This summer, I was with a group of young Americans who were able to attend the 2017 Akedemia Letnia, or Summer Academy, in Niepolomice, Poland.
Watch the video here:
Every year, the Polish TFP -- known locally as the Father Piotr Skarga Institute -- puts on a conference lasting close to a week, offering the participants a Catholic perspective on history and the current situation of the world. In particular, they learn how moral policies affect socio-political ones and change nations. But more than this, the conference also offers guidelines on how to deal with the crisis in which we find modern society.
This year, the theme centered on the apparitions of Fatima, which, being an instance of God intervening in history directly, is automatically one of the most important events of the past century. Emphasis was given to what Our Lady called the “”, which, if Russia did not convert, would spread throughout the world. These errors are identified not only as communism, but so-called “ ,” which was encouraged by a , who desired "liberation" not only from social, political, and economic "oppressors" but all moral constraints.
It is evident that Russia did not convert; her errors have spread to every corner of the earth, scarring families and leaving nations in ruins.
Conference attendants were from nearly every country in Europe. Some from large, well known Catholic countries like France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and of course, a much larger group from Poland. Others were from notoriously liberal countries such as Sweden and the Netherlands. There was also, for the first time, a representative from China. Even more came from small, European countries whose names seldom reach American ears: Croatia, Slovakia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Because these countries experienced theof the errors of Russia, they were all the more open to the message of Fatima.
Bishop Athanasius Schneider graced the conference with his presence. In a question-and-answer, he spoke about the that was recently built in his diocese of Astana, Kazakhstan, proof that beautiful buildings can be constructed even in our times. The church is dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima, who, as we have seen, is relevant even in places as remote as Kazakhstan.
A welcome surprise was a visit of the International Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Fatima, the same statue which miraculouslyin 1972. She happened to be free for a few days because of an unexpected cancellation.
Our Lady of Fatima appeared in 1917 to give us a solution to our modern dilemma: conversion and penance. If we convert as a society, a religious solution, non-religious problems too will be solved; just as when an individual converts, putting his soul in order, all the other aspects of his life tend to find order.
An example of this in history was found when we went to Jasna Gora (Polish for “Bright Mountain”), whereappeared. Jasna Gora was the last fortress still held by the Catholic Poles, when Poland was being invaded by the Protestant Swedes. The Swedes used three arguments to convince the Poles to surrender, which may sound familiar to practicing Catholics today:
- “You are alone. Your resistance accomplishes nothing, because you've already lost the war.”
- “If you were really religious men, you would pray instead of fight.”
- “If you surrender, all the joys of the world will be yours, from silver and gold to settling down and living a normal life.”
But with grace, the Catholics persevered, and Our Lady appeared several times, causing the Protestants to eventually give up their attack.
In this same spirit, we pray and hope that with grace, dedication, and correspondence to grace, our own nation can also lead the resistance to contemporary errors. As St. Joan of Arc famously said, “The men will fight and God will grant the victory!”
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!
Our Lady of Czestochowa, pray for us!