A tent revival is something that is particularly American, and conjures up images of snake-handling believers and wheezing, beet-faced preachers who can stretch the name of Jesus into four syllables, who preach hell fire and damnation, the dangers of card playing, and the outright evil of dancing.
It doesn’t seem to go with the ordered liturgy of a Catholic Mass. And yet, for the week of 9–18 October , that’s exactly what the parishioners of Lipnica Wielka[, Poland] were getting.
The techniques used in the construction of the church are among the best and most expensive. — Three Times Superlative.
Entitled “Misja Swietych” (“Mission of the Saints”), it featured multiple, daily Masses with a particular focus: the family, the mystery of the Stations of the Cross, the sick. It was a fairly big thing, as it happens only once every five years or so.
This year it was led by Wojciech Chochól, a rector of a parish some hundred and fifty kilometers northeast of here, near Tarnów.
Chochól is a short, somewhat paunchy man who appears to be in his mid-forties and who, it seems, stepped directly from the 1950s into the twenty-first century. He believes in what some American Southerners might call “old time preaching.” Translation: he yells at people about their sins.
The Polish- and Italian-granite entry stairs to the new church cost so much that, says Father Wojciech, “for that kind of money, you could frame an entire, new church.” — Three Times Superlative
I suppose there’s nothing really wrong with that. Such “soul-pastoring” (a direct translation of the Polish term for the verb “pastor”) treats the parishioners as children and has a particularly humiliating feeling, but perhaps some feel at home being humiliated in church. They might refer to it as “being humbled.”
I heard him preach when I went to church Sunday afternoon (10 October) for the special “Men’s Mass.” [My wife] didn’t want to go alone, and I was curious what the priest would say to a room full of men.
“Everything here that glistens is gold plated,” adds rector [Chochól] , taking the time to show all the internal marble [ . . . , ] the same marble that is in the walls and the entrance to the bathrooms. Marble also rules in the cemetery’s chapel. — Three Times Superlative
I wasn’t disappointed, though somewhat provoked. Some of the highlights:
- suggested people throw out television and unplug the “Satanic Internet;”
- castigated people who have only one or two children, saying that children are only “normal” when there are three of them (One child is a little god in the house; two kids are two hysterics; only when you have three can you expect to have normal kids in the house);
- said people should be worried about money with their kids (“They don’t have to have a gold watch right way. They don’t have to have a car or a mountain bike right away.”);
- advised fathers to look in their fifteen-year-old children’s pants pockets to look for narcotics or “swinska gumeczka” — “filthy condoms”;
- told of a little two-year kid who at Mass was lying in the floor, crying, waving his arms and such — being a fairly regular two-year-old. “And I thought, ‘You’ve got a little bin Laden!’” he told everyone. And they laughed — that’s the most disturbing part about it
- said a child’s salvation lay in the fathers taking a fence board and “lay on as much as fits” (A child’s salvation = beating the daylights out of him);
- recommended that fathers no let their daughter’s boyfriends sleep in the house;
- pondered what sons who came home late at night or early in the morning were doing (“And later, three of them come to the altar for a wedding,” he concluded.);
- told the story of a boy who came in to the parish house to use the phone, calling the police and life saving crew because his father had come home drunk again and began beating his mother. “I don’t know how much longer we can stand this hell,” he exclaimed, then left money on the priest’s desk for a Mass to be said the following day in their intention. And Chochól left the money hanging — didn’t say, “I gave the mone yback to him and said, ‘You all need this more than I do.’”
All in all, it was the usual, backward, uneducated tirade that, were it to take place in a clapboard building in Appalachia or in a mosque in Cairo, would be labeled fundamentalism: railing against the evils of modern society and the need to return to a Godly life, as defined by the priest, of course. Chochól showed that he knew nothing about children and even less about contemporary society. He showed his disrespect for parishioners by refusing to treat them as adults but screaming at them as if they were children
“The church is being built slowly, but also as expensively and as beautifully as possble.” — Wojciech Chochól quoted in Three Times Superlative.
Covering the usual litany of religious anti-modernism, yelling at people about their sinful indulgence in modernism and their material mindset, is one thing.
It’s an entirely different story when the priest is guilty of the very things himself.
It turns out, there might have been a reason he referred to the Internet as “Satanic,” for a few keyboard clicks at Google, and I found “Trzy Razy ‘Naj,’” an interesting article from 2002 about a then–new church being built in Chochól’s parish, with some choice quotes (which appear in the side inserts).
The picture we end up with by combining the sermon and the article is that of a hypocrite. In his sermon, Chochól anecdotally mentioned several times the churches “he’s built,” and so it is obviously a matter of pride to him, which he probably crows about whenever he can. Others derive their pride and self-esteem from what they own; still others from what they’ve built, I guess.
When village priests come caroling and collecting money, they don’t schedule a particular time, but tell their parishioners simply they day they might come — and expect them to wait around all day. Kids miss school for this; parents miss work. If a priest suggested this in a city, such as Krakow or Warsaw, he would be laughed out of the church.
Contrast that with a friend who lost her father when she was still a young girl. “Not once,” she said, “Did any priest come by to ask if everything were okay, to see if they needed anything.” They came about as is the Polish custom during the Christmas season for caroling, which is accompanied by (guess!) a collection. So they came to get money, and nothing else.
As a non-Christian, I find this particularly offensive, and I can think of a few things I might like to say:
- Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world — James 1.27, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
- Jesus said to [the young rich man], “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” — Matthew 19.21 (NRSV)
- All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. — Acts 2.44, 45 (NRSV)
- [Jesus said,] “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” — Matthew 19.24 (NRSV)
The second sermon I heard from this jerk was the next Sunday. Highlights from that one:
- Without priests, you will not go to heaven.
- Priests are a second Jesus.
- A wife of a communist official who’d refused permission to build a church came to Chochól when her husband died to ask him to anoint his body. Chochól’s response: “Well, now you can go anoint him with lard.” And this by his own admission.
- He criticized the church in Lipnica, saying it was old and dirty. He wondered how priests could work in such an environment “without granite, without marble.”
- He told a couple of stories of people who’d died shortly after criticizing priests.
- Priests are hated just as Jesus is hated — for their holy example.
- He whispered to the children in a sickeningly sweet voice, “Don’t say anything bad about priests.”
- He said that when people go on pilgrimages without a priest, “it’s just an outing.” (“Wycieczka” was the Polish he used.)
- He said that if you criticize a priest, then you’ll die without a priest (i.e., You’ll go to hell.).
- He told people don’t send money to other parishes but keep it here. But just earlier, he’d thanked everyone for the donations given to his parish.
The irony: it was labled a “children’s Mass!”
The general reaction of parishoners after this joker wen home: “What beautiful preaching!”
Well, I’m criticizing him, so let’s see how long I last before God kills me for my blatantly Satanic attitude.
(An interesting thread at Catholic.com’s form about this, started by yours truly.)