Stefan Wyszynski was a Catholic bishop in Poland who was imprisoned by the Polish communists after World War 2 for resisting the agenda to destroy the Church and turn Poland into an atheist state. Thanks in part to his efforts, the Catholic Church of Poland actually grew during communism as Poles sought out meaning not provided by the empty materialism of communism. Bishop Wyszynski is seen today as a Polish hero who stood by his faith and his people. A Freedom Within: The Prison Notes of Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski is a memoir of his experience as a prisoner.
Dealing with unjust authority
If a citizen does not demand his rights, he is no longer a citizen. He becomes a slave.
…any form of government, no matter how ruthless, will slowly cool and wane as it runs up against difficulties that the bureaucrat cannot resolve without cooperation from the people. Somehow the people must be taken into account.
It is significant to note how little contemporary men learn from history. Mighty empires fell more quickly as they increased the intensity of their violence.
We can take examples from ancient history: weaker countries often managed to survive longer than states ruling with slavish tyranny. Recent examples could also be cited (Hitler’s state). The ruler seeks peace, and so do the citizens. Let the ruler leave the citizens in peace, and he will achieve peace himself and be able to maintain peacefully all he possesses. The ruler fears revenge against his violence. Police states are violent states. In conditions such as these, only a priest can find a way to defend the citizens.
They proposed that I select a monastery in which to stay, a new mutually acceptable place, to promise not to leave the premises, to abstain from any declarations and statements, to counteract any petitions and manifestations. I declined to answer.
My place is in the cathedrals of Gniezno and Warsaw. I can discuss only that. I cannot cooperate in deliberations newly depriving me of my freedom; that would only make me a voluntary prisoner. The voluntary surrender of freedom is an expression of a citizen’s moral ruin. If today I refused to defend my right to freedom, I would not be able to defend the freedom of my country if the need should arise. Only a free citizen is able to defend his freedom. A citizen oppressed in his own country cannot hope to defend it.
Bishop Wyszynski is the kind of Christian I want to be when subjected to the psychological and medical tortures of today’s secular globalist regime. I want to look at the police officer who makes an unjust demand upon me, such as to inject myself with a toxic serum in order to participate in buying and selling, say “no I will not,” and suffer the consequences in the name of Lord Jesus Christ, whatever they may be. I already have crossed a line of acceptability during the first round of lockdowns by sometimes wearing a face mask within stores when asked, but I can’t go any further than that, and so I’m preparing myself for a showdown with the state, a challenge I cannot win, but I know it will put me closer to almighty God, thereby granting me strength to suffer for the truth in a similar way as our Lord suffered as God-man on this earth.
A person who believes very strongly expects to receive everything from God quickly, and any delay makes him anxious. It is not lack of faith, but rather surprise that there is conflict between the power of God and His goodness. I worry about those who believe very strongly in the efficacy of prayer. They should not want too speedy a result from their prayer, and they should not give up if God’s response is slow in coming. I knew from the outset that my case needs to drag on. God requires it. And it is not so much “my” case as the case of the Church. And such cases take time.
I’ve been a Christian for a couple of years now. Why aren’t I a saint yet? Don’t I read enough books? Don’t I pray enough? Where are all my spiritual gifts? While I jest, many want to receive benefits from just a little spiritual effort, and to such impatience the demons will happily oblige with a variety of spiritual experiences. I look at the Orthodox elders I have met, one of whom has been a monk for over 50 years, and I understand that there is no shortcut to time, that while God’s transformation of souls upon their rebirth through baptism and repentance is powerful indeed, any change that goes beyond the ability of the soul to handle will shatter it, and so we must wait for God to change us and grant gifts that are appropriate for our spiritual level.
Love your enemies
I received no Christmas letter from my father, although it was difficult to imagine him sending the package without a letter. But I forgave my guardians this need to demonstrate their power over me. They would never force me to hate them, no matter what they did.
I feel a deep sense of injustice suffered at the hand of the government. I feel I was especially hurt by Mr. Mazur, who was aware of my sincere efforts to bring about an atmosphere of peace in working on the relationship between the Church and the government. I bear no grudge against President Bierut, although I think that he did not fulfill his duty to defend a citizen who was unlawfully denied his freedom. In spite of this, I have no feelings of animosity toward any of these people. I wouldn’t even know how to hurt them in the least way. It seems to me that I have the truth on my side, that I am still filled with love, that I am a Christian and a child of my Church, which has taught me to love people, even those who wish to consider me their enemy, to change my feelings toward my neighbors.
The shortest way to an internal reconciliation with those who wrong us is to remember the question posed by Christ to Judas: “My friend, for what purpose hast thou come?” Still “friend”! Christ always used a word that revealed the essence of the matter. The traitor a “friend” of the Saviour! Because the Saviour wishes to redeem the world and Judas helps Him by his treachery, he becomes an involuntary instrument in the plans of Christ, he cooperates with Him. A collaborator in the Redemption. All of our enemies, against their will, cooperate with us, and contribute to the release of divine power in us. Perhaps they do not even realize what a great favor they are doing for a person who knows how to take advantage of God’s mercy, who wants to take advantage of the grace of suffering. What of it that they want to be my enemies, when in them I only see friends and collaborators in the work of my redemption?
Not long ago I was severely hurt by a Christian who dealt with me in a non-Christian manner. My fallen instinct was to get angry at this individual and enact revenge, but upon praying, I let go of this notion and prayed for him instead, completely forgiving him though he did not apologize to me. Now that I can look back at how easily God allowed me to endure this trial, I am thankful for that painful experience because it helped me address my lingering anger and pride, and know that the secular habits I learned throughout my life have not yet escaped me, and that I must always be diligent and watchful when interacting with others so that, if a situation goes out of my favor, I don’t respond in ways that I would have in the past.
“The prison cell reveals the truth”
I must concede that all Your ways are mercy and truth! Suffering is diluted in the experience of love. Punishment ceases to be retaliation, because it is a medicine administered with fatherly gentleness. Sadness that torments the soul becomes the plowing of fallow ground for new seed. Loneliness becomes the act of gazing at You more closely. The malice of men is an education in silence and humility. Separation from one’s work brings an increase in one’s diligence and dedication. The prison cell reveals the truth: we have no permanent dwelling here… Let no one, then, think ill of You, Father; let no one assault You with accusations of severity—for You are good, for Your mercy is everlasting.
My misery does not hinder me in serving the mercy of God by providing people with the benefits that the world regards as most valuable. This was how Christ himself lived—scorned by the mob, ragged, beaten, covered with street mud, spat upon. And yet it was He Who saved the world—and saved it even though the world sneered at its Saviour. How closely these two roads parallel each other. My inadequacy is supported by sacramental grace; the “inadequacy” of Jesus the Man is supported by His divinity… Let the world laugh, as long as the work of redemption is effected.
To give witness to Christ while in chains is the same kind of obligation as in the pulpit. It is therefore not a waste of time to remain in prison in the name of Christ. This is why God allowed so many servants of the Church to remain in prisons even when the crops in the fields were ripening, ready for the harvest. Saint Paul, during his most ardent missionary work, was abducted to prison, and he served terms in Jerusalem, in Caesarea, and in Rome. The history of the church makes a substantial contribution to the history of prisons.
Saint John Chrysostom writes from his exile to the bishops, priests, and faithful: “You are in prison, and you are bound with chains. What better fate can you have? What does a golden crown on the head—what does a chain binding the hand—offer God? What do possessions, what does a prison full of darkness, filth, and suffering? Rejoice, then, and don a wreath, because sufferings prepare you for great happiness. They are the seeds promising a rich harvest, the struggle that will bring victory and palms.
Our regime has innovated imprisonment, making it not within a cell but within our own homes, with faces covered, six feet away from those with whom we love. Some mothers are even imposing “scientific” guidance of imprisonment to their own children, locking them away in bedrooms and only making contact to feed them, just like a real prison. There are too many prisoners, and not enough prison guards, so the imprisonment we face will be as psychological as physical. That want us to lose our minds, and through this we will sterilize and neutralize ourselves in fear and pose no threat or resistance to the oligarchs who think they will live forever in their towers of Babel once merging with the transhumanist cloud, but if you are a Christian, this psychological imprisonment will result not in sterilization but a ripe harvest of good deeds, faith, and ultimately, the salvation of millions of souls who foremost trust in Lord Jesus Christ for the only freedom worth its name.
Purifying the soul
Christ spoke about whited sepulchers. It is strange how man likes to conceal what is dirty by painting over it. After all, a whitewashed wall does not cease to be dirty underneath. Is that perhaps why people paint their faces, because they already see in them the decay of the grave? Is that perhaps why they reach for perfume because they realized that something within is rotting? Or perhaps why they dress more and more meticulously, because they are beginning to look worse and worse within? Do they want to vaunt their used merchandise in new wrappings? The Egyptians painted mummies, knowing that there was no longer any life in them. Is history also to repeat itself here? And so, we should cry aloud, “Water!” But Living Water, not the kind of water for which the Samaritan woman went to Jacob’s well. What is needed is the water with which she returned to town. The Water of Christ. Because this Water reaches usque ad animam meam [to my very soul].
For two days I have been in the hands of the medical clinics in Opole. I use the term “clinics” rather than doctors, because they behave like automatons: efficiently, professionally, almost infallibly, but without the medical spirit. For the unfortunate patient, these people have no human side, something an ailing body needs more than a prescription. We have here a bureaucrat for whom propaganda is more important than medicine. His conscientiousness, his politeness, his efforts are not for the patient but for an unknown third party, who orders him to make a good impression, to be polite and thorough. The presence of this third party is felt so strongly that the patient is reduced to the level of an object, a bureaucratic piece to be disposed of as instructed.
Are you surprised that communist medicine of the 1950s looks so much like modern medicine? Do you believe that most doctors today, as they prescribe pills and inject you with experimental sludge, actually care about your health? My experiences state that they care more about their jobs, bank accounts, homes, cars, and lifestyle than the catastrophic consequences of their advice, and if you say I’m being too extreme in my judgment, that I’m maligning an entire profession that was “ordained” to do absolutely no harm, I ask you to show me the fruits of their supposed loving care that is dictated more by greedy pharmaceutical companies and the likes of Bill Gates than any notion of science. Today I believe there is more healing in holy anointing oil that is placed on my forehead in the figure of the cross during Orthodox vigil services on Saturday evening than any toxic substances doctors push onto me in the name of a monstrous ideal of physical health.
[There are] contemporary “progressive” Catholics. “Progressive” in what? In evil. They make constant progress in succumbing to all, increasingly weak, temptations. Am I to be scandalized by them? No, rather I should grow wiser, so that I myself will not be tempted by the devil.
I’m bored of attacking lukewarm Christians. They’ve chosen their lot in life, with the free will that God gave them, and so let them live it. I much rather share the truth of Orthodoxy and for those who have ears to hear, let them hear.
A warning I must give about this book is that veneration of the Mother of God is very heavy, and that’s coming from a member of the Orthodox Church where her veneration is already heavy. If you’re Protestant, you will undoubtedly be chafed. Another complaint is that some of the family letters he excerpted were mundane, but I could see them as necessary for creating an accurate picture of what he was going through while imprisoned. Overall, A Freedom Within was an excellent book that has better prepared me for the fast-approaching Antichrist era, and I recommend it for all Christians who expect the times to get a lot tougher than they are now.
(Note: Used copies of this book are expensive but you can borrow an electronic copy for two weeks at Archive.org.)
Learn More: A Freedom Within: The Prison Notes of Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski on Amazon