Priest Joseph Tischner's curriculum vitae
Childhood and youth (1931-1949)
Father Joseph Tischner was born on 12th March 1931 in Stary Sącz and was baptised on 2nd April 1931 in the parochial church in Stary Sacz (he was given the name: Józef Stanisław). His parents were teachers: his father Joseph was from Sącz, his mother Weronika Chowaniec was from Jurgów. He spent his childhood and youth in Łopuszna, where his father was employed as a school principal. The Tischner family lived in the school building; thus in the later years, the author of History of Philosophy- the Highlander Way (Historia filozofii po góralsku) sometimes referred to himself as Józek Szkolny (School Joseph). His childhood was happy. He led the life of a typical country boy just like his peers, yet he grew up in an intelligentsia family with respect for literature and intellectual work. He would spend his school holidays in Stary Sacz and Jurgow. In 1936 another son in the Tischner family was born. His name was Marian. During World War II the Tischner family was forced to leave Łopuszna for a few years. For some time they lived in Raba Wyzna, and in 1942 his father was transferred to a school in Rogoźnik. When they were there the liberation was announced. In 1945 they returned to Lopuszna where they stayed until retirement age. In the following year his third son Kazimierz was born. At the same time the oldest son was already a pupil in middle school. In 1949 he received a secondary school diploma, the so called ‘duża matura’. Then - according to his father’s wishes he applied to the Faculty of Law at the Jagiellonian University, although he had already decided that he would become a priest. After he completed the first year of his law degree in May 1950 he came knocking at the gate of the Seminary on Podzamcze Street in Krakow. He remained a student at the Jagiellonian University - but in the Department of Theology.
The choice of life path
Józef Tischner studied during the most difficult time for the Church in the post-war period of Polish history. During his studies the following situations occurred: the Krakow Curia famous lawsuit, the Primate’s imprisonment, Archbishop Eugene Baziak’s internment and removal of the theological faculties from the universities. Tischner decided to devote himself to science. Under the influence of priest and professor Kazimierz Kłósak he developed his interest in philosophy, especially in German philosophy. His model preacher was priest and prefect John Pietraszko who became a bishop later. In the last year of his studies he was lectured by priest Karol Wojtyła, who had a PhD in social ethics. He was ordained a Roman Catholic priest on 26th June 1955 by bishop Franciszek Jop. Encouraged by priest Kłósak he began his studies at the Faculty of Christian Philosophy of the Academy of Catholic Theology in Warsaw (1955-1957). After his return to Krakow he continued his studies in the Department of History and Philosophy at the Jagiellonian University (1957-1959). In this period he was mostly engaged in Edmund Husserl's philosophy. At the same time he worked as a vicar in St. Nicholas Church in Chrzanów (1957-1959) and St. Kazimierz Church in Krakow (1959-1963). In 1963 he received his doctorate under prof. Roman Ingarden at the Jagiellonian University. Henceforth he taught philosophy at the Seminary College (later - the Pontifical Faculty of Theology, and since 1981 - the Pontifical Academy of Theology) in Krakow. In the mid-sixties he took a job at the newspaper "Tygodnik Powszechny"and the monthly magazine „Znak”. He worked closely with the papers for the rest of his life. In 1965 he moved from St. Casmir presbytery to the home of the priest-professors at St. Mark 10, where he lived until the 90s.
Philosopher and priest
The 70s were a period of intense priestly work for Father Tischner. In the 70s he held famous Masses for kindergarten children in the St. Mark church. During the services he practised the dialogued homilies and allowed children to bring toys to the church. At the same time he served as a pastor for the Krakow intelligentsia which gathered for his loud ‘thirteens’ in the St. Ann church. He collaborated with a number of different environments: doctors - especially psychiatrists (friendship with Anton Kępioski), scholars and artists. He was a highly regarded preacher and teacher. In 1974 at the Academy of Catholic Theology he defended his habilitation based on the thesis entitled Phenomenology of Egotic Consciousness ( Fenomenologia świadomości egotycznej). In the second half of the 70s he joined the movement of independent cultural initiatives (e.g. so called Flying University). At that time he wrote a series of important articles, among them was an essay "The Twilight of Thomist Christianity" (Zmierzch chrześcijaństwa tomistycznego),which was a seedbed of polemics known as "the dispute with Thomism". Tischner was opposed to the Aristotelian-Thomistic dominance model in the interpretation of Christian doctrine. He proved that modern philosophy (philosophy of values in particular) has some interesting perspectives to offer. In 1975 his first book entitled The World of Human Hope (Świat ludzkiej nadziei) was published. In the second half of the 70s he started working on another book The Polish Shape of Dialogue (Polski kształt dialogu) that was dedicated to the encounter of marxism and christianity.
The chaplain of Solidarity (1980-1989)
He was involved in the activities of the Solidarity (Solidarność) movement from the very beginning; on 19th October 1980 he delivered a loud sermon to the leaders of Solidarność in the Wawel Cathedral (Solidarity of Consciences), which gave rise to The Ethics of Solidarity (Etyka Solidarności). In 1981 he was a guest of the First National Congress of Delegates of Solidarność in Gdansk. Along with trade union activists he organized help for farmers in Podhale in the 80s (such as: importing farming machinery from Austria, organizing agricultural training for regional farmers). As a chaplain of the Podhalans' Association he initiated the tradition of August Masses dedicated to the homeland in the chapel on Turbacz peak (since 1982), that attracted pilgrims from the whole country. Simultaneously from 1980 he was a lecturer on the philosophy of drama at the State Theatre Academy in Krakow. From 1980 he taught the philosophy of drama at the State Theatre Academy in Krakow and philosophy at the Faculty of Philology at the Jagiellonian University (monographic lectures delivered in the 80s and 90s at Witkowski Collegium of the Jagiellonian University, every Tuesday at 6 p.m., attracted crowds of listeners). He co-founded the Department of Philosophy at the Pontifical Academy of Theology (1981), where he served as the dean, and from 1985 he was an associate professor of the university. Having been elected PAT’s vice chancellor, he refused to accept this function, as he preferred to deal with academic research and pastoral work. Together with the philosophers Hans-Georg Gadamer and Krzysztof Michalski he co-founded the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna (1981). Joseph repeatedly participated in the papal gatherings of intellectuals- meetings of intellectuals with John Paul II, organized by the Institute in Castel Gandolfo. After the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in May 1981 Father Tischner appeared on Polish television for the first time and commented on the recent news from Vatican City. In the 80s other Tischner's books came out, e.g. Thinking in Values (Myślenie według wartości) (1982), Poland is our Fatherland (Polska jest Ojczyzną ), In the Circle of Philosophy of Labour (W kręgu filozofii pracy) (1985). The culmination of Tischner's scientific work in that period was The Philosophy of Drama (Filozofia dramatu) released in 1990.
The teacher of hope and freedom (1990-2000)
In the 90s Tischner reaped the benefits of his work and simultaneously gained a lot of popularity throughout Poland. Not only did he become an authority in faith and religion but also in budding democracy, though he tried first of all to speak about freedom and the relations between the Church and the state. As a token of recognition he was given the title of Doctor Honoris Causa of the University of Lodz and the Pedagogical University in Krakow. He was a winner of many awards, including: Jurzykowski Prize (1988), PEN Club Prize (1993) and Ksawery Pruszynski Prize (1993). He received the title of The Knight of the White Eagle Order in 1999. At that time he published a lot, mostly collections of essays and outlines regarding philosophical, social and religious issues, such as The Unfortunate Gift of Freedom ( Nieszczęsny dar wolności), Confessions of a Revolutionary (Spowiedź rewolucjonisty), Reading Phenomenology of Hegel's Spirit (Czytając Fenomenologię ducha Hegla) (1993), In the Land of an Ailing Imagination (W krainie schorowanej wyobraźni) (1997), A Priest Astray (Ksiądz na manowcach) (1999), conversation volumes like Between the Lord and the Vicar (Między Panem a Plebanem) (1995) together with A. Michnik and J. Żakowski, Tischner Reads the Catechism (Tischner czyta Katechizm) (1996) with J. Żakowski, To Convince God (Przekonać Pana Boga) with Zaoko D. and J. Gowin (1999). The continuation of A Controversy over Human Existence (Spór o istnienie człowieka) was issued in 1998. Tischner’s small volume publications of a pastoral nature, especially the ethical and religious considerations A History of Philosophy- the Highlander way (Historia filozofii po góralsku), became very popular. Tischner became more and more recognizable thanks to radio broadcasts including: Rozmowy bez pointy held with J. Gowin on Radio Kraków and the reading of History of Philosophy- the Highlander Way and television programmes. Among the latter particularly noteworthy are the series: Seven Deadly Sins- the Highlander Way (Siedem grzechów głównych po góralsku) (1995), which he co-wrote and Tischner Reads the Catechism (Tischner czyta Katechizm) (1996) - talks conducted with Jacek Żakowski. In the last years of his life he fell severely ill with cancer of the larynx. Subsequent operations made him unable to speak. Despite this, he kept on writing almost to the last minute; during that time a number of moving texts about God's Mercy was created. He died on the 28th June 2000 in Krakow. He was buried on 2nd July in Łopuszna.