A Light Shines in Poland
By R.K. Mazierski
Mayflower Christian Books, 1982, 43 pages
In the late 18th century, Poland’s aggressive neighbors – Prussia, Austria, and Russia – began partitioning the country until it was finally wiped off the map. Poland would not reemerge as a nation again until the signing of the Treaty of Versailles following the First World War. In the interim, the Catholic church in Poland became the sanctuary and guardian of Polish nationalism. With Poland under Soviet domination following the Second World War, the church once again functioned as the repository of nationalism and hope for an independent Poland. Perhaps in no other Western country in modern times did the Catholic religion become such an integral part of the national identity. To be a Pole was to be Catholic. That’s still true today. Poles who accept Christ and leave Catholicism to join an evangelical church are looked upon as traitors both to their religion and nation.
In this booklet, Roman Mazierski, ex-Catholic priest, gives his interesting and improbable testimony. Born in 1899, he entered the Catholic seminary in Lwow in 1921. He was ordained a priest but became increasingly troubled by the differences between God’s Word and Catholic legalism and sacramentalism. Mazierski was shaken by the example of a few of his parishioners, who trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone. Mazierski eventually trusted in Christ himself and left the priesthood.
The booklet doesn’t mention it, but Polish Wikipedia notes that Mazierski subsequently attended evangelical seminary in Warsaw and was appointed a pastor at an Evangelical Reformed Church in Zelow. In 1939, with the threat of a German invasion hanging over Poland, Mazierski was appointed chief administrator of the Reformed chaplaincy for the armed forces, but was immediately captured by the invading Wehrmacht and imprisoned until the end of the war. He joined the large community of Poles-in-exile in London in 1945 and labored as a minister for the Polish Evangelical Reformed Church in Great Britain until his death in 1959.
The last fifteen pages of this booklet are excerpted from Mazierski’s short history of the Reformation in Poland.* Few people are even aware that the Reformation did have an impact in Poland in the 16th century because it is now such a homogeneous Catholic country. But the Gospel did enter into Poland through the liberality of the Polish monarchs and nobility and the ministry of such men as Jerome of Prague, Andrzej Gałka at Krakow University, Jacob Knade, Nicholas Rey, and Jan Łaski. The influence of the Bohemian Brethren also had an impact for the Gospel. At one point, a sizable percentage of the Polish nobility had accepted Christ as Savior and joined the Reformation movement. However, as part of the Catholic church’s counter-Reformation strategy, the Jesuits entered Poland and founded many Catholic schools, ensnaring the children of the Protestant nobility.
Praise God that He freed Roman Mazierski and many others from the chains of religious legalism in a country almost completely overshadowed by Roman darkness!
“A Light Shines in Poland” can be ordered from Revival Literature here.
Postscript: My paternal grandparents immigrated from Poland in the early 1900s. Growing up, our father introduced us to some Polish foods and customs, but like most second generation immigrants, he was more interested in assimilating than hanging on to Old World “baggage.” When I walked away from the Lord during my long prodigal “season,” I needed to fill the spiritual vacuum with something, so I dove headfirst into researching Polish and Polish American history and culture.
One of the most interesting things I learned was that Christ Polish Baptist Church had been organized here in Rochester, NY in 1913 under the leadership of Pastor Ludwik Adamus. Polish Baptists! Another improbability! A sanctuary was eventually built at 910 Hudson Avenue in the middle of “Polish Town” (see photo below). The work was difficult amidst the intensely proud and spiritually-blinded Polish Catholic immigrants. Interestingly, there had been a radical schism in the close-knit Polish neighborhood a few years previous in 1907 when 2000 members of St. Stanislaus left the parish in a dispute over the question of diocesan versus parish ownership of church property. They established St. Casimir’s a few blocks away as part of the breakaway Polish National Catholic Church, which was founded in 1897 in Scranton, PA. But all of the rituals and sacramentalism of the PNCC were exactly the same as in Roman Catholicism.
*”A Concise History of the Polish Reformed Church,” Polish Reformed Church of Great Britain, 1966.