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.