Pl En

A Headstrong Clergyman

Witold Bereś

H 01 ks Musial

A Headstrong Clergyman: Conversations with Father Stanisław Musiał by Witold Bereś and Krzysztof Burnetko, intro by Rev. Michał Czajkowski, afterword by Marek Edelman) Świat Książki, Warsaw 2006


The writing of this book took several years and the authors regard it as one of their best. But had it not been for the passing of Rev. Musial in 2004, the book would not have seen the daylight. The story goes that when Rev. Musiał accepted the book for publishing the friars he was a part of warned him that if the book went out he could find himself expelled from the order. It would have been a lifetime failure for him… He sent his apologies to the authors asking not to publish… He said, half jokingly, that after he is gone everything may be published all right. The authors would rather see Rev. Musiał around than gone. But they realize, however, that they serve the memory of Rev. Musiał better with the publishing of the book after his passing….



Jewish issues comprise at least half of the book’s content, but they were the main areas of Rev. Musiał struggles. The book also touches upon something that shook me. A story about reverend’s youth. (…)

Tough upbringing is not good the Polish youth today, is it? Of course, it strengthens the body and the soul but I do not need to argue for the readers of Gazeta Wyborcza that tough upbringing is not the best way to go. Especially so, that this particular sadomasochism was an element of an entire system of bringing up young people, including its auxiliary elements that Rev. Musiał give a colorful description of. Above all, the system of secret informers. (…) Of course, there were some defenses against those who spoke evil against their brethren. But one of the major faults of the author was that he would “look through the window.” It meant that “he had a drive for the world outside, that is, he had no calling. In fact, the view from our window was at some hall, but indeed, it was a part of the world.” So the his superiors decided that, apparently, Rev. Musiał did not have the calling for he liked the world.

(Jan Turnau, Gazeta Wyborcza,  Feb 14, 2006)



Let’s go back to your stay at the seminary. The drill there was almost inhuman. Didn’t you think of rebelling. Or maybe dropping out?

– All of us would occasionally rebel. We would constantly plot too—to play soccer when our superiors were not there, to meet our peers from outside of the seminar.  Our superiors would give us harsh penances for that.  It was not only disobedience but, oftentimes, a breach of the  vow of silence and others…

At the same time, what is interesting from the moral point of view, is that while we were kept in an isolated circle,  I did not see any open homosexual behavior, generally speaking.

Was it self-discipline, the fear of committing a heavy sin or were there some more common means of dealing with that?

– The fear of committing a sin was great indeed. But there were also technical barriers. The bedroom was a gigantic hall in which the beds were divided by white canvas screens. During daytime the screens were open but at night each one of us had to draw them  tightly. We were not supposed to leave our bed area and meet each other. For the breach of this rule there was only one penalty—immediate expulsion. Sometimes the prefect would make his rounds at night, eavesdropping for what was going on behind those screens. Just like he did during our whipping Fridays.


– Yeah, as a sign of penance. We had special tools for that, called flagellas, from Latin flaggelare or to whip oneself. I did not keep one with me, too bad. Those ropes were made of thick thread with a heavy knot at the end of it. No hooks nor any metal balls were attached to those knots, fortunately. So on every Friday, half naked, we would say Miserere, which is Psalm 50, the penitential one, and we would whip ourselves. And the manductor, which was one of the novices selected for leading the rite, every now and then, would say, in Latin, for what benefit we did that: for the glory of our Lord and the Saint Mother, for this and that…

He would call, for instance: “Ad maiorem Dei gloriam examen conscientiae”—To the greater glory of God, exam your conscience.” We would respond: “ Ad maiorem Dei gloriam flagellatio” which means “ For the greater glory of God, whipping.” So we would say this long psalm and whip ourselves. And the master of the novices, usually a young priest, walked around us and kept listening if we all whipped ourselves onto our skin and not our trousers. For there is different sound when your whip fals upon fabric and when it falls upon skin. If he was suspicious, he could take a look behind the scree and check.

(…) Those Ignatian retreats include a meditation—which is still practiced—of a boy, who generally led a good life, but who committed a deadly sin and was condemned for eternity. It talks about hellish torment, being rejected by God, a lost opportunity. Eternal torment for one deadly sin.

(…) This story led me to wonder about the limits of obedience. Do you always need to obey until the end, until you contradict yourself. And this was what they required of us.