t do this. No one can be a saint in your name! This is your own responsibility.” As an excellent pedagogue throughout her life, she achieved in me the “captatio”, to then enter into the topic she was interested in.         She explained that we have to become aware that every human person has been endowed with free will and therefore has to assume his or her own responsibility to earn merit. God did not create us saints, but gives us the possibility, and demand of us to be saints. Tomorrow more than today. “Persona humana infieri est,” she remarked to me – it is being made.

The human person was created by God, but is not yet ready to go to heaven. This is why every day he has to be born again from the Holy Spirit. Prayer is the most necessary thing. Not asking for this or that, because in the end God knows best what we need. The Pope always advised that it is better to ask for the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, to be prepared for what is coming. We have to go consciously to heaven!

She recalled that the Pope used to say a daily prayer that his father had taught him when he was a teenager (I attach the prayer to this reflection). Wanda added that the Pope was very impressed to see how his father prayed. He watched him even at night, praying the rosary on his knees in front of a crucifix. They had a friendship. The Pope used to talk more about the with his Father than the relationship with his mother, simply because his mother died when he was only 8 years old.

Wanda insisted a lot on the awareness about the great responsibility we have to teach man who he is, that he has a soul, that life is a path to heaven. The human person is on this earth to go to heaven, she repeated forcefully. However, the wisdom of God is often lacking. Man received three great gifts from God: his brain, his free will and his conscience, which must be well formed. For this, the knowledge of divine ethics is the key, so that the heart is without sin. Everything created by God is holy. We have to open the eyes of the soul, because they see differently than the eyes of the body. Nowadays, everyone has the tendency to criticize everything and everyone, but we must be careful not to live by sensitivity but by reason.

We must seek the most effective way to live! We all have things that go against holiness.

The devil bothers us, this is why we have to go to confession. We must always renew ourselves. The only one who can help us to achieve this is the Holy Spirit. You have a responsibility, to yourself and to the people to whom you have given the word as a Christian, and as a consecrated person. Never forget that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are important and that you must seek His fruits. This is the main thing to ask for in prayer. When you pray, thank God for all that He has given you and ask for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially the gift of Wisdom that we need so much to know what we have to do at every moment.

Dear Adorers, I hope that this brief reflection on a conversation with the friend of a saint may inspire you to continue praying. Ask for us consecrated people the particular assistance of the Holy Spirit, as well as docility to His inspirations, because we need much of the divine gifts to persevere in the good and to be able to reach holiness. God must want us to know how to assume our responsibilities, because, as Wanda used to say, we must consciously go to heaven! Pray that we may know how to embrace God’s will generously at every moment, so that many more people may know the way to heaven.

May God reward you for your prayers and sacrifices offered, which are the great support of the Mystical Body of the Church.

 

Maria de Anima Christi van Eijk

22 October 2023, Memorial of St. John Paul the Great

Missionary in Khabarovsk, Far East Russia

 

[1] The quotations in this first paragraph are taken from an article by Card. Saraiva Martins, “The Gospel of Suffering”.