In the Footsteps of Saint Edith Stein

by Beverly Stevens

She was an intellectual German Jew and a Carmelite nun.  She was murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Today, she is a Catholic saint. But who was this astounding woman, really?  Saint Edith Stein!

photo(11)The story of Edith Stein begins on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, 1891 when she was born the youngest of eleven children of a Jewish timber merchant in Breslau, Germany. By the time she was two her father died, leaving her devout, hard-working mother to struggle alone. The prevailing secularism in German intellectual culture in the early 20th Century, however, meant that the young Edith and her siblings would lose their mother’s faith in God.

At the age of 14 “I consciously decided, of my own volition, to give up praying,” Edith wrote, years later. Later, as a brilliant university student and a radical suffragette with a keen interest in philosophy, Edith studied at Gottingen University under the renowned Professor Edmund Husserl.  Husserl denied Kant’s assertion that all reality is subjective; his view had the unintended effect of leading many of his pupils to Christianity.

Eyewitness to Death

Edith later entered to a nursing program, though, and soon found herself in an Austrian field hospital in the midst of the typhus epidemic of the First World War. She assisted in an operating theater and witnessed young people dying. It was too much for her.

Even before the war ended, she fled the battlefield, following Husserl to the University at Freiburg, and in 1917 gaining her doctorate summa cum laude on “The Problem of Empathy.” In her dissertation she wrote: “There have been people who believed that a sudden change had occurred within them and that this was a result of God’s grace.”

 At the Frankfurt Cathedral one day, Edith was astounded to see a simple woman with a shopping basket kneel for a brief prayer. “This was something totally new to me,” she wrote. “In the synagogues and Protestant churches I had visited people simply went to the services. Here, however, I saw someone coming straight from the busy marketplace into this empty church, as if she was going to have an intimate conversation. It was something I never forgot.”

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WHERE EDITH STEIN BEGAN HER CONVERSION at Frankfurt Cathedral.

“I saw someone coming straight from the busy marketplace into this empty church, as if she was going to have an intimate conversation. It was something I never forgot.”

Converting to Catholicism

The next step to her conversion came when Edith visited her friend Mrs. Reinach, a young, grieving war widow. “This was my first encounter with the Cross and the divine power it imparts to those who bear it … it was the moment when my unbelief collapsed and Christ began to shine his light on me – Christ in the mystery of the Cross.”

Though she had a doctorate, Edith was not permitted to teach at the university level because she was a woman. Years later, when women were professors, she was denied because she was a Jew. With no employment options, she returned to home to Breslau, where in the next few months she read the New Testament, Kierkegaard and Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. In the summer of 1921, Edith happened upon the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila. She stayed up all night reading.

“When I had finished the book, I said to myself: This is the truth,” she wrote. On January 1, 1922, at age 31, Edith Stein was baptized.  She spent a great deal of time at remote Beuron Abbey, studying under the tutelage of the Benedictine Abbot there. Later, she was confirmed by the Bishop of Speyer in his private chapel and for almost ten years afterwards she taught German and history at the Dominican Sisters’ college in Speyer. In 1932, she lectured under Catholic auspices at the University of Munster.  

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HIGH ALTAR, BEURON ABBEY where in the early 1920s Edith Stein spent a great deal of time studying Catholicism under the Benedictine Abbot.

Though she wanted to join a Carmelite convent, the Bishop dissuaded her. “During the time immediately before and quite some time after my conversion I … thought that leading a religious life meant giving up all earthly things and having one’s mind fixed on divine things only. Gradually, however, I learned that other things are expected of us in this world… I even believe that the deeper someone is drawn to God, the more he has to `get beyond himself’ in this sense, that is, go into the world and carry divine life into it.”

Stein was a prolific translator and writer. She translated the letters and diaries of Cardinal Newman from his pre-Catholic period as well as the Quaestiones Disputatae de Veritate of St Thomas Aquinas.  She wrote Potency and Act, a study of the central concepts developed by Aquinas.

In 1933, Hitler came to power. The Nazis made it impossible for Edith to continue teaching. “I had heard of severe measures against Jews before. But now it dawned on me that God had laid his hand heavily on His people, and that the destiny of these people would also be mine,” she wrote. “If I can’t go on here, then there are no longer any opportunities for me in Germany. I had become a stranger in the world.”

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EARLY 20TH CENTURY PIETA in Frankfurt Cathedral.

Entering Carmel

She resolved to enter the Carmelite Convent in Cologne. In 1938 Edith Stein, now known as Sister Teresa, Blessed of the Cross wrote: “I understood the cross as the destiny of God’s people, which was beginning to be apparent at the time (1933). I felt that those who understood the Cross of Christ should take it upon themselves on everybody’s behalf. Of course, I know better now what it means to be wedded to the Lord in the sign of the cross. However, one can never comprehend it, because it is a mystery.”

 “Those who join the Carmelite Order are not lost to their near and dear ones, but have been won for them, because it is our vocation to intercede to God for everyone,” she wrote on October 31, 1938. “I keep thinking of Queen Esther who was taken away from her people precisely because God wanted her to plead with the king on behalf of her nation. I am a very poor and powerless little Esther, but the King who has chosen me is infinitely great and merciful. This is great comfort.”

Ten days later, the violent persecution of German Jews went into overdrive, and Edith’s Prioress worked desperately to smuggle her across the border to a Carmelite Convent in Echt, in the Netherlands. There, Edith wrote “The Church’s Teacher of Mysticism and the Father of the Carmelites, John of the Cross, on the Occasion of the 400th Anniversary of His Birth, 1542-1942.”

Arrested by the Gestapo

Edith Stein was arrested by the Gestapo on August 2, 1942, while in the chapel with the sisters. She was given five minutes to leave, together with her sister Rosa, another nun. Her last words there were addressed to Rosa: “Come, we are going for our people.”

Their arrest – along with other Jewish Christians — was a Nazi act of retaliation against a letter of protest by the Dutch Catholic Bishops on the pogroms and deportations of Jews. On August 7, 1942,  early in the morning, 987 Jews were deported to Auschwitz. Records indicate that it was probably on August 9 that Edith and Rosa were gassed to death.

The Miracle for Her Canonization

The miracle which was the basis for her canonization was the cure of Teresa Benedicta McCarthy, a little girl who had swallowed a large amount of acetaminophen which causes hepatic necrosis. Her father, Reverend Emmanuel Charles Mc Carthy, a priest of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and her entire family prayed for Stein’s intercession. Shortly thereafter the nurses in the intensive care unit saw her sit up completely healthy. Dr. Ronald Kleinman, a pediatric specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital who treated Teresa Benedicta, testified about her recovery to Church tribunals, stating “I was willing to say that it was miraculous.”

Saint Edith Stein was beatified in Cologne in 1987 and canonized in 1998. Blessed Pope John Paul II said that the Church “bowed down before a daughter of Israel who, as a Catholic during Nazi persecution, remained faithful to the crucified Lord Jesus Christ and, as a Jew, to her people in loving faithfulness.”

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MEMORIAL PLAQUE TO EDITH STEIN IN COLOGNE, GERMANY on the occasion of her beatification there.

 

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RELIQUARY OF SAINT EDITH STEIN

If The Vines Could Talk

Germany’s Best Kept Catholic Secret

by Beverly Stevens

They are everywhere. Vines, stretching for miles – on scalloped terraces rising over the winding Moselle River, ranging across the wide-open spaces in Franconia and the Palatinate, enveloping the mighty Rhine. “How many of you were raised here?” I recently asked a class of German teens. Ninety percent of the 16 year-olds raised their hands. “Okay, so who created these vineyards?”

Forget the scandal of  the bishops. Ignore the empty churches. Look, instead, at the land itself, and the story of the Catholic Church in Germany will reveal itself to you.

Stumping the German Students

I gestured out the window to the vines covering miles of gentle slopes down to the Rhine. The students exchanged glances, shrugging.

“The Romans?” ventured one brave boy whose family farms the vineyards here.

“Nope,” I said. “Let’s try this again. Who cut down the trees, hauled away the stumps and prepared all these kilometers of land to grow grapes? I’ll give you a hint. It happened way before electricity and the combustion engine…”

No idea.

“Who built the wine presses? Developed the science of wine-making? “

The class was stumped.

 “It was the Church,” I told them finally, grinning.  They looked at the priest whose class I was teaching, utterly flummoxed. Could this be true?

“I can’t believe it,“ the observing German lay teacher was mildly embarrassed. “How can you not know this?” she asked them, shaking her head.

How can this be? The answer, of course, is that they haven’t been taught this. No one – not their parents, nor the Catholic schools they attend — apparently ever bothers to teach what is glaringly apparent.

photo(8)“I can’t believe it,“ the observing lay teacher was mildly embarrassed. “How can you not know this?” she asked them, shaking her head.

A Civilization Created by the Church

Nevertheless, facts are facts. Unbeknownst to them, these teenagers inhabit a civilization that was created by the Church. And it wasn’t just vines, or the wine-making. The Church brought engineering, medicine, education – all the blessings of civilization — to Germany. And the Rheingau today is living proof of this.

This 20-mile stretch along the Rhine (‘gau’  is German for ‘coast’) is a landscape painstakingly carved out of the wilderness by generations of monks. Ancient abbeys crown the hilltops. Tiny chapels, still lovingly maintained by anonymous hands, dot the hills.

World-famous Rieslings – a light white grape – were created by the Church’s viniculture here, centuries before Martin Luther ever saw the light of day. The wall-enclosed vineyard of Kloster Eberbach (the ‘Steinberg’) is said to produce one of the most sought-after white wines in the world today.

All of this is the patient work of centuries. The Cistercians were the land-shapers, and their handiwork is visible everywhere. Where once only mosquito-infested swamps thrived, streams flow merrily straight downhill between orderly rows of vines, into the Rhine.

In addition to their impressive wine-making skills, the Benedictines celebrated the ancient liturgy. Carmelites were the contemplatives. Ursuline nuns taught the children. Here in the Rheingau, even the famously austere Jesuits kept vineyards.

But they are all gone, now, except for the Benedictine nuns in St. Hildegard’s Abbey.  And all of this is unknown to the weekenders from Frankfurt for wine tastings, or to the tourists who enjoy the Rhine river cruises.

Even the people of the Rheingau, justly proud of their land, are in the dark about their own history.

Why is this?

photo(9)This is a landscape painstakingly carved out of the wilderness by generations of monks. Ancient abbeys crown the hilltops. Tiny chapels, still lovingly maintained by anonymous hands, dot the hills.

Kidnapping Catholic Boys

“The Church was hated,” insisted one innkeeper with an amateur interest in local history. We were cozily ensconced in his Michelin-rated restaurant in a 16th century building. “They were rich, and lordly. The people were forced to tithe to them.”

Did the people felt any kinder towards the Hessian government?

Ach, they weren’t any better. You know those Hessian soldiers who fought in the American Revolutionary War?” he asked. “The ones who George Washington’s troops murdered in their sleep on Christmas Eve after crossing the Delaware?

“They were Rheingau farm boys, and they were forced off these vineyards – sold like cattle for money –to the British by the local princes to fight in their bloody wars in America. They never had a chance, those poor bastards. The lucky ones ran away from the Redcoats. They deserted, found work and wives and became Americans.”

And the Church didn’t raise its voice in protest against this outrage?

“The government was Protestant,” he shrugged. “Very easy to sell the Catholics’ sons to the Protestant British. And what could the Church do, anyway? Pray?”

photo(10)“Rheingau farm boys were forced off these vineyards – sold like cattle for money –to the British by the local princes to fight in their bloody wars in America.”

An Unknown Past

Why are the local Germans so ignorant of their own history?

“Because we are only taught about the 20th century,” the innkeeper explained, shaking his head. “The terrible years. The hunger. World War I. The Nazi terror. World War II. The bombings. The death. And then the rebuilding, the great accomplishments of the generations after the War.

“We learn almost nothing of the years before the 20th century. It is as if it never existed. Though, as you see, we live in the middle of it, surrounded by the physical evidence of a past that we barely know anything about.

“We think we are so smart, we Germans. But we are ignorant of who we are.”

Germany’s best kept Catholic secret is the country’s own Catholic history. And therein lies, perhaps, the greatest mystery of all to modern Germans.

And that is the question of who they actually are.

photo(1) “We learn almost nothing of the years before the 20th century. It is as if it never existed. Though, as you see, we live in the middle of it, surrounded by the physical evidence of a past that we barely know ever existed.”

Bavaria: On Wandering in a Catholic Landscape

By Tamara Isabell

PHOTO CREDIT: Migdalia Mass

The German word for hiking is ‘wandern,’ which brings to mind the cheerful act of wandering and the serendipity of discovery.  Pope Benedict has called his native Bavaria “a land so beautiful that it is easy to recognize that God is good and be happy.”  To wander in such a lovely, well-ordered landscape is to inevitably encounter God. 

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Pope Benedict has called his native Bavaria “a land so beautiful that it is easy to recognize that God is good and to be happy.”  To wander in such a lovely, well-ordered landscape is to inevitably encounter God.

To think of a natural landscape as “well-ordered” might seem strange to Americans, as our forests loom with a particular sort of dark and thorny wildness, but in Bavaria one does not encounter such trials.   Bavarian land is blessed with gentle slopes, curving streams, and a verdant glow of health. 

The Bavarians, over the eons, have fitted themselves into this benevolent order and have developed the virtues to preserve and enhance the land.  Villages are tucked discreetly into the particular dales where they ought to go, with no urban sprawl.  Artful forest management has rendered the woodland hospitable to humans and wild creatures alike. Everywhere one sees evidence of man having been inspired by God’s bountiful Providence, and his respect and deference to that Providence.

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Bavarian villages are tucked discreetly into the particular dales where they ought to go, with no urban sprawl.  Artful forest management has rendered the woodland hospitable to humans and wild creatures alike. Everywhere one sees evidence of man having been inspired by God’s bountiful Providence. What more perfect setting for Catholicism to flourish in?

What more perfect setting for Catholicism to flourish in?  We know the Faith takes hold everywhere, but one gets the sense it is bound to happen in such a place where the material world so clearly reaches out for and testifies to, His glory. 

We can imagine Saint Boniface and his early encounters with the roving Germanic tribes in that land. Were the forests themselves a bit darker and more unruly in those pagan times?  Nevertheless, Boniface recognized it as a land which wanted only a bit of industriousness on the part of man in service of God to perfect it.  So he took out his axe, hewing oaks into churches, allowing the grace of God to hew pagans into Christians.

And the fruits of their efforts have endured. 

Today’s Bavarians are the heirs of this Catholic landscape, created by God but embellished by the devout sweat of their ancestors. One can hardly round a bend in a Bavarian road without finding a roadside chapel, a crucifix, or a statue honoring Our Lady or a saint.  

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Today’s Bavarians are the heirs of this Catholic landscape, created by God but embellished by the devout sweat of their ancestors. One can hardly round a bend in a Bavarian road without finding a roadside chapel, a crucifix, or a statue honoring Our Lady or a saint.  

Religious murals adorn Bavaria’s charming Fachwerk architecture.   The world-famous Passion Play in Oberammergau has been running steadily for almost 400 years, with every sign of running for the next 400, as well.   Annual festivals continuously revolve around harvest and religious events with an almost liturgical rhythm, celebrating everything from the humble asparagus to regional wines with a distinctly Christian joy for the simple and natural.

Whereas the Deutsche Bischofskonference reports a falling away from the Church in Germany as a whole (Editor’s Note: Today, under 30% of Germans identify themselves as “Catholic” – see here for the reasons) Bavaria maintains a strong 55%.  This is because the region is so tied to the Catholicism of its forefathers that it is impossible to imagine that bond ever being completely undone.  The Bavarians won’t stop calling themselves Catholic any more than they will stop calling themselves Bavarian, and for the same reason: it is their honorable and historical identity. To be Bavarian is to be Catholic, and both qualities spring from the same soil.

Kitzingen 2

The Bavarians won’t stop calling themselves Catholic any more than they will stop calling themselves Bavarian, and for the same reason: it is their honorable and historical identity. To be Bavarian is to be Catholic, and both qualities spring from the same soil.

The fierce independence of the Bavarian is connected to the cycles of his natural environment, and his Catholicism is a product and a reflection of that same environment. Although Europe’s postmodern secularism has infected Germany as a whole, it has not and will not gain the same ground in Bavaria. 

Just as God allows the fallen-away Catholic to stray a bit before calling him back to that which he has forgotten, the Bavarian will always be summoned by a rediscovery of the natural beauty all around him.  The patterns of life that have been built into that natural order form a rhythm that harkens to God. 

In a land so reflective of God’s own beauty, one can only wander so far.  All Bavarian paths wind their way back to their Creator — and the wanderer joyfully discovers that He is good. 

Uffenheim

Just as God allows the fallen-away Catholic to stray a bit before calling him back to that which he has forgotten, the Bavarian will always be summoned by a rediscovery of the natural beauty all around him.  The patterns of life that have been built into that natural order form a rhythm that harkens to God. 

 

The Young German Christians Who Spoke Truth to Power

The Young German Christians Who Spoke Truth to Power

By Teresa Limjoco

Scholl-Denkmal,_MünchenOne used his Faith as a shield in the face of brutal Gestapo interrogation; he did not talk. Another converted on his way to the guillotine. All were inspired by the heroic resistance of one Catholic bishop.  Today, they would be regarded as very odd, indeed. What would modern Germans think of university students with strong Christian beliefs — many sustained by a deep attachment to Catholicism — defying the government? It is almost unheard of.

In this look back at the heroic young Germans who died defying the Nazi terror, Teresa Limjoco reveals the truth about where their strength came from.

In the 1930s, they were young, middle class and well-educated. They discussed philosophy, sang in a Bach choir, enjoyed music, poetry, art, and books. They could easily have continued with such lives, but their consciences were awakened as they watched 1930’s Germany succumb to Nazi  barbarism.

Moving beyond the passive ‘inner emigration’ most intellectuals resorted to, these University of Munich students formed the ‘White Rose’ (‘Die Weisse Rose’), a resistance movement which dared to speak truth to power. 

It would cost them their lives.

Speaking Truth to Power

Enthusiastic Hitler Youth members as teens, siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl grew disillusioned when the anti-Jewish hooliganism of Kristallnacht in 1938 revealed the ugly, ruthless face of Nazism. Disillusion would turn to outrage as they learned of ever-escalating heinous Nazi attacks on defenseless Jews.

  GalenBAMS200612       In 1941, Hans heard of a homily preached by von Galen, the Roman Catholic bishop of Munster, (pictured to the left) who bravely denounced Nazi euthanasia of the disabled and mentally ill. In this, Hans – a medical student who had served as a medic on the Eastern front – found his inspiration.

With medical students Christel Probst and Willi Graf, and their friend Alexander Schmorell, Hans formed the ‘White Rose’, one of the only groups that ever dared to voice opposition in Hitler’s Germany. His sister Sophie and Professor Kurt Huber joined them.  

Their weapon? Leaflets. The first, in mid-1942 incited Germans to passively resist the Nazis, whom they termed ‘an irresponsible clique that has yielded to base instinct.’1

In eight months, they distributed six leaflets. Their bravery would be short-lived, however; the Scholls and Probst were soon arrested. The White Rose was mercilessly crushed.

Their sixth and last leaflet was sent out between February 16 and 18, 1943, an especially dangerous time. After the disastrous defeat of the Wehrmacht in Stalingrad, Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels gave a ‘scorched-earth’ speech on February 18 at the Sportpalast that called for ‘total war’. (Coincidentally, Sophie’s correspondent-boyfriend, Lt. Fritz Hartnagel, was assigned to Stalingrad).

As glimpses of their vulnerability surfaced, the Nazis ramped up their brutality. More death sentences were meted out to dissidents. Yet the need to oppose such a malevolent entity trumped fear. Hans and Sophie knew the risk of their fateful decision to distribute those leaflets in the university. They were quickly reported.

Hans and Sophie knew the risk of their fateful decision to distribute those leaflets in the university. They were quickly reported. Hans Scholl (left), Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst, leaders of the White Rose resistance organization. Munich 1942 (USHMM Photo)

The Nazis prosecuted and executed the three on February 22, 1943 with unusual swiftness and stealth, fearing they would become martyrs. Their sentences would serve as an example. After a sham ‘trial’, they were condemned to death by guillotine for ‘high treason’ by Hitler’s ‘hanging judge,’ Roland Freisler.

What They Believed

While their incredible courage has made them latter-day film heroes, most people today have no idea that the extraordinary acts of the Scholls, Christel Probst, and Willi Graf were grounded in a firm belief in God.  Their fourth leaflet boldly called Hitler the Anti-Christ, and declared that ‘[o]nly religion can reawaken Europe, establish the rights of the peoples, and install Christianity in new splendor visibly on earth in its office as guarantor of peace.’1, 2, 6

The Scholls’ mother, Magdalena, was a Lutheran deaconess who taught her children the Bible.  Her son Hans also found guidance in Catholic works such as St Augustine’s Confessions and Paul Claudel’s writings.3, 6  [St Augustine’s City of God (Civitas Dei) would even find mention in the third leaflet]. (2) Sophie kept a well-worn copy of Confessions in the compulsory labor service camp. One line in particular resonated with her: ‘Thou hast created for us Thyself, and our heart cannot be quieted till it find repose in Thee.‘ 2

German historians Jakob Knab and Guenther Biemer believe  today that Cardinal John Henry Newman’s writings influenced Hans and Sophie’s moral, spiritual, and intellectual formation  —  including the Christian understanding of conscience. 2 

Professor Carl Muth had introduced them to St Augustine’s works, and also to Cardinal Newman’s work through his friend, Theodor Haecker. Haecker was a Catholic convert who had translated Newman’s writings into German. ‘ [C]onscience,’ Newman wrote,  ‘is the voice of God….’5  Sophie apparently valued Newman’s ideas enough to share them with Fritz Hartnagel, giving him two volumes of the Cardinal’s sermons in 1942. 2, 4, 7

Christel’s Story

Like many Germans today, ‘Christel’ Probst grew up with no religion. As a young adult, however, he’d felt a closeness to the Catholic Church. News of the Nazi euthanasia program and persecution of the Jews outraged him. As he wrote his sister Angelika, ‘…it was not given to any human being, under any circumstance, to make judgments that are reserved to God alone. … Every individual’s life is priceless. We are all dear to God.’3 

Evidence linking Christel to a draft for the seventh leaflet led to his arrest by the Nazis.  He asked to be received into the Roman Catholic Church on the day he was to die. He was baptized and received First Communion, after which he said, ‘Now my death will be easy and joyful’.3  He left behind a wife, two young children, and a newborn baby.

Willi’s Story

Willi_graf_005

As a Roman Catholic, Willi Graf felt deeply the Nazi persecution of his Church. While serving as a medic during the invasion of Poland and Russia, Willi was horrified by the atrocities committed by the Wehrmacht there. He could not but reject a system that went against his deepest beliefs. He would help write the leaflets, but it was July 1943 when the Gestapo finally caught up with him.

He was executed in October following Gestapo efforts to extract more information from him. His Faith gave him strength to withstand brutal interrogations without compromising his friends. 2 

On his last day, he wrote to his family, ‘On this day I’m leaving this life and entering eternity. … strength and comfort you’ll find with God and that is what I am praying for till the last moment … Hold each other and stand together with love and trust…. God’s blessing on us, in Him we are and we live …’.6

Addendum 2018

2018 was the 100th anniversary of his birth and the 75th anniversary of his execution. He deserves much more recognition than he’s received in the past. Unlike the other White Rose members, he refused to join the Hitler Youth and never did, despite threatened with being prevented from taking the university admittance test. Instead, he joined illegal Catholic youth groups for boys and was arrested in early 1938 for his participation. He and his friends spent a few weeks in jail. He served as an altar boy at the Basilica of St. John the Baptist in Saarbruecken where he grew up, joined the Red Cross as a university student, and pursued medical studies as opposed to the liberal arts which he maintained were corrupted by the Nazis. His main concern had been for the victims and was deeply troubled by the indifference and/or alignment of those in authority with the Nazis. His favorite bible verse, which inspired him throughout his life, was James 1:22. He strove to be a “doer of the Word.” He also recited Psalm 90. After two deployments on the Russian Front and his resistance with the White Rose, he was arrested by the Gestapo in Munich on February 18, 1943. Of the core White Rose members, he spent the longest time in prison (8 months) and never cooperated with the Gestapo, thereby saving the lives of those whom he had tried to recruit for the White Rose.  He also experienced the most time on the battlefield as a combat paramedic and witnessed crimes against humanity committed by his fellow Germans. He was executed for high treason on October 12, 1943 in Munich’s Stadelheim Prison, today one of Germany’s largest prisons. He was declared a martyr by Saint Pope John Paul II. (7)

Willi, the Roman Catholic, was executed in October following Gestapo efforts to extract more information from him. His Faith gave him strength to withstand brutal interrogations without compromising his friends.

Sophie Calmly Faces Nazi Torture and Death

All who witnessed their last days were struck by their ‘Seelenkraft,’ their ‘strength of soul.’3  Sophie’s calm fortitude so impressed her interrogator, Robert Mohr, that he actually offered her a way out: that she admit to having misunderstood what National Socialism meant and must regret what she did.

“Not at all,” Sophie defied him. “It is not I, but you, Herr Mohr, who have the wrong Weltanschauung (‘world view’). I would do the same again.”3

The executioner himself, a veteran of thousands of such tasks, said that he had never seen anyone meet her fate so calmly as Sophie Scholl did. She was 21 years old.

The executioner himself, a veteran of thousands of such tasks, said that he had never seen anyone meet her fate so calmly as the 21-year old Sophie Scholl did.

Not ideology, but Faith sustained them

Seventy years after their deaths, the exceptional moral courage of these young people remains astounding. It was not a political agenda nor an ideology but basic human decency and life-affirming beliefs based on strong religious convictions that inspired and sustained the White Rose martyrs.

Hans was 24, Sophie was 21, Christel was 23, and Willi was 25 years old when their brave young lives were extinguished. 

Would that their heroism live on to inspire more bravery in us all.

References

1 Scholl, Inge. The White Rose: Munich, 1942-1943. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1983.  [NOTE: Inge Scholl was the sister of Hans and Sophie. The book was originally written in 1970, and a new Introduction by Dorothee Soelle is included in the 1983 edition.]

2 McDonough, Frank. Sophie Scholl: The Real Story of the Woman Who Defied Hitler, Stroud, Gloucestershire: History Press, 2009.

*Note 13 in Chapter Three mentions Jakob Knab’s findings on the Cardinal Newman influence.

[NOTE: The latest, with a few additional tidbits that have not been mentioned in previous publications.  ]

3 Hanser, Richard. A Noble Treason: The Story of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose Revolt Against Hitler. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1979. [NOTE: Excellently written, hard to put down.]

4 Cardinal John Henry Newman and the Scholls http://newmaninspiredresistance.blogspot.com

5 Quotation from Cardinal Newman.

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/newman-norfolk.asp#Conscience



6 Dumbach, Annete and Newborn, Jud. Sophie Scholl and the White Rose. Oxford, England: Oneworld, 2006.[NOTE: Another fine and credible source.]



7 Excerpts from Fritz Harnagel’s letters to Sophie Scholl.  http://pedrokolbe.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/john-henry-cardinal-newman-and-the-white-rose/

8. Several images from Wikipedia

9. Richards-Wilson, Stephanie. PhD, EdD. http://kritische-ausgabe.de/artikel/faith-under-fire; http://fountainsofcarrots.com/2018/06/.  

The Protagonist

If you were the Devil, and you wanted to disrupt a European Catholic church which was growing and strong, spreading its wings after disastrous decades of unspeakable war, what would you do?

I speak of the time of the 1950s. If you were the Devil, how would you go about this? (I am assuming here for a moment that you are so unenlightened so as to believe that the Prince of Lies exists, of course.)

Well, since you are only a spirit, you need a human being to do your work, so I shall call him the Protagonist. Someone reliable, someone whose fortunes you could improve over the course of his life. Someone young, highly influencible, someone who was hungry for fame and riches, underneath a pious exterior.

The Protagonist would have to have a pious exterior of course because he would have to be a member of the Church. And he could not be identified with any of the clearly Satanic forces that you had so successfully unleashed in the 20th century. Not a Marxist. Not a Communist. Not a Nazi.

Someone wholly reasonable. Someone who cared about the poor, the environment and the marginalized.

Of course you would have to give him the resources he needed to spread the destruction far and wide. Money. Useful idiots. These things could be used to take advantage of the spectacular increases in technology and communications that would ensue in the wake of World War II.

Of course, your Protagonist would have to be eminently corruptible. A weakness for luxuries perhaps? Or sins of the flesh?

And he would get his appetites satisfied. Oh yes, you would see to that.

The Protagonist’s financial base would have to be assured. You couldn’t have him too distracted with money problems. A good move would be to tie his income to a growing concern.  And his success or failure in his ostensible ‘job’ should not be tied to his income. That should be something quite separate. The money needs to flow in regardless of whether he is doing his ‘job.’

And of course very little oversight would be needed, in order to give him free rein.

Now, it would be important to shield the Protagonist from having to spend all of his time tediously communicating your destructive messages. This work can be done by mouthpieces. Professors of theology, for example, whose daily bread is dependent on the good will of the Protagonist. They can be trusted to work assiduously for the intellectual undermining of the Church and her position – all from the safety of their jobs inside the Church. They can demand that Rome dismantle her morals, her catechism. They can disdain the queries from the faithful as ‘uninformed’ and/or ‘uneducated.’

They will for sure be applauded by the secular media. They will be heroes.

No, the Protagonist would have to be deployed in using his natural gifts, like his talent for management. He will naturally see that the Church’s ‘customers’ – ie the faithful – are nothing but a nuisance. The fewer of them to take up his time, the better. So, his priests must be trained to believe that the nonsense emanating from the theologians was actually their religion.

Which is to say no theology at all. The old, Scholastic ‘theology’ must be ridiculed and derided. The ‘Sacraments’ must be administered grudgingly, and in their most diminished form.

Of course of all this will discourage vocations, which is a delightful prospect. The few faithful left can be served by imported priests from India and Africa, grateful for the pittance they are paid to be sent back to their desperately poor dioceses. Barely conversant in the language, they will make no trouble.

The Protagonist will be in a position to dispense gifts and favors to his enormous native workforce, of course. This will minimize the occasions when he will have to use his primary talent for bullying. 

Of course, when the occasion merits it, he will not hesitate to bully, Mafia-style. It will be salutary for his henchmen to see a victim every once in a while.

Perhaps a Bishop from a wealthy family, dismembered and shamed before the entire nation?

But I digress.

Finally, the killer sin. Pride. He must be a proud man. And he must link his personal pride deeply with your satanic cause. He must believe that what he is doing is furthering the cause of Christ on earth.

Until it is too late, of course. That’s when you will grant him the full view – the supreme vision—so he can see the destruction he has been the agent of, the countless souls lost. But you will make sure he will see this only in his last, tortured hours on this earth, maybe even in  his last breath.

By then it will be much too late, and he will only see the devils, your minions, swarming around him. Exactly like the folktales about the death of one of your other great European success stories, Napoleon Bonaparte.

Of course, once he dies, he will leave behind precisely the kind of Church which the people will hate most. Swollen with riches. Rife with corruption. Riddled with proud clerics grasping for the reins from the dead Protagonist’s hands.

Perfect for secularization. Again.

It would be important to give the Protagonist cover, of course, from criticism. Probably best to locate him in a society where people have for centuries been trained not to resist the will of great and powerful princes.

Someplace like Germany, perhaps?

 

 

 

 

The Great German King Who Sleeps Until Christendom’s Hour of Need

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WHO IS THAT German KING? Poised on his charger, his hand raised in a warning or a salute — this is Charlemagne, one of Christendom’s great heroes. A Frank — forerunners of today’s Germans and French — Charlemagne died 1200 years ago, in 814 AD. His name in Latin was Carolus Magnus. For the Germans, he is ‘Karl Der Grosse;’  ‘Charles the Great’ in English and ‘Carlo Magno’ in Spanish.
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A GREAT, TALL MAN: The skull of Charles the Great is preserved in this reliquary in the Treasury of the great Cathedral built in his capital, today’s Aachen, Germany (Aix-La-Chapelle in French). From his remains, we know he was heavily built, sturdy, and of considerable stature. He had a round head, large and lively eyes, and a slightly larger nose than usual. His hair was prematurely white and he bore a characteristically bright and cheerful expression. He enjoyed good health. Charles the Great stood 1.84 meters (slightly more than 6 feet) making him a very tall person for his time.
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‘CAROLUS PRINCEPS’ — Latin for ‘Charles the Prince,’ inlaid in marble in Aachen Cathedral. His father was the Frankish leader Pepin the Short, mayor of the palace under the Merovingian dynasty of Frankish kings. His grandfather was Charles Martel, aka ‘Charles the Hammer.’ (In Germany today, people still use ‘Der Hammer’ to describe a man they admire.)
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CROWNED EMPEROR OF THE ROMANS BY POPE LEO III ON CHRISTMAS DAY in A.D. 800 and ruled until his death in January, 814 at the age of 71. He started the custom whereby Christmas Day became a traditional day of crowning Emperors and Kings. It took 32 years before Charlemagne completely conquered the Saxons from 772 to 804 AD. He also conquered the Bavarians, Slavs and Avars and obliged them to pay him tribute and also defeated and ruled the Lombards of Italy in 773 and northern part of Spain in 778 AD.
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THE EMPIRE THAT CHARLEMAGNE built included almost all of western and central Europe. He presided over the cultural and legal revival of the West known as the Carolingian Renaissance. Modern-day France and Germany emerged from Charlemagne’s empire, the former as West Francia and the latter as East Francia.
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CHARLEMAGNE INVITED THE MONK ALCUIN OF YORK, ENGLAND to his capital at Aix-la-Chapelle (today Aachen, Germany) to set up the first Christian Cathedral School. Though he was illiterate, Charlemagne recognized the great power of education, and ordered bishops and abbots to set up schools for the training of monks and other clerics throughout the Empire.
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CATHEDRAL WINDOW AT CHARLEMAGNE’S TOMB He made Latin the standard written and spoken language in his huge empire of several languages and dialects, thus making it possible for Europeans to communicate across cultures. Charlemagne also played a key role in preserving much of the literary heritage of ancient Rome.
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WORTH MORE THAN $100 MILLION, this coronation cross was made for Charlemagne and carried at every Coronation of the Holy Roman Emperor for almost a thousand years.
His warrior-king image was the inspiration for all subsequent empire builders in Europe during the Middle Ages. The word for “king” in several modern Slavic languages such as Krol in Polish and Kral in Czech are based upon the German name of Charlemagne, Karl.
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CORONATION CLOAK for the Holy Roman Emperor is still intact and on display in the Cathedral Treasury. In a great historical irony, this may well be the very spot where Charlemagne founded his famous school.
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CHARLEMAGNE THE MAN
For German Catholics who don’t think they can have a marriage annulled — apparently a widespread misconception in modern times — it may be interesting to note that Charles the Great was married four times. His first marriage was annulled, and he went on to have eleven legitimate and nine illegitimate children.
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GOLDEN RELIQUARY FOR A SIMPLE KING He wore a blue cloak and always carried a fancy jeweled sword to banquets or ambassadorial receptions, though in the main he despised elaborate, expensive clothes and usually dressed like the common people. His favorite food was roasted meat. He wanted to build a canal that connected the Rhine and Danube Rivers via the Main, which in fact wasn’t accomplished until the 19th century.
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CAESAR AUGUSTUS WITH A SCEPTER BEARING THE ROMAN EAGLE at the center of the Coronation Cross of the Holy Roman Empire.
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CHARLEMAGNE’S FIRST TOMB After a funeral Mass, he was buried the same day he died, in this stone sarcophagus. According to medieval legend, Charlemagne was said to have risen from the dead to fight in the Crusades.
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THE BONES OF CHARLEMAGNE now repose in this ornate, solid gold reliquary in the Lady Chapel of the Cathedral at Aachen, where they miraculously emerged unharmed, despite the devastation of Allied bombing of the city during World War II. According to Charlemagne’s legend, he sleeps until Christendom — the Empire he forged –has need of him once again.
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CHARLEMAGNE AND THE IDEAL OF THE CHRISTIAN KNIGHT For centuries, Germany and all of Christendom believed in a knightly ideal — the gallantry of a Christian warrior devoted to his Lord, defending his lands and deferential to women, children, the poor, the sick and the elderly. All of this arguably derive from the example that this great king, Charlemagne, set 1200 years ago.

 

TEXT: ED MASTERS & BEVERLY DE SOTO

PHOTOS: HARRY STEVENS