Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Lucia My two year anniversary of my return to the Catholic Faith

And the light shineth in darkness:
and the darkness did not comprehend it.

et lux in tenebris lucet,
et tenebræ eam non comprehenderunt.
John 1:5

The other day I sent a friend an article on Saint Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Priest who had given his life in Auschwitz in exchange for the life of another. I wanted to show how just one person can through his life and his death transform the lives of all around him. In the actual article I had been looking for, a woman recounted how his sacrifice had lit up the whole camp, like a ray of light had come down from Heaven and changed everything. Not quite exactly what she said, but close enough and it had stayed with me, that St Kolbe's sacrifice had transformational power. Even just reading about it reminded me that everything is worth it if we save just one person, which is how we are meant to look at the Sacrifice on the Cross.

Unfortunately I couldn't find the particular article I wanted, so I had to send a different one. Though it didn't have exactly what I wanted in it, it did have was a lot more information about the Saint's life. What I found incredible is the number of saints that have debilitating, painful illnesses through which they struggle, but nevertheless manage to achieve far more than healthy people. Such it was for St Kolbe, whose lungs were mostly destroyed through tuberculosis, and who suffered constant headaches and abscesses.
Few if any knew he was chronically ill. Some even ignorantly belittled him for his deliberate slowness of movement, which was necessary to avoid hemorrhaging.
All that aside, the zeal with which St Kolbe applied himself to spreading the Faith via the print media in the 30's was amazing. No one thought what he was doing would amount to much, but within a short period of time he had thousands of subscribers. Soon after, he established a whole town just outside of Warsaw, made possible through the generous donation of land by a Prince This town became almost completely self-sufficient. It housed 50 religious orders and published 10 periodicals with 1.5 million subscribers, had started up a radio station to broadcast the Faith, and plans were underway before the war broke out in 1939 to start making films.
"All the fruits of human genius must be mobilized for the service and glory of God and His Immaculata," he would say.
But in the end, St Kolbe and his order of monks were taken by the Nazis and imprisoned in what was to become a death camp. And there he gave his life to save one man.

~ * ~ * ~

Nothing human lasts forever. That can be easily demonstrated through all the civilisations that have risen and fallen again into the dust over the millennia. I was reminded of this fact after I had finished reading the Illiad to my children.

My children had listened to me read the story of the Illiad over a number of weeks. Unlike many modern stories, many heroes died. Almost pointlessly, and through the capriciousness of the gods. The most extreme example was the suicide of Ajax, who, after having been driven mad overnight by the god Dionysis, in a desire to kill his friend Odysseus after he had lost Achilles' armour to him, slaying a flock of sheep in his madness, comes to his senses and kills himself from the shame.

When we got to the end, my children listened in stunned silence as the destruction of Troy, once in progress, continued without mercy. The only point of light in the darkness was Odysseus who exacted his reward from Agammenon for Helen of Troy's life when she was found in the city by her former husband, who had started the 10 year war in order to either avenge her desertion or get her back.

The silence continued for a minute or so as they absorbed the ending. Such destruction is almost incomprehensible, yet it has occured over and over through the history of humanity.

We have the capacity within all of us to build and to destroy. It's only a question of whether or not it is unleashed.

~ * ~ * ~

In contrast to the story of the Iliad, the selfless sacrifice of Saint Maximilian Kolbe for the life of one man is also almost incomprehensible. Yet for one woman a city was destroyed. Seen from a divine perspective, the perspective of He who is the Light of men, the sacrifice was of infinite value and through that sacrifice and in union with the Sacrifice on the Cross, His light shone through the darkness of Auschwitz for a time.

~ * ~ * ~

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. It is also my two year anniversary of my return the Faith after a too-long period of being in the wilderness. I got to the position of wanting to come back, in some part, through researching the history of Western Civilisation and then realising how much the Catholic Church was tied up in that history. Last year I tried to write the story of my return, but had to give up as the story is too large. I can't just attribute it to what I was researching, yet without that research I would not have been intellectually satisfied that I was doing the right thing. Ultimately, once I had explored every corner that the world had to offer, in the end only the Truth satisfies.

In order to understand how the Blessed Virgin Mary connects up with the mission of God in the world, I'd recommend reading a summary of St Maximilian Kolbe's writings on The Immaculate Conception.

Related Links:
Saint Maximilian Kolbe ~ Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary; Crusade of Saint Benedict Centre
Fighting for Christendom with Oranges and Lemons ~ NZ Conservative

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