Interview on “The Journey Home” with Marcus Grodi

Here’s the archive of my interview on EWTN’s “The Journey Home” with Marcus Grodi that aired tonight. I explained how I got to Russia, met my wife, became an ordained Vineyard pastor and church planter, joined staff at the International House of Prayer Official Page, then finally returned to the Church of my childhood by reading the lives of Catholic saints and mystics mixed with fasting.

Edith Stein and Companions, On the Way to Auschwitz

Auschwitz and Catholic Jews | Dr. Ralph McInerny | Foreword to Edith Stein and Companions, On the Way to Auschwitz, by Father Paul Hamans

Once, in monasteries, religious houses, and seminaries, the Roman Martyrology was read in the refectory before meals. Each day some of those who had given their lives in witness to the faith were commemorated by name, and often the tortures they underwent were described. Each day’s entry ended with a sentence beginning “et alibi aliorum plurimorum sanctorum…. ” And elsewhere many other saints. … This tradition continues in some monasteries.

We may feel sad for all the anonymous martyrs gathered into that commodious final sentence, but that would be a mistake. They are all entered in the Book of Life, and the names of each are known to God. For all that, it is important for us, not for them, that the names and sufferings of some be explicitly known by us. The saints are put before us as models of the Christian life, and martyrs are the ultimate models. We need to know more about some of them.

In this remarkable book, Dr. Paul Hamans, Father Hamans, has undertaken the onerous task of compiling biographies, often accompanied by photographs, of many of the religious and laity who were rounded up from their various convents and monasteries and homes on the same day as Saint Edith Stein, August 2, 1942; most of them were taken to the Amersfoort concentration camp and from there put on trains to Auschwitz, where the majority, soon after their arrival at the camp, were gassed and buried in a common grave between August 9 and September 30, 1942. They were all Catholic Jews, and their arrest was in retaliation for the letter of the Catholic bishops of the Netherlands that was read from the pulpits of all churches on July 26, 1942.

Over the past few years, in striking contrast to contemporary acknowledgments and the magnificent book of Jewish theologian and historian Pinchas Lapide, many authors have accused the Church of silence during the Nazi persecution of the Jews. None of the counterevidence to this shameful thesis has had any effect on the critics. The experience of Jews in the Netherlands, particularly Catholic Jews, is eloquent witness of what could result from public condemnation of the Nazis. The victims whose stories are included in this book were told that they were rounded up in direct retaliation of the condemnation of the Nazi “final solution” by the Dutch bishops.

Elsewhere, as was once acknowledged and celebrated, the Church in many ways, and in many countries, provided the principal help to European Jews. Indeed, the Catholic Church, under the leadership of Pope Pius XII, is credited by Lapide with saving the lives of some 860,000 Jews. These efforts were effective largely because they were not accompanied by noisy public declarations. With the appearance of the mendacious play of Rolf Hochhuth,The Deputy, in 1963, the tide turned, and a series of progressively more intemperate accusations against the Church and Pius XII began to appear. Some Jews reacted to mention of the non-Jewish victims of the Nazi persecution as if it were in some way an effort to diminish the tragedy that had befallen the Jewish people under the reign of Hitler. There were even objections from some Catholics when Edith Stein was canonized and characterized as a martyr. Their argument was that she was put to death as a Jew, not as a Catholic. And some sad souls objected to acknowledgment of what had happened to Catholic Jews like Edith Stein and her companions. This book is an indirect reply to such criticisms and will speak to all who have ears with which to hear.

That the ultimate sacrifice of the Catholic Jews arrested in the wake of the Dutch bishops’ protest should become a cause of controversy is a sad indictment of these last days. But it cannot touch the nobility and holy resignation with which they met their end. Pondering the people commemorated in this book should be an occasion, not for argument, but for edification. Father Hamans has put us in his debt for having taken on the enormous task of making them flesh-and-blood persons for his readers. During the ordeal, one nun wrote to her superior that they had all become numbers to their captors. Lists had been drawn up with diabolical bureaucratic efficiency by the Nazis, which is why the arrests were made so promptly.

Thanks to this book, they are no longer mere numbers. Like those mentioned in the Martyrology, their names have been restored. But, again, the importance of that is largely for us. They would have been content, like perhaps millions of others, with the collective mention of the army of martyrs in the Te Deum Laudamus:

Te martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus.

Ralph McInerny
University of Notre Dame
September 2010


Edith Stein and Companions On the Way to Auschwitz

by Father Paul Hamans

• Also available as an E-Book

On the same summer day in 1942, Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) and hundreds of other Catholic Jews were arrested in Holland by the occupying Nazis. One hundred thirteen of those taken into custody, several of them priests and nuns, perished at Auschwitz and other concentration camps. They were murdered in retaliation for the anti-Nazi pastoral letter written by the Dutch Catholic bishops.

While Saint Teresa Benedicta is the most famous member of this group, having been canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1998, all of them deserve the title of martyr, for they were killed not only because they were Jews but also because of the faith of the Church, which had compelled the Dutch bishops to protest the Nazi regime. Through extensive research in both original and secondary sources, P.W.F.M. Hamans has compiled these martyrs’ biographies, several of them detailed and accompanied by photographs. Included in this volume are some remarkable conversion stories, including that of Edith Stein, the German philosopher who had entered the Church in 1922 and later became a Carmelite nun, taking the name Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

Several of the witnesses chronicled here had already suffered for their faith in Christ before falling victim to Hitler’s “Final Solution”, enduring both rejection by their own people, including family members, and persecution by the so-called Christian society in which they lived. Among these were those who, also like Sister Teresa Benedicta, perceived the cross they were being asked to bear and accepted it willingly for the salvation of the world.

Day 39: Finding God after a Long Search

Augustine, wanted to be a committed Christian, but he couldn’t get to resolve one issue in his life, which was the lust of the flesh. He was determined to leave his mistress, and to start a fully Christian life for some time, but he did not know how to break with this sin, which was captivating his life.

One day, Anthony’s friend, Simplicianus, came to visit, and shared a story about a famous Roman philosopher, Victorianus, who converted to Christianity, and publically acknowledged it. This impacted his life strongly, as some of the Christians in higher ranks of society were not public about their faith, fearing being ridiculed.

Soon afterwards another friend visited him, Ponticianus, who was a high official in the emperor’s court, a Christian. Seeing the apostle Paul’s writings on Augustine’s desk, he shared with Augustine news about Anthony, the Egyptian monk, who lived in a solitude in the desert and many others were following his lifestyle of prayer and fasting. He told him about two of his friends, “secret service agents” from the emperor’s court, who visited a Christian house and found a book talking about life of Anthony. Upon reading the stories form that book, they wondered:

“Tell me, I beg you, what goal are we seeking in all these toils of ours? What is that we desire?…Can our hopes in the court rise higher than to be ‘friends of the emperor’? …But if I choose to become a friend of God, see, I can become one now.”

They were so touched and changed just by reading this testimony of a hermit, that one of them exclaimed:

“… I enter into that service from this hour in this place.”

While Ponticianus was talking, Augustine felt an unusual urge to reconsider his life. He was fighting within himself, remembering his prayers and suffering. He somehow tried to compose himself by rejecting the grace which was falling upon him, but after Ponticianus’ departure, he went to his other friend and exclaimed:

“What is the matter with us? What is this? What did you hear? The uninstructed start up and take heaven, and we – with all our learning but so little heart – see how we follow in flesh and blood!!!”

He went outside to a garden and his soul was struggling within him to say the final FIAT to God, started to cry with tears and with his voice:

“Will You be angry forever? How long? How long? Tomorrow and tomorrow? Why not now? Why not this very hour make an end to my uncleanness?”

Suddenly he heard a voice of a child chanting over and over:

“Pick it up, read it”.

Quickly he opened apostles Paul’s writings and his eyes fell on the passage:

“Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.”

He was freed instantly. And that’s how the saint was born, know today as St. Augustine, one of the brightest minds and hearts of human kind.

Prayer on Finding God after a Long Search

by Augustine

Too late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient, O Beauty so new. Too late have I loved you! You were within me but I was outside myself, and there I sought you! In my weakness I ran after the beauty of the things you have made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The things you have made kept me from you – the things which would have no being unless they existed in you! You have called, you have cried, and you have pierced my deafness. You have radiated forth, you have shined out brightly, and you have dispelled my blindness. You have sent forth your fragrance, and I have breathed it in, and I long for you. I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst for you. You have touched me, and I ardently desire your peace.

all citations from “Confessions” by St. Augustine

Day 22: “The Spiritual Canticle” – St. John of the Cross

The soul… has grown aware of her obligations and observed that life is short (Job 14:5), the path leading to eternal life constricted (Mt. 7:14), the just one scarcely saved (1 Pet. 4:18), the things of the world vain and deceitful (Eccles. 1:2), that all comes to an end and fails like falling water (2 Sam. 14:14), and that the time is uncertain, the accounting strict, perdition very easy, and salvation very difficult. She knows on the other hand of her immense indebtedness to God for having created her solely for Himself, and that for this she owes Him the service of her whole life; and because He redeemed her solely for Himself she owes Him every response of love. She knows, too, of the thousand other benefits by which she has been obligated to God from before the time of her birth, and that a good part of her life has vanished, that she must render an account of everything – of the beginning of her life as well as the later part – unto the last penny (Mt. 5:25) when God will search Jerusalem with lighted candles (Zeph. 1:12), and that it is already late – and the day far spent (Lk. 24:29) – to remedy so much evil and harm. She feels on the other hand that God is angry and hidden because she desired to forget Him so in the midst of creatures, Touched with dread and interior sorrow of heart over so much loss and danger, renouncing all things, leaving aside all business, and not delaying a day or an hour, with desires and sighs pouring from her heart, wounded now with the love for God, she begins to call her Beloved and say:

Where have you hidden,
Beloved, and left me moaning?
You fled like the stag
After wounding me;
I went out calling you, but you were gone.

St. John of the Cross from “The Spiritual Canticle”

Day 2: The Fulfillment of All Desire

I am reading during this 40-day fast a book by Ralph Martin called “The Fulfillment of All Desire”

YOU MUST READ IT

This is not a book only for those who think that they are called to a “life of prayer” (by the way, how else can we communicate and fellowship with God Himself?). It is not only for those who recognize an intercessory role as their primary function within the body of Christ. It’s not only for those who identify themselves as Catholic, Evangelical, Charismatic, Mystic, or Emergent church.

It’s for those who:

  • desire to acknowledge that there is a depth to the knowledge of God, which we, in our “instant society” are lacking profoundly
  • those who are experiencing hunger for God
  • those who love challenges
  • those who believe that inspiration of the past generations can be valuable
  • those who want to go deeper in understanding the ways to reach their Creator
  • those who need biblical proof that all of these mystics are right
  • don’t understand why things are happening, when they laid down their whole lives to Jesus
  • those who struggle with prayer life
  • those who are tired of seven-points-to-successful-prayer
  • those who are searching for the ancient truths spoken in a modern language
  • those who love God Himself above everything else, who burned the bridges, who know that there is nothing else to come back to, but are apprehensive of stepping into the unknown
  • those who want to become saints ( and I am quite serious about that one)

If you were struggling while reading “Fire within” by T. Dubay, this is “easier to read” version for the same subject – prayer.

WARNING

You will be messed up for some time, possibly for life…

You will discover (if you don’t know yet) that the whole body of Christ should be grateful to the Catholics for their wisdom…

You will wonder why no one told you these things before, and how come all of it is in the Bible…

You will discover something about yourself that someone else already knew hundreds years ago…

You will feel that you are a part of something bigger…

I will be quoting from this book during the fast to provoke you to buy it, read it, and live it! I hope you enjoy it as I do.

Apostolic Foundations

I am apart of a group of forty guys at the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City that have made a commitment to fast twice a week from food and to pray and read. The book we are currently reading is, Apostolic Foundations by Art Katz. I have never cried so much reading a book out loud with a group of men pursuing holiness as this one. It took us seven weeks just to finish chapter one because we would cry, rend our hearts, and contemplate the words read. If you would like to read some of it now, I attached the first two chapters below.

Apostolic Foundations (Chapter 1) – Apostolic Service: Priestliness

Apostolic Foundations (Chapter 2) – Apostolic Perception: Eternity