April 2017


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Make It Better

by Ed Poniewaz

Clean it, design it, create it, improve it, and then step back and see if you have to start over, or tweak it. Have you made something better?

Back a long time ago when I was a young man and totally addicted to discovering, learning, and understanding my Polish essence, I did a number of oral histories. It was a great experience and I recommend it, especially for baby-boomers, whose second generation parents and relatives are on the road to their eternal rewards.

We are all familiar with songs played at Polish funerals, from “Serdeczna Matko,” to “Witaj Krolowo,” but as Polish-language funerals slowly fade away, our traditional music is being replaced with English-language hymns.

It wasn’t too long ago — at one of the many funerals I seem to be attending now in my old age — I realized the popular “Song of Farewell” —based on the familiar melodies of “Old Hundredth” (“Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow”),  “O Salutaris” (“O Saving Victim”), and “Tallis’ Canon” (“All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night”) — had become the standard recessional hymn of the Catholic funeral rite.

The translation and words, copyright 1981, belong to Dennis C. Smolarski, S.J. This song is beautiful and it gets to me. The words fit perfectly with the music, and are so suitable and appropriate as the congregation’s symbolic final appeal on behalf of their loved one for acceptance and entry into paradise. Here are the Smolarski lyrics:


Come to his/her aid, O saints of God;
Come meet him/her, angels of the Lord.


May Christ who called you, take you home,
And angels lead you to Abraham.


Give him/her eternal rest, O Lord.
May light unending shine on him/her.


I know that my Redeemer lives,
The last day I shall rise again.

The revision is powerful stuff and just another accomplishment for the amazing Fr. Smolarski. He is currently a professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at Santa Clara University in California, has a doctorate in Computer Science from the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana. He has written many books on mathematics, computer science, and Catholic theology. He also has the faculties to celebrate the Eucharist in the Byzantine rite (Melkite [Lebanese], Ruthenian, Ukrainian, Russian).

Fr. Smolarski is originally a South Chicago guy and the grandson of Polish immigrants. You can read more about him on the Santa Clara University website https://www.scu.edu/ and you can buy his books on Amazon. I am eager to buy and read his books. Can’t wait.

Mad Men Meets NASA. The Academy Awards was entertaining as always but extra exciting this year for sure. Besides Moonlight (and almost La La Land) winning for best picture, many of the critics thought Hidden Figures was a contender for the Oscar in that category. Hidden Figures is about three African American women (Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan) who helped “calculate the flight trajectories for NASA’s Project Mercury and other missions.” The story centers on the challenge they faced not only as women, but also as Black women in a biased and unequal United States in the early 1960s. Think of Mad Men meets NASA.

One of the positive characters in the movie is Karl Zielinski who mentors Mary Jackson. Karl is based on the real NASA aeronautics engineer Kazimierz “Kaz” Czarnecki. Kaz started with NASA in 1939 and remained until his retirement in 1979 as a Senior Aeronautical Research Engineer. “He published many papers together with Mary W. Jackson serving as her long-time mentor. In 1979, Jackson organized his retirement party.” My impression is Kaz Czarnecki was trying to make NASA, and the world a better place.

Happy Easter! Wesołego Alleluja to you Pondering Poles out there. Use the words to the “Song of Farewell” as a Lenten meditation to consider the presence of the Cross and Resurrection in your own lives. We will beseech God on your behalf upon your death, but I wouldn’t wait until then to acknowledge your shortcomings and resolve to make things better. To make things better — hopefully, that is why we are here.

If you have a thought about this month’s topic, have a question, or have interesting facts to share, contact me at: Edward Poniewaz, 6432 Marmaduke Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63139; email alinabrig@yahoo.com. N.B. If you send email, reference the Polish American Journal or the Pondering Pole in the subject line. I will not open an email if I do not recognize the subject or the sender.



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