Thursday, June 12, 2014
Salesian Polish Martyrs: Young Men of Faith!
The Salesian oratory at Poznań, Poland, has its martyrs: Edward Klinik (23), Francis Kesy (22), Jarogniew Wojciechowski (20), Czesław Józwiak (22), and Edward Kaźmierski (23). Today we celebrate their memorial and thank God for their witness to the faith and to the Salesian Family!The five young men were fully committed to their human and Christian development and were involved in working with their companions, sharing similar interests and their personal and community projects. Arrested within days of each other and imprisoned briefly in different places, they were then put in the same prison and suffered martyrdom the same day and in the same way.
Fr. Vecchi (our Salesian Rector Major at the time of the beatification) spoke about them in this way on the occasion of their beatification: “Each of them had his own particular biography which then became inter-twined with that of the others in the common Salesian setting that prepared them in a human and spiritual way to embrace martyrdom.” These young men give outstanding proof of the strong formative influence of life at the oratory, when there is opportunity for co-responsibility, when the educational approach is personalized and when the Salesians are capable of guiding the youngsters along the path of faith and grace. They were arrested by the Nazis in September 1940 and imprisoned in Fortress VII in Poznań. They were then moved first to the Neukoln prison, and then to Zwickau, where they were questioned and tortured and then condemned to hard labor. Two notes show that we are dealing with giants of the spirit: “God alone knows what we are suffering. Prayer was our only support in the darkest nights and days.” “God has given us this cross, and he is giving us the strength to carry it.” They were condemned to death for treason on August 1, 1942. The verdict was followed by a long silence until one of the five exclaimed: “Thy will be done.” They were condemned simply for belonging to Catholic organizations, which it was suspected might give rise to resistance movements.
Before they died they were able to write to their parents. Reading these lines one is astounded as before the truly great. As an example there are the words written by Francis: “My dearest parents, brothers and sisters, the time has come to say goodbye to you on August 24, the day of Mary Help of Christians … May the Good Lord take me to himself. Don’t have regrets that I am leaving this world so young. I am now in a state of grace. ... I am going to heaven. There I shall pray to God … Pray sometimes for me … I’m going now.” They were taken into the prison yard in Dresden and beheaded. The monthly commemoration of Mary Help of Christians was being celebrated in our communities on that day. For more information on these young martyrs please check out the Salesian site here.