The grace of faith

Testimony of Janusz Paczkowski – commander of the Order of Knights of John Paul II in the Diocese of Płock, delivered on August 5, 2020 at the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Płock.

This is my first time to give my testimony in public. My whole life is one great Divine Mercy. I was born very sick. My mother felt helpless and offered me to Our Lady of Smardzewska. Three years earlier, my two brothers died. I grew up in great poverty. That was sixty-one years ago. There was no "500 plus", but there was great faith .... Maybe thanks to this faith, passed on by my mother and grandmother, I am with you here today. "Jesus, I trust in You" are the words I say many times a day. Not only on the occasion of the recitation of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

I often repeat in my heart: Jesus, not only do I trust You, but also I love You very much, I am like a little child. Without you, I am nobody,; everything I have, I give it to you every day. Everything I do, I do it for Your glory. That you would be glorified Jesus, that You Will be fulfilled in me. I am asking you to let as many people as possible come to you every day. No matter what price I pay here on earth, I only want to serve you. It is important that you are glorified by me and by others through me. Jesus, You reward me with Your Love, You give me strength, inspiration and faith. You know how helpless I am, so every day I give You my imperfection and poverty. I take these words from the Diary of St. Faustina: “The greater the the sinner, the greater the right has to My” (Diary 1570). I give You my misery and imperfection every day. Merciful Jesus, who came here to this holy place ninety years ago, allowing me to act - despite many adversities that I experience - I give you everything. This is my lifelong goal.

I am asking you, Jesus, as Your slave and as the slave of Your Mother -  to whom I gave myself thirty years ago according to the instructions of St. Louis de Montfort, that I may be burnt by the fire of Your Love. I understood and experienced that people who cultivate devotion to the Blessed Mother are also worshipers of the Divine Mercy.

I was lucky to work for Bishop Zbigniew Józef Kraszewski - an auxiliary bishop in the newly created Warsaw-Praga Diocese (1992) - a Mariologist bishop, and earlier Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński's closest associate. It was he who showed me the way of living faith. The bishop once told me that when he met Sister Lucia in Cova da Iria and asked her about the Apparitions in Fatima, the Sister replied: “The Apparitions of Fatima are the first part, and the Revelations of Merciful Jesus are the second part of God's great plan for humanity. Both are to prepare the world for the coming of the Lord.”

There was no sermon in which Bishop Kraszewski did not refer to Our Lady and Merciful Jesus. On the coat of arms he had a Marian sign and the exclamation "Maria Vincit", meaning "Mary conquers". He often repeated: Mary conquers. A unique place is connected with this call - the Co-Cathedral Church in Kamionek, where the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Victory is located, the patron saint of the Warsaw-Praga Diocese. This year, on August 13 to be exact, we will celebrate another anniversary of the dedication of this church. It will be the day inaugurating the diocesan celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the victorious Battle of Warsaw in 1920.

Bishop Zbigniew Józef Kraszewski knew Fr. Michał Sopoćko - the confessor of Saint Faustina Kowalska. Fr. Michał Sopoćko gave him the image of Merciful Jesus along with a letter for the local church in Warsaw. Since there was already a similar picture in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Victory, painted earlier, without the inscription "Jesus, I trust in You", for over twenty years the picture presented by Father Sopoćko stayed in the apartment of His Excellency. Currently, it is in Kalisz, in a Jesuit church, thanks to Father Zdzisław Pałubicki - a well-known Jesuit and missionary from Kalisz, a promoter of the Divine Mercy, whom I was fortunate enough to meet personally and collaborate with him for many years.

There is one more important place on my way to the Divine Mercy, i.e. the Cathedral of the Warsaw-Prague Diocese, where the image of Merciful Jesus is located. In the seventies of the last century, the first devotion to the Divine Mercy in Poland was celebrated, more or less officially. The first service in the seventies was led by Fr. Archbishop Bronisław Dąbrowski together with Fr. Bishop Zbigniew Kraszewski. Later, they were regularly celebrated on the fifth day of the month, on the day St. Faustina died.

In the nineties, I often took part in them. It is worth mentioning that this painting was brought to Warsaw by Brother Józef from the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, together with Brother Marian Markewicz - the driver of Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, whom he took to the conclave. It was significant that this common journey was only one way. The Pope was then supposed to jokingly say: "What have you done, that I must stay here ...?" 

Every day before work, I experience the grace of praying in front of this image. This is the greatest miracle in my life - the grace of faith. Yes, and a miracle was a random incident in my family. My son was involved in a car accident which he was ... you could say both the perpetrator and the victim. After the wreckage of the car, it could be concluded that no one had a chance of survival. Meanwhile, nothing happened to my son. The force of the impact threw him through the rear window without any harm to his health. It can be said that he did not even break his finger. But the car was completely scrapped. It happened on Saturday, the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday. I learned about it on my way to Mława, while travelling with Father Grzegorz Przybyłek - an exorcist of the Diocese of Płock, to a meeting of prayer groups with Bp. Piotr Libera. 

Coming back to the Warsaw-Prague Cathedral - I feel that when I'm there I always think about Płock, where it all began. Providence meant that in Warsaw I was able to meet many worshipers of the Divine Mercy, one could say "God's madmen": the aforementioned Fr. Bishop Zbigniew Kraszewski and Pallottine Father Feliks Folejewski - known in the community of the cult of Divine Mercy. Father Feliks had such a serious heart defect that, from a human point of view, he should not be alive. He told me that on his heart he had been bearing the image of the Merciful Jesus of St. Wicentego Pallote. He was a man of great faith. And also Father Mirosław Drozdek - a Pallottine, who built the National Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima in Krzeptówki in Zakopane, and Anatol Kaszczuk, about whom we could talk for hours - the author of the Legions of Mary in Poland - the great advocate of Divine Mercy. Thanks to him that many images of the Divine Mercy and figures, hundreds... if not thousands of rosaries were delivered beyond the eastern border of Poland. Personally, in the nineties, I helped him to pack them.

From the devotees of God's Mercy, I learned how to love Jesus, serve Him immensely and worship His Mother; how to fight adversity and take care of every human being. But the most important thing in all this was humility, on which I must work every day, entrusting each day to Christ.

For me, the greatest reward is that I can be here today with you, in this holy place, sharing the love of Christ and His great mercy, who, out of concern for us, announced ninety years ago saving the world, that is, the great Divine Mercy. We have to trust Him. I often repeat - "Jesus, I trust in You", and with St. Ludwik Maria Grignion de Montfort - "Totus Tuus" - all yours.

– Fr. dr Tomasz Brzeziński: Thank you for the testimony given, especially for the prayer, which was its essential element. You mentioned to me in a private conversation that you once initiated the recitation of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in the parish church. Could you develop this idea?

– Janusz Paczkowski: It was year 1985. I was living in Pałuki then. The parish priest in my parish - the church of Saint Gotard was Fr. Józef Pokorski. I found out about the Chaplet of Divine Mercy early, in the 1970s. We tried to say this prayer in my family home. When I learned that there is such a possibility to say it also in the church, I asked the parish priest with a suggestion to hang the image of Merciful Jesus in the church and to pray together in the parish. But it was only a year later that this initiative was accepted. I remember that a parish priest came to me and said that a village had bought a painting of Merciful Jesus and if I would have helped to hang it in the church. It was an opportunity to go back to our conversation of a year ago. I suggested that I could lead the Chaplet of Divine Mercy every Sunday at 3 p.m. And so, since 1986, this prayer and the Litany of the Divine Mercy have been recited in our parish. The service was not always understood by the parishioners. Some of them complained to the parish priest in Pałuki that I was introducing a new faith and queried whether it was some kind of heresy or not. 

When I moved to Warsaw in 1990 to work as a driver and secretary of Bp. Zbigniew Kraszewski, the next stage of my expectations was the official announcement of the first Sunday after Easter as the Feast of Divine Mercy. I have been waiting longingly for this moment. I remember that every year on this day we went to the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow-Łagiewniki. After the death of the bishop, I started to come to Płock. I remember, shyly standing somewhere in the corner of the Płock sanctuary, starring at the image of Merciful Jesus. And today? - I stand in front of you at the altar and give my testimony. Isn’t this a sign of God's Mercy? I am very happy about it. I would also like to say that for us, the Knights of John Paul II, this place is special. This is our second home that we will always serve.

– Robert Raczkowski: Many people look and do not see God's Mercy. Could you say how you notice Divine Mercy, where you see it, how it manifests itself in everyday life?

– Janusz Paczkowski: God's mercy is our life. We do not realize how merciful God is. We must learn to read it: “You have eyes, and you cannot see; you have ears, and you can't hear? " (Mk 8:18) Thank you for the beautiful question that my first deputy, Brother Robert, asked me. I would like to take this opportunity to say that the Knights of John Paul II perform many works. Among others, they support the Sisters and the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Płock. As the rector mentioned, there are one hundred and three of us. We are the second largest in the world. We have only been operating for two years. Our seat is precisely this place, the most important in the diocese and one of the most important in the world. And our patron is one of the greatest saints of our land, apart from St. Stanisław Kostka - martyr, St. Archbishop Antoni Julian Nowowiejski. I am convinced that the Archbishop blesses us in this work, gives us strength, and indicates parishes where we can develop so dynamically. There are many challenges that we set for ourselves. A mobile exhibition entitled Discover the place chosen by Jesus that we want to show not merely in our diocese will open in a moment. Here is its beginning, because from this place the Divine Mercy spread out over the whole world.

– Hanna: Recently, I was surprised by the information that we should not say "For His Sorrowful Passion", but "For Jesus’ Sorrowful Passion". What is the correct form of this prayer?

– S. Jolanta Pietrasińska: The Chaplet of Divine Mercy was dictated to Sister Faustina by the Lord Jesus. The fragment that you asked about is recorded in the Diary under number 476 and reads: For the sake of His sorrowful passion ... - this is the correct form, not For Jesus’ sorrowful Passion ...

– Fr. Dr. Tomasz Brzeziński: There is such a temptation to ‘improve’ the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Instead of For His..., we sometimes use the phrase For Jesus’ Sorrowful Passion. Let's not do this. Let us follow this correct, officially established version, as it is written in the original For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion.... It is similar with other prayers, where, for example, instead of Our Father..., we say My Father.... Where there is a singular, let's use it. Let's not ‘improve’ anything. I encourage you to read the testimony of Sister Elżbieta Siepak, released on the website of the Shrine of Płock, which we had the opportunity to welcome in Płock not so long ago. In it, Sister Elżbieta Siepak explains a number of over-interpretations related to Sister Faustina's Diary.

– Lidia: Could you say something more about the Knights of John Paul II, mainly in terms of the number of members in the Płock Diocese, in Poland and in the world?

– Janusz Paczkowski: The order was founded nine years ago at the Warsaw-Prague Cathedral, when Bishop Henryk Franciszek Hoser was the diocese's pastor, on the day when Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II. W established to imitate our compatriot, the Polish Pope, taking over his charisma and teachings. In total, there are about eight hundred of us in Poland and in the world, in sixteen diocesan commanderies. We have our provinces in Ukraine, Canada, Austria and the one under construction in France. In order for such a diocesan commandery to be established, it must be approved by a decree of the local bishop. In our Diocese of Płock, we received such a decree on the erection two years ago from the hands of His Excellency, Bp. Piotr Libera, exactly on the 88th anniversary of the first Revelation of Merciful Jesus to Sister Faustina. There are sixteen groups in the Warsaw-Praga Diocese, ten in the Warsaw Diocese, and twelve in the Płock Diocese. The Knights of John Paul II is are the youngest order in the world. Everywhere where grpups are created, parish priests repeat that knights are living monuments ...

– Jolanta: How do the faith and mission undertaken by the Knights of John Paul II translate into everyday life?

– Janusz Paczkowski: It is God who gives us strength. I have four sons, three granddaughters, but there are also young people among us who have small children. All with many things to do, they still find time to serve in the order. We are obliged to meet at the altar with a flag once a month, wearing the mozzetta. We need to explore the patronal reading, say prayers for the intentions sent via text messages. The knight has to pray the rosary every day, and as he is on the second stage, also the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Not everyone can join the order. The candidate is admitted on the basis of an opinion issued by the parish priest. We work for the social image through internal formation and a good example for others. Our ranks include representatives of various professions, including uniformed ones.

– Robert Raczkowski: I would like to complete Janusz's statement. I know your intentions and the meaning of the question asked and I will say that the more a person becomes involved in everyday life... in this mind-boggling rush, omnipresent chaos, I get the impression that the more he distances himself from God. Meanwhile, following the mission of the Knights of John Paul II, we are coming back…. seeing God's mercy, seeing it at every step, and with our actions we want to support others, thus showing that God does not leave us alone in all this. That's when you can feel His closeness that he is with us. Even in the worst situations... I have experienced it myself in my life. And it is this miracle of Divine Mercy that we do not notice every day. But when we notice it, the world will take on a different dimension, and we will be happy with everything that surrounds us... with greenery, sun rays, and the fact that we meet wonderful people on our way. It is a miracle that we can meet people on our way, thanks to whom we can be better.

– S. Jolanta Pietrasińska: I would like to ask Brother Commander what feature of John Paul II's spirituality is closest to you. Is there any essence to what you want to make present through your ministry?

– Janusz Paczkowski: Just like St. John Paul II we want to radiate goodness to others. The Holy Father, despite his greatness, did not divide people, he respected every human being. I was lucky to be close to him many times. And we want to share with others the closeness, goodness and respect for each human being taught by the Holy Father John Paul II. But this is only the beginning of the teaching we have undertaken.

– Fr. Dr. Tomasz Brzeziński: Let me add that for the needs of the formation of the Brothers in the Order, an appropriate reading of the teaching of John Paul II is selected every year. Its content for a given year is decided by the chaplains of the order from individual dioceses.

– Janusz Paczkowski: This is reading for the entire order. Our home in the Diocese of Płock is the Shrine in which we are now. But for the whole order it is this special papal house built in the White Seas, in Krakow, on the site of the former Solvay factory, where Karol Wojtyła worked during the turmoil of war. The John Paul II Sanctuary, where he is spiritually present on Polish soil, is a special place for us.

– Zygmunt Zalewski: You have certainly encountered such a situation on the basis of faith, which had a decisive influence on your life. Could you say something about it?

– Janusz Paczkowski: Once, at my father's grave, I met my aunt, who told me for the first time about God's mercy. At that time, I did not attach so much importance to it. Only after I started working for the Bishop Zbigniew Kraszewski, I started meeting people of great faith. It is because of the aforementioned - Bp. Kraszewski and Anatol Kaszczuk, I received this great gift of faith. Today, speaking about the place of the first Revelation of Merciful Jesus, I cannot think and speak without being moved.