My Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Most of us have lost both of our parents, and I am sure we all handled our grief differently, but we went through it and, with the help of the Lord, we made it through. I remember when my mother died, my brother said “now we are orphans”. It shocked me for a minute – it was a realization that we were the next generation to step up to the plate of life. It impacted us so much that we wanted to “find our roots”. My mother’s parents immigrated from Ireland and my father’s parents immigrated from Poland. My sister Mary’s parish had a trip to Poland so we signed up!
The country was beautiful and you couldn’t help be impressed with the faith of the Country. Along road sides there were little altars and statues, so people could stop and pray as they travelled. We visited the town Pope John Paul II was from; Went to the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa; The shrine of St. Faustina. Our Lady brought so much love and strength to this country. It was not unusual for me to see my father on his knees praying the rosary before he went to bed at night. I am sure his mother instilled this strong faith in him that came from her life in Poland.
One of the tours on this trip was to Auschwitz. The concentration camp that murdered four million people during the Nazi occupation of Poland. The sadness was overpowering. As you walked the dirt streets there was nothing growing. No plants, no flowers – nothing. No one on the tour spoke. The horror of what they were seeing, showed in the sadness on their faces. We visited the cell of St. Maximilian Kolbe, the saint of Auschwitz.
I want to share a little of his life from Scott Hahn’s book “Angels and Saints”.
He writes, “Ten men had been chosen to die a slow torturous death in the pit of Auschwitz, the starvation bunker. One of those men dropped to his knees and begged for mercy, for the sake of his wife and children. St. Maximilian Kolbe broke ranks, stepping forward and offering to die in place of the pleading man. Asked to identify himself, St. Maximilian – prisoner number 16670 – uttered the last words we know to have come from his lips: ‘I am a Catholic priest’.
The starvation bunker, where St. Maximillian spent his last days, was the lowest circle of the Nazis’ hell on earth. There, people were sealed up and left to die in a slow agony from starvation and thirst. The guards would laugh at their despair and tell them they would leave looking like dried-up tulip bulbs. There were screams and moans from every cell except Father Kolbe’s. There the priest led his cellmates in hymns and prayers to Christ and the Blessed Virgin. Finally, their captors tired of waiting, ordered that the remaining prisoners be killed by injection. Father Kolbe was the last to go. The man who took away his body said the priest died with a serene smile on his face.”
Dear Lord, thank you for St. Maximillian Kolbe and all the saints and angels who walked this earth. In all their stories it is their faith and trust in you that allows them to set examples for all of us. Could we ever do what the Martyrs did? Could we ever give our whole life to you fully? Could we be a saint on earth? Lord, we don’t know those things, but we do know that whatever our journey in life is, you are with us every step of the way. Help us to see you… Help us to be you for others… Help us to carve out time for you every day.
Lord, we ask you to bless Bishop Dewane, Father Joe and all the priests and religious in our Diocese. Bless our Councils that are struggling right now. Lord, show us how to survive and become stronger. Bless all our Council members and their families. You know our needs, our fears, and our shortcomings. Help us to be better Christians. And, finally Lord, help the world with the virus and all the effects it is having on your people. Bless the families in the wildfires and hurricanes. And, may Our Lady be with all those who are dying alone. May she take them by the hand and bring them to you. We ask all these things in Jesus’ name. Amen
Rybicki - Communications Director-Emails.