5: My Great Revolution
understand everything is to forgive everything.
a year of working at the Intensive Care Unit I had a nervous breakdown.
I couldn’t bear the stress at work, the excessive drinking and the deteriorating
relationships with both my family and my colleagues anymore. To make things
worse, I was haunted by the feeling that my life was meaningless. I travelled
to Kraków and Rabka every time I had some time to spare. I just
couldn’t cut the umbilical cord between me and my reliable drinking company.
rest of my free time I devoted to planning revenge on my university mate,
who was an important persona in the social elite of “my” new town, Bielsko-Bia?a
(which I was growing to dislike more and more). I was angry with him for
his rather disastrous attempt to introduce me to his social circles. I
invited him to visit me at work and have a little chat. The initial plan
was that I would welcome him with a punch, which would send him to the
other side of the corridor and thus finish our get-together at the same
time. However, I chose to handle it differently and that was a breakthrough
decision for my life.
explain where it came from, I need to go back to an event which took place
in Che?m Lubelski during my military training in 1982.
a two-month stay in the barracks, together with some other officer cadet
doctors we used every opportunity we had to get drunk. The army unit was
surrounded by a wall, and there was a little house leaning against it from
the other side. The house, which we called a den, was a place where you
could always get vodka. The guard, in exchange for “a half-litre”,
would turn a blind eye on our forays to the other side of the wall. Also,
when we were on a ‘pass’, we would go to a hotel bar, where we would have
a drop of the hard stuff. On these occasions I was usually accompanied
by my friend Marek, the only med student with whom I got on really well.
He was my guardian angel. He was always there for me in the critical moments.
remember the last three days of the army training. I woke up in Marek’s
car near Rzeszów, and as I found out later, he had handed over my
uniform and had completed all the formalities for me.
one of my ‘passes’, which I think was about three weeks before the end
of the training, we were exhausted after a three-day drinking spree, so
we decided to do something different and completely unusual for us—we went
for a walk. We walked around an old, neglected and mysterious cemetery.
I was trying to guess people’s life stories from the inscriptions on the
tombstones. Some of them were cracked, others covered with moss. The inscriptions
were in Polish, Russian, German, Yiddish…Suddenly I found myself looking
at an askew tombstone, with an old inscription, which said, “Tout comprendre
c’est tout pardonner” (To understand everything is to forgive everything).
I remembered some French from secondary school, so I translated it into
Polish, but I did not understand the message behind these words. It was
the only writing on that stone. There was no name, or date, but I was taken
by a strong feeling that I had not come across this grave by coincidence.
The message was a puzzle for me. I had always tried to understand the world,
other people, myself. But what does forgiveness have to do with reason,
philosophy and knowledge? There was no connection between forgiveness and
knowledge in my book. Although I didn’t understand the message, I was inspired
by its mysteriousness. I decided to remember the sentence, as my intuition
was telling me that it might become my personal motto one day.
years later, I was waiting for my friend to visit me. Just before his arrival
I thought to myself, ‘Maybe now is the time to apply “my” motto to my life.’
Instead of starting a fight, I started a conversation during which I told
my friend I held no grudge against him anymore. From then on I began to
see things more clearly… That’s right! Hatred and lack of forgiveness make
us blind and unable to comprehend the truth. To understand is to know the
truth. And truth is found in humility, not only in knowledge. Astonishing…
I felt like I had found a trace to solve the mystery of life. Soon after
that I went to a few parties to “relax” and the noble note went down the
to the point of my drinking spree which felt like a combination of delirium
and psychosis. One night I decided to quit the Intensive Care unit.
I got on my motorbike MZ 250 and went to Rabka, where my sister lived,
which obviously raised my family’s concerns. The following day my brother-in-law
and I got into his Fiat car. He was clearly irritated by my prolonged visit,
so I decided to placate him a little. And the best thing to do in such
cases is to complain about your heavy lot. Not that there was much to complain
about in my lot. As a matter of fact, everything was just fine. I was still
the tough guy who had life by the ‘short and curlies’. That conversation
would be a make-believe of self-pity—just to get him on my side.
see, Krzys, there’s so much trouble in my life right now (just some minor
difficulties), things are not going well in my family (it’s nothing serious),
and it’s even worse at work (it doesn’t really bother me, there are more
important things in life than work).’
some point of this fake complaining something weird started happening to
me… I couldn’t stop talking and as I went on, I realized that I wasn’t
just inventing stories to placate my brother-in-law, somehow I was telling
the truth. I began to see that my life was nearly ruined! Tears came to
my eyes. I began the confession of my life. My brother-in-law, Krzysztof,
was a patient confessor and the confessional was his Fiat 126p! I felt
a strange thrill moving from the top of my head to the tips of my toes.
I hadn’t experienced anything like that before …It was a completely new
feeling. Poor Krzysiek, he had no idea what was going on inside me. From
then on, everything began to change. I felt the need to go to church and
confess my sins.
days later, I went to Kraków and met with Grazyna. She offered to
pray with me. This time I did not object.
must give your live to God!’ There was a part of me that knew she was right.
you want to invite Jesus into your heart and make him your Lord?’
do, I really do…’
the prayer after Gra?yna:
Jesus, I give my life to you. Lead me according to your will; be my Lord
and my King!’
the next few days I discovered that my faith grew astoundingly. I remember
walking down Karmelicka Street, in Kraków and being utterly astonished
at my previous disbelief in God. How could I think that Gospel stories
were nothing but legends and that believing in them was only old ladies’
business?! Now I don’t just believe, I know that God is there! He is in
me, he is around me! The Death and Resurrection of Jesus are facts. How
could I have any doubts about that?!
intense experience lasted for a few weeks. It has not come back in this
form again, but my faith has grown through many years of various tests.
As I was pondering all that had happened to me, I came to a district of
Kraków called Bronowice. Apparently a church was being built there.
I came up to a wooden building with a notice board next to it and went
in through the open door. A man leant against the landing balustrade.
you looking for someone?’
I’m looking for a priest’
something happened?’, asked the young man on the landing. He was wearing
a bathrobe and his hair was wet.
serious. I just need confession.’
on a moment, I’ll just get dressed’, he replied.
later he reappeared in his soutane, the hair still wet. He invited me to
his room. I gave him the whole story….how I had broken all of the Ten Commandments.
As part of my penance I had to read some voluminous chapters from
the Bible and I promised to mend my ways. I was told that God had forgiven
me my sins. Then the most amazing thing happened. The priest stood up from
his chair and as I was doing the same, he stretched his arms and held me
close to his heart.
said to me ‘I’m glad you came! It’s good to have you back!’,.
very moment most of my prejudice against priests and the Catholic Church
following week Grazyna invited me to a prayer event at the Dominicans’.
It took place in the chapter house. It started with a testimony of a young
man who moonlighted as a receptionist in The Holiday Inn to earn some money
for his studies. He hadn’t always worked within the borderlines of the
law, but when he met Jesus, his life had changed completely and he gave
up his shady businesses. After his testimony, people started praying out
loud, all at the same time and many of them lifted up their hands. Then
they sang melodiously and clapped their hands rhythmically. I noticed that
there was a music team who played guitars, an electric organ and a few
trumpets. At some point they all started singing in a monotonous tone,
without any words. It sounded a bit like an accord which was building up
harmoniously as more and more voices were tuning in. I assumed that this
was the song that Ewa was so keen to demonstrate to me a few years back.
After a brief assessment of the situation, I realized that here, I was
in my element. I even decided to join in the song—fully aware that I wasn’t
competent enough, as I had not taken any course on the Holy Spirit before.
I was hoping no one would notice my lack of experience and that God would
forgive me, if I sang out of key. He probably did.
time after that prayer meeting I went to confession again. This time my
penance was to recite a litany. When I left the confessional, the mass
was about to begin and I really wanted to receive Holy Communion. However,
I was facing a problem: Can I receive Communion in advance and then ask
someone where to find litanies—in the Bible, or maybe in a prayer book
(which by the way I did not possess)? I decided to ask someone competent
for advice. I went straight to the sacristy. I knocked on the door and,
as I was entering the room, I saw a tall, bald man with glasses who was
putting on his white habit.
me, I’ve only got one quick question’, I started.
I explained what my problem was, the Dominican looked at me in amazement,
then he patted me on the shoulder and said:
and receive Holy Communion, and I will recite the litany for you! That’ll
I learned afterwards, it was Father Joachim Badeni who was later to become
my great friend and mentor of my faith.
2011 Andrzej Solecki
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