August 3, 2013 by lucieromarin
The more you look to a priest for leadership, the greater is the suffering when that leadership is not given. So, let’s remember some of the priests who were faithful to the end, and then were all but forgotten. Obviously, I can’t fit the entire twentieth century into a single blog post. This is just a beginning – a small reminder of how faithful a priest can be:
Father Walter Ciszek, who spent over 23 years in Soviet prisons and labour camps, ministering in secret to his fellow prisoners. I have to be honest and say that I found his book, ‘With God in Russia’ dry reading; I mean, we have the standards of Ginsburg and Solzhenitsyn to live up to. It’s still valuable, though, especially as an example of how to live once your youthful dreams have been entirely and irrevocably destroyed.
Blessed Severian Stefan Baranyk, a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest, arrested by the NKVD. His body, mutilated and carved with the sign of the Cross, was found only after the Soviet withdrawal from Drohobych.
Blessed Titus Brandsma, (a completely underrated beatus!), a Carmelite priest and journalist, who died by lethal injection in Dachau. Nicknamed ‘the dangerous little friar’ by the Gestapo, he was arrested, tortured, experimented upon, and killed, for refusing to dismiss Jewish children from Catholic schools in Holland, and for the success with which he urged Catholic newspapers to refuse to print Nazi propaganda.
Servant of God Father Vincent Capodanno, who died in the Que-Son Valley, Vietnam. An army chaplain, he refused to abandon his overtaken Marines, and remained on the battlefield giving them the Last Rites, even when he was wounded in the face and one hand is severed. He was finally killed when he chose to assist a man dying a few metres from an enemy machine-gun. I haven’t read ‘The Grunt Padre,’ but here it is, if you’d like to try it!
Blessed Father Mateo Correa, martyred at Durango, Mexico, for his refusal to reveal what condemned prisoners had said during their final confessions. Here’s a modern martyr for the seal of the confessional.
Albanian Monsignor Francis Gijni, shot without trial. I recommend ‘Banishing God in Albania,’ the prison memoirs of Father Giacomo Gardin S.J.
Servant of God, Father Emil Kapaun, who died in a POW camp, Korea. Repatriated soldiers petitioned his cause, stating that it was he who kept them alive and who saved them, not only from death by starvation, but from emotional and psychological breakdown. (He used to pray to the Good Thief, St Dismas, before breaking out of his cell at night to go steal food from his captors!) ‘A Shepherd in Combat Boots’ isn’t the world’s greatest literature, but it’s also not saccharine hagiography, either. I recommend it.
Blessed Zynoviy Kovalyk, a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest, murdered by Soviet Communists in a mock crucifixion against a wall.
Blessed Оmelyan Kovch, a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest, gassed at Majdanek concentration camp. In September, 1999 the Jewish Council of Ukraine named him ‘Ukraine’s Righteous.’
Blessed Jozef Lawlawski, a Polish priest, hanged at Dachau for his protection of Polish Jews.
Blessed Rupert Mayer, a Jesuit priest, who died of a heart attack after two years of imprisonment and isolation. He was arrested for defying Nazi orders to cease his anti-Nazi preaching in Munich.
Blessed Father Jerzy Popiełuszko, (I love him!) who publicly criticised the Communist regime in Poland, and, in 1984, was kidnapped, beaten, and murdered by three Security Police Officers. His body was later pulled from a reservoir on the river Vistula, about eighty miles northwest of Warsaw. A sack of rocks had been hung from the legs, and he was tied with a nylon rope so that if he had resisted he would have strangled himself. He had been gagged, and was covered head to foot with deep, bloody wounds and marks of torture. The face was deformed, the hands were broken and cut, the eyes and forehead had been beaten and the jaw, nose, mouth and skull were smashed. Part of the scalp and large strips of skin on the legs had been torn off. His last words to his congregation were: “Most of all, may we be free from the desire for violence and vengeance.” 250,000 mourners attended his funeral, and 10,000 workers processed past secret-police headquarters, chanting, “We forgive”.
Father Stanley Rother, murdered in 1981 by members of the Guatemalan Army, who broke into his rectory and shot him. Nine other priests in Guatemala were murdered in the same year.
Blessed Yakym Senkivskyi, a monk of the Order of St Basil, martyred in Drohobych prison by being boiled in a cauldron.
Blessed Adam Sztark, a Jesuit priest, shot for his collaboration Blessed Maria Ewa and Blessed Maria Marta, who ran a rescue operation for Jewish children in Slonim.
Bulgarian Assumptionist priests, Blessed Peter Vichev, Blessed Joseph Chichkov and Blessed Pavel Djidjov, shot by members of the newly-invading Communist Government, following torture and a show trial.
Also: All the priests incarcerated, tortured and killed in Dachau’s ‘Priestblock.’ This book is highly recommended; it won’t take long to read, but you’ll remember it for a long time afterwards.