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Each week, Mr. Reed will relate the stories of people whose choices and actions make them heroes. See the table of contents for previous installments.

More than a century ago, in his collection of lectures titled Life and Destiny, professor and ethicist Felix Adler reflected on what the lives of the deceased can teach the living:

Let us live truly while we live, live for what is true and good and lasting. And let the memory of our dead help us to do this. For they are not wholly separated from us, if we remain loyal to them. In spirit they are with us. And we may think of them as silent and invisible, but real presences in our households.

All across Poland, more than 30 years since his murder by the secret police of the communist dictatorship that then ruled the country, the life and words of Father Jerzy Popieluszko still resonate strongly in millions of households, as it does thousands of miles away in mine.

Readers may wonder if Poles are a little overrepresented in this series on …