A Reminiscence of Rev. Professor Tadeusz Dajczer

by Fr. Bolesław Szewc

www.frboleslav.eu

The Encounter
It was the last semester of my seminary studies – February 1988. The monographic lecture entitled “The Origin of Religion” had just begun. The lecturer was different from others – he requested to be asked questions. With great expertise he elaborated on non-Christian religions. It was an unparalleled apology of Christianity, revealing what a great treasure the Gospel and the Catholic faith is and how meagre other religions are. The lecture proved to be brilliant, absorbing. I had been looking forward to it as a spiritual feast. It was my first encounter with Father Doctor Tadeusz Dajczer.

Later came the holy orders and the first - difficult for me - years of priesthood. For the previous fifteen years I had been accompanied by one priest or another – a spiritual authority. Now I felt a desire for a spiritual director and was seeking one. I was involved with an informal priestly group that we called “Priestly Alliance”. Some of the colleagues had already found their way to Father Tadeusz’s spiritual direction. One day, in September or October 1989, one of them told me that he had an appointment with Father Tadeusz but could not go and offered me to go instead. It was how I found myself at Father Tadeusz’s as a penitent.

Already during the first meeting Father Tadeusz showed me my own experiences in the light of faith and I discerned in them God’s amazing sense. I asked him at once for spiritual direction. He seemed hesitating but agreed. During my meetings with him I was taking many pages of notes. He revealed to me some new prospects of the way to God, he was helping me uncover the vast sphere of unconsciousness not submitted to grace. First of all, he was helping me to wonder at God and God to choose.

At the beginning, when I was an assistant curate in Tarczyn near Warsaw, making an appointment with Father Tadeusz and reaching him was not very hard. I would arrive before 10 pm, sometimes wait a bit for the meeting to start. It would end after midnight. Then I would stay overnight at his neighbour’s in the presbytery. I would get up before 5 am to catch a return train or bus, and Father Tadeusz would go to the confessional where many were waiting for him to confess. At that time he had around 400 regular penitents. He slaved himself away and looked like someone very sickly.

The expert on interior life and the Saints – the origins of the Movement
Apart from his special field in religious studies, Father Tadeusz had a deep interest in and genuinely lived the interior life as well as unreservedly devoted himself to guiding his penitents to its ways. Thanks to Father Tadeusz I found myself in the Families of Nazareth Movement, established in 1985 amongst people involved with it through his ministry in the confessional or through participation in the meetings on spiritual life that he presided over. The establishing of the movement was attributed to Father Tadeusz and he consented to it but he had never really been interested in any formal structures and he left them over to lay animateurs and himself took care of people’s souls. The origin of the movement as such was the initiative of lay persons and particularly of Slawomir Biela. Father Tadeusz would sometimes privately say that it was Slawomir Biela who has actually established the movement. In public, however, he had never denied to have been its founder. After all, without Father Tadeusz, there would have never been the first members of the movement, neither would they be formed properly. Should not then the appellation of the founder be given to him? Father Dajczer did not want to have any formal control within the Movement, so by the first opportunity coming his way he made it over to Father Andrzej Buczel. I have never witnessed Father Tadeusz interfering in managing the Movement, with just one exception (which I shall describe later) in September 2007. He was only interested in the matters of conscience of those entrusted to him. The matters of conscience could sometimes have to do with their responsibility for the Movement, but Father Tadeusz’s aim was the good of their souls and he would never run anybody’s life or deeds.

In his ways, Father Tadeusz, drew from the experience of the Saints and the Blessed. He sought solutions to his problems in their writings. He had an excellent command of them. He was fascinated in learning their faults as they often brought about a particular action of God. He learnt the Saints in an extraordinary manner – for not theoretically, but trying to live by what they did.

The lecturer and the writer
Father Tadeusz had an extraordinary teaching talent. In his lectures, there had to be a problem set and a view on it included. An interesting way of setting a problem makes students interested in its solution, whereas the visual methods appeal to them, making the understanding and assimilating the issue easier. He would say that he had learnt this method from Prof. Tadeusz Gogolewski. In his papers and spiritual writings he also paid special attention to the third element that he called “attraction”. The point here was to draw the listener or the reader to follow the recommended direction, to take predefined action. Some call it the “impressive function of language”. As far as the utterances on the spiritual life are concerned, the informative function once in a while receded into the background to concentrate, to stimulate the listener or the reader to adopt a definite attitude or making a choice. Himself, he was extremely critical of his own writings. As a general rule, he would engage someone to correct the style of what he was writing, considering that he could not write well himself. Many of his works, however, have been published with no need of any stylistic corrections.

Extraordinary cherishing of people’s souls
Father Tadeusz was an unparalleled spiritual director. He accommodated himself to the penitents and, if he saw he could not, he parted with them. His direction adapted as many forms as many penitents he had. I see in it his extraordinary love of human souls. For some he was only the confessor and the adviser. They entrusted him with what they wanted, asking him for advice, so he advised them and so his part was over. For many he was the understanding father, confirming their faith in difficulties, bolstering up their courage to proceed further. I will never forget his extraordinary attitude when a student friend of mine - once a penitent of Father Tadeusz – brought to him an acquaintance who was intent on suicide but agreed to come to the meeting. It was at the time when Father Tadeusz was already suffering from various diseases that were considerably limiting his strengths. I do not know what the meeting looked like. The would-be suicide spent the whole night at Father Tadeusz’s place at Tamka Street . He left changed. Father Tadeusz fell ill as a result of that sleepless night. It did not come to suicide.

He constituted a very strong personality. I reckon that according to René Le Senne’s typology of characters he was a very strong passionate with great mars, with wide field of consciousness and with a very strong empathy. It gave him vast possibilities of understanding, empathizing with others as well as affecting them. He was, however, a man churned up by grace and often behaving against his own character. He could shake someone to help them to choose the Lord God, but he also could be withdrawing and tractable when such was the need of a soul. What he was saying had as a general rule the so-called didactic purpose as superior. Therefore he used shortcuts, simplifications, exaggeration to highlight from various complexities the essence of what was the most important for a penitent at the moment.

The separate category of his charges consisted of a not numerous group of those who, in his opinion, were particularly chosen by God and gifted. If he saw any of those people not choosing the way to sanctity or some other compromise, he would be like Saint John the Baptist who spoke of an axe already laid at the root and about the inevitable punishment. At such moments a shocking hyperbole, being a kind of a shortcut, could be issued, something like: “In such case there is no salvation for you…” and the conversation ended. The utterance of that kind was the abridgement of a sentence: “If you do not change your concrete attitude, you may not save yourself”. Once I was a witness to such a statement by Father Tadeusz directed at my penitent and at the same time his spiritual son. The hyperbole was indeed devastating, even though untrue in a literal sense, as every hyperbole is. Having heard it, one could either cling to God radically or question Father Tadeusz. The concerned person chose the latter, ascribing mental illness to Father Tadeusz and, what was worse, making this opinion public, also among the priests from the Movement in Warsaw. It bears momentous consequences till today. In his concern for the chosen souls, Father Tadeusz did not worry that his interlocutor could cause much damage when his pride is harmed. He told me once: “When I see pride, I have to react.”

An attempt to help the Movement
I had not taken part in running the Families of Nazareth Movement until November 2006 when, at the request of the predecessor, I became a moderator of the Movement in the Archdiocese of Warsaw. For years the Movement was an organization in which at the forefront there were people more interested in their own position within it than their interior life. Of course, there were also those genuinely seeking God, but remained in the shadow. The movement, at the same time, had a commander-like structure; the moderator was fully in charge and only had to take into account the authorities of the Archdiocese. I tried to make people interested in interior life again, benefiting profusely from what Father Tadeusz wrote and lived, and at the time he lived the Eucharist. In the human dimension he was then the only source of spirituality in the circle of the Movement. I lacked, however, the managing skills neither had I a foresight and I had to make all decisions by myself alone, even though I consulted some other priests. Father Tadeusz was taking care exclusively of my soul. The most difficult situation in the Movement occurred in the spring and summer of 2007 when a very influential priest began destroying it by undermining all the authorities important for the Movement. Furthermore, some letters started to come the Diocesan Curia of which it is unknown where from, undermining the good name of the people important for the Movement, including Father Dajczer and the Movement itself. I have never seen these letters but was told of them in the Curia.

In September 2007, seeing the drama of the Movement, Father Tadeusz asked me if I would want him to join in it as a founder. I said I would like that very much if he only sees any way to remedy the problems. Earlier, by the opportunity of staying at the parish at Tamka Street, Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz visited him. Father Tadeusz was very glad of that meeting. It was then when he received the Archbishop’s mobile phone number. Now he started using it making calls to his superior. Father Tadeusz would give me a systematic account of these conversations as they concerned the Movement and I was its moderator. They both tried to find a remedy for the conflict within the Movement and were looking for a satisfactory solution. One day, after a joint consideration of various possibilities, Father Tadeusz asked the Archbishop: “What I have established, can I dissolve it?” It seemed that the Archbishop was ready to accept such an option and so it was understood by Father Tadeusz. Then, and it was the 15th of September, he wrote a letter to the Archbishop in which he formally expressed the decision of the founder to - in the face of no other way out – dissolve the Movement in the Diocese of Warsaw. The Archbishop, however, did not approve of this decision and the situation remained unchanged. It was the only intervention in the matters of the Movement known to me.

Later still he wanted to help me to reconcile with the Rev. J.P. and the Rev. T.G. He himself put forward a proposal for his meeting with the Rev. J.P. that took place in October 2007 and in that he apologized to him for his mistake concerning X, of which further below. This was the end of his attempt to help the Movement.

The drama of his life
The history of relations with X, who in the1970s showed up at his meetings with students in the Church of the Holiest Saviour, was a huge drama of his life. X said then to Father Tadeusz: “God speaks to me”. Somewhat later he said of Mother of God: “She is present through me, she makes use of me.” In 1990 Father Tadeusz told me that if someone says so, he is either mentally ill or it is something that requires constant examining. He also told me that he did not find any signs of a mental illness in X. He faced a dilemma: either acknowledge X as mentally ill or presume that what he is saying makes sense, which means that a special action of God takes place here and needs constant examination. Having seen a lot of good connected with X’s meetings with the members of the Movement, Father Dajczer chose the second option and that brought about the drama. In 1992 he spoke about X with the Primate who admonished to observe it and suggested that X should withdraw from public appearances. And so it happened. From 2005 on Father Tadeusz kept telling me how he had been wondering that in the sense of interior life nothing was happening even for many years with people who were in touch with X. The process of the insight into the phenomenon connected with X came to an end in the spring 2007 when Father Tadeusz, assessing the fruits of X’s activity, concluded that there was nothing supernatural in it, only outstanding human psychological and social engineering capabilities as well as theoretical expertise in interior life.

The only reliance – Eucharistic Jesus
I wonder how it could have come to such a mistake of Father Tadeusz. Well, the insight was extremely difficult as so much undoubted good was happening in connection with meetings of X with the members of the Movement and only years later some doubtful fruits appeared or there were no fruits at all. The second important circumstance was Father Tadeusz’s unparalleled Marian devotion. He experienced his relation to God’s Mother in a very intimate way, he considered her his cherished Mother.[1] All events of his life he experienced in relation to her. Maybe that was why he trusted more easily that it was the Lord God who places on his way a special instrument of God’s Mother. I do not know the answer to this question but I am certain that what happened was of huge meaning for Father Tadeusz’s interior life; he experienced deep purification thanks to it. Father Tadeusz went through a health crisis in 2005. A virus infection, extremely difficult to treat, occurred bringing with it huge physical suffering. At the same time, there appeared a particular interior spiritual darkness. It was more or less at that time that I heard his first critical remarks on the doubtful fruits of X’s activity.

There remained only one sole support for him – the Eucharistic Christ. This experience culminated probably in 2005. It was the Eucharistic Christ who became the only and sufficient sense of his life. Many times I witnessed how he was born anew celebrating the Eucharist. From this experience the books in the series Meditations on the Eucharist came into being. Before his death, he believed that the Church would be born again through the Eucharist embraced with interior life.



[1] Tadeusz Dajczer, A hard patch of life [Trudny kawałek życia], Warszawa 2010.


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