June 16, 2009

Martyrs of the Nazi Persecution

Today in the Capuchin calendar we have the option of celebrating those five Capuchin friars among the 108 Martyrs of World War II beatified by John Paul II in 1999.

Their feast day, today, was the occasion of one of the most remarkable experiences of my whole religious life. For one of my summers during studies, I went to one of our infirmaries to help out. One of the friars there, Fr. Zygmund--then 91 years old--is a survivor of the Dachau concentration camp.

When the day of our blesseds arrived, I was with Fr. Zygmund in the sacristy. Taking the ordo (the little guide book that indicates which Mass and Office to offer each day) he read the names of the five martyrs, telling me a little about each one. He explained how one had always seemed like a saint, while another was easily annoyed and difficult to live with. He laughed about another whom he said never liked him because Fr. Zygmund's command of Russian was better than his.

I stood there, overwhelmed and amazed. The man standing before me was lucky to be alive, and it was only chance that he was alive and living in the obscurity of a Capuchin infirmary while his friends and confreres were being celebrated as beati in Capuchin churches all over the world.

One day Fr. Zygmund will die in the same obscurity. Even so, he shared the same sufferings as his brothers who will be known and celebrated as blesseds (at least) until the end of time.

I keep this story in mind sometimes when I'm around a lot of strangers, perhaps on the bus or the subway, or even in church. I try to remember that one never knows the sufferings that other people have been through, and how much they have survived in their lives with God's help and care. It helps me to remember that I'm called to treat others according to their final destiny in God's eyes, as those meant for flourishing holiness in this life, and sainthood in the next.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Father; on the other hand, I'm reminded of this from St. Faustina:

1658 Today, one of the Jesuit Fathers [Father Zukowicz 245] brought us Holy Communion. He gave the Lord to three other sisters and then to me; and thinking I was the last, he gave me two Hosts. But one of the novices was lying in bed in the next cell, and there was no Host left for her. Jesus told me, You received those two Hosts, because My visit to such a soul is not pleasant for Me.

Brother Charles said...

Thank you, Anonymous. I must get to reading St. Faustina!

Jeanne said...

That's an amazing story. A beautiful post.

KAM said...

Thank you, Fr., for sharing that beautiful story! Hopefully I will be reminded.

pennyante said...

Why was he spared? One reason was that Fr. Zygmund was meant to share with you his experiences in Dachau, so that you could make the connections you did in your article and be edified by his life.

In turn, you have shared his story with us, your internet friends.

Who knows, one of us may tell that story again... and again...

The Spirit works in ways we least expect.

GrandmaK said...

This is such a remarkable and touching story. You are privileged to know such a man. God Bless you both! Cathy

NC Sue said...

What a wonderful reflection, and a wonderful reminder to us to look for the holiness in those we meet.

pinoycatholic said...

Beautiful story Father. Would definitely share it with with whiners.