April 27-May 3,2006
‘From My Mother’s Womb…’
By Father Grzegorz Golyzniak/ SUN contributing writer
SUN photo(s) submitted
Father Grzegorz Golyzniak Tells How Family Life Led him to the Priesthood Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series by Father Grzegorz Golyzniak, parocial vicar at St. John the Baptist Church in Rome, N.Y. When I think about the priesthood, two key aspects always come to mind: the call to serve God and the development of spirituality through the priesthood.
John Paul II identified the calling to priesthood as a “gift and mystery.” Yes, it is indeed both God’s gift and a profound mystery. A man will struggle in his mind through his whole life and still not understand them. Often I think about the irrational behavior (from the human point of view) of those simple fishermen whom Christ called to be His Apostles. When they heard the simple words “Come follow Me,” they instantly reacted with determination. They went with Him, leaving their fishing boats, their families and homes; they went, although they did not know where they were going; they walked with Christ, although they did not totally understand His message.
To a normal person, their actions are surprising. For myself, I explain that “calling” has its true meaning reflected in the Mystery of the Incarnation of God and the priesthood of Christ. There is one fact which allows me at least partly to understand my calling, namely, on the day of my ordination, my father told me that my mother prayed daily that I would become a priest. He also added that my priesthood was already attained through prayers when I was still in my mother’s womb. This fact also strengthens my spiritual view of priesthood by reinforcing my conviction about the power of prayer as well as the necessity of prayer for the survival of the world, by looking at the world and life through the eyes of prayer. An additional fact supporting this idea is that my mother, through prayer, has two sons who are priests. I bring to mind here my older brother, Stanislaw, who is a priest in the Salesian Order, living out his calling in Poland.
Spirituality of the Priesthood
Without getting into philosophical or theological analysis, I understand spirituality as a way of encountering and understanding God, the world, another person and myself. The world can be experienced as a place where one can find material happiness and success in a career, enrichment through wealth, pleasures and possessions. But, it is also a place of beauty and mystery, where one can admire the work of God’s hand. In this sense we can talk about the spirituality of every person. Spirituality to a priest is experiencing the world or another person as a space in which he encounters the sacred, which leads to a deeper understanding of God.
Spirituality in a man is not something static, given once forever. It always perfects itself — deepens, spreads. I was born in 1973 in Krynica, Poland, into a large family of four siblings, three boys and a girl. My mother, Helen, and father, Joseph, were simple folk, farmers. In this simple, large and, one can say poor family I learned and experienced the sanctity of life. The beginning of a new life was accepted by my parents as a gift from God and as something holy. This is one of the elements of the spirituality of a priest. Another element is humility towards another. This humbleness I learned from my family. A great influence on my spiritual life was the sincere piety of my parents and sincere attempt at earning a living, making God a part of my family. Sincerity is not meant for show and comes not from fear, but from a love of God, goodness and religious values.
I remember our family prayers, especially in the evening when we all knelt down together. I observed my father with admiration, for, even when he was tired after a full day of work in the fields, he would piously kneel and lead the family in prayer.
Sunday was truly a holy day, meaning devoted to God and things related to God. On this day only the most necessary tasks were performed. It was unthinkable to miss Holy Mass for some trivial reason. I remember how we celebrated Christmas Eve with the traditional “Wigilia” or Vigil supper and the Resurrection of our Lord with holiness and happiness. In such a wholesome Christian family atmosphere, my priestly calling and piety were born and nurtured. Later, after I already had become a priest, wonderful priests played a great role in forming my spirituality: Father Jozef Wierzbicki, pastor of my home parish in Muszyna, Poland; Father Marek Kuzak, catechist in the Liceum Ogolnoksztalcacym (High School) and especially Father Stanislaw Golyzniak, my brother.