Tag Archives: Holocaust

On All Soul’s Day (and every day) we must remember that God’s Mercy has no Bounds

 

Babe Ruth                       en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

All Soul’s Day is more than just a day to remember and pray for our departed loved ones. It is a day we should embrace fully because the faith we carry within us is validated.  That validation is there for all of us because we can see the Mercy and Love of God and how it is available to every person, everywhere—if they so choose…every day of the year.

An example of how this Love and Mercy shows no bounds can be found in the following two people who long ago left this life. They are an unlikely duo, and I am sure that while they were alive, they never met. They are Rudolf Hoess, the Nazi War Criminal (not to be confused with Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s Deputy Fuhrer), and  Babe Ruth, the greatest baseball player who ever lived;

  • Rudolf Hoess (sometimes spelled Hoss)

Rudolf Hoess is considered history’s greatest mass murderer. He was the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz who got up every morning, had a nice breakfast with his wife and five children, and then went to work where he supervised the deaths of thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children.

Hoess was a happily married Catholic man and would come home after “work” and have dinner with his family. He had a nice view from his dining room window. He could see the giant chimney stacks from the crematoria. He had an affair with an Auschwitz prisoner and to hide the evidence sent her to the gas chamber. He even wrote poetry about the “beauty” of Auschwitz.

Arrested as a war criminal Hoess was sentenced to death by hanging. Before his execution he asked for a priest. On April 10, 1947, he received the Sacrament of Penance. The next day he received Holy Communion which was also his Viaticum. He was hanged on April 16, 1947.

  • George Herman “Babe” Ruth

 

Babe Ruth was born in Baltimore in 1895. He was (according to his folks) an incorrigible child and at the age of seven they placed him in St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. Babe remained there for the next twelve years. He was a baptized Catholic and had received his First Holy Communion.

Babe’s affinity for baseball became obvious quickly. Brother Mathias, who had become a father figure for Ruth, saw this and asked Jack Dunn, the owner of the minor league Orioles, to take a look at the boy. Dunn liked what he saw, took Ruth under his wing and became his legal guardian. The rest is history. Babe Ruth was and still is, inarguably, the greatest ballplayer who ever lived.

But Babe’s life off the field was a bit different. Living the “good life” he had forgotten one thing; his faith. He was a ball player by day, and a “party animal”  by night. He had fame and fortune and never looked back until—1946. That is when he was diagnosed with throat cancer.

He was scheduled for surgery and the night before his friend, Paul Casey, said to him, “Hey Babe,  don’t you think it’s time to put your house in order?”

Babe knew exactly what Paul was talking about and asked for a priest. That very night Babe Ruth made a full confession and the following morning received Holy Communion. Just a shell of the man he had once been the “Babe” lived two more years. He passed away on August 16, 1948.

That is a profile of two men: one who committed the most heinous crimes imaginable,  murdering callously and ruthlessly God’s creations every day. The other is about a happy, go-lucky, talented baseball player who forgot about God and enjoyed life, as he saw it, to the fullest.

Rudolf Hoess turned back to his faith when his own death was imminent. He asked for God’s mercy. If our Faith is what we are taught it is—he received it. Did he deserve it? As someone said a few years ago, “Who are we to judge?” The same applies to Babe Ruth and every other person God has created who seeks His mercy and forgiveness.

All Soul’s Day is a day to rejoice; a day to rejoice in knowing that our loved ones and friends who have gone before us were given every possible chance to attain their heavenly reward. God’s Love and Mercy has brought many of his fallen children home.

©Larry Peterson 2018

 

Jacques de Jesus; a little-known Hero from the Holocaust

Father Jacques de Jesus—–public domain

By Larry Peterson

He was born in Normandy, France in 1900 and he was named Lucien Bunel. His dad, who was a deeply humble man and dedicated himself as much as could to helping others, was an inspiration to his son and young Lucien felt the call to the priesthood.

Ordained a priest in 1925, Father Lucien worked in the Diocese of Rouen and became a noted speaker and teacher. He also maintained a deep interior prayer life. But he yearned for more.

Growing up Lucien believed he was being called to join the Trappists. However, he wanted something that included the prayer life combined with helping others. He was introduced to the Discalced Carmelites and discovered a tradition that fulfilled his needs.  In 1930 he joined the  Carmelites in Lille, France and took the name he would henceforth be known by; Jacques de Jesus.

Pere (Father) Jacques de Jesus was asked if he would consider opening a school for boys. He had not yet taken his final vows but he readily agreed. He managed to open Petit College Sainte-Therese de l’Enfant-Jesus in Avon in 1933. He took his final vows in 1934 and immediately became the headmaster at the school.

As Nazi persecution continually grew, Pere Jacques became more and more upset and disgusted with the action of the Third Reich. He decided that he would make his school a haven for young men seeking to avoid service in the German army and also to harbor Jewish boys. He also became part of the French Resistance.

In 1943 Pere Jacques, using false names, enrolled three Jewish boys;  Hans-Helmut Michel, Jacques-France Halpern, and Maurice Schlosser.  He also hid a  fourth Jewish boy, Maurice Bas, by saying he was just a worker at the school. He went a step further and hired the noted botanist, Lucien Weil, as a teacher.

Pere Jacques was informed upon by nearby neighbors who greatly feared the Nazis and did not want to get in trouble for not saying anything. Consequently, Pere Jacques and his three Jewish students were arrested on January 15, 1944. Lucien Weil, his wife and his mother were also arrested at their home on the same day.

The German SS deported the three boys and the Weil family to Auschwitz on February 3, 1944. All of them died there.  Pere Jaques was imprisoned in various concentration camps until finally being placed in the Mauthausen-Gusen Concentration camp. He quietly went about doing his priestly best to raise the morale of the prisoners.

When all of the priests at the camp were moved to Dachau, Jacques hid his priestly identity and was left behind. He was the only Catholic priest for the 20, 000 prisoners still at Mauthausen-Gusen.

The camp population included many Polish citizens and Pere Jacques learned enough Polish to be able to minister to the mostly Catholic prisoners. They called him Pere Zak and grew to love the humble priest. When learning that he was also part of the French Resistance, he gained the respect of all the prisoners.

Sick with tuberculosis, Pere Jacques was getting weaker and weaker. In May of 1945, American troops liberated Mauthausen-Gusen Concentration camp. Pere Jacques was down to 75 pounds and died in an Austrian hospital a few weeks later.

In 1985 Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Center, honored pere Jacques as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” for his efforts to hide Jewish students from the Nazis.

Pere Jacques de Jesus’ cause for sainthood has been started. This is the prayer for his canonization:

Prayer of canonization

 Father infinitely good, You gave to Father Jacques de Jésus

The desire to love you and to love all men, From a heart without sharing.

You have showered him with gifts for the education of the young,

You chose him as a priest,  You called him in the Order of Discalced Carmelites.

In the inhuman distress of the deportation camps,  You made him a burning witness of faith and love,

Until the total gift of his life.

Give us the graces we ask you,  By his intercession and, if that is your will,

Glorify him in your church,  By your Son Jesus Christ our Savior.

Amen.

                         ©Larry Peterson 2018

Pope Pius XII and His Confidant; Father Giovanni Ferrofino; Together, they Quietly Managed the Rescue of Thousands of Jews during World War II

POPE PIUS XII – UNDATED – (AP-PHOTO)

By Larry Peterson

There is still controversy surrounding Pope Pius XII and his perceived indifference to the crimes the Nazis were committing during World War II. The Pope was constantly bombarded with pleas for help on behalf of the Jews but, as head of the Vatican state, had to feign neutrality. However, his apparent lack of action was a ruse, and the Holy Father was more than willing to take the abuse that came with it.

In 1940 the papal secretary of state was asked to intercede to keep Jews in Spain from being deported to Germany. A similar request was made for Jews in Lithuania. Even the Assistant Chief of the U.S. delegation to the Vatican, Harold Tittman, asked the Pope to condemn the atrocities. The Vatican claimed “neutrality” suggesting that Catholics in German-held lands might be affected. The papacy did nothing, or so it seemed.

Behind the scenes, Pope Pius XII sheltered a small number of Jews and asked select friends to see if they might find ways to help the Jews.  Of course, there was his low-profile, secret weapon, Father Giovanni Ferrofino.

Father Giovanni’s mission came directly from Pope Pius XII. He had orders that sent him first to the Portuguese president asking him to grant visas for Jews seeking refuge in his country. Then he was sent to the Dominican Republic where twice a year he asked for 800 visas for Jews to travel from Portugal to the island nation.

They communicated via double-encrypted messages which Father Giovanni would have to decode. Then he would travel for two days with the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Maurilio Silvani, so the request could be delivered by hand directly to the Dominican leader, General Raphael Trujillo.

Most of these refugees would eventually travel from the Dominican Republic to other countries finding final refuge in the United States, Canada, Cuba, and Mexico.

These clandestine operations took place from 1939 thru 1945. During that time over 10,000 Jews were saved from the Holocaust. Pope Pius XII was the mastermind behind the operation. However, the mission could never have been accomplished without Giovanni Ferrofino.

On November 28, 1961, Giovanni Ferrofino was consecrated as the Titular Archbishop of Zenopolis (an ancient Roman city) and then appointed Apostolic Nuncio to Ecuador, a position he resigned from in 1970.

In 2010, The Yad Vashem  Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem honored Archbishop Ferrofino for his help in saving so many Jews during the Holocaust. He was declared “Righteous Among Nations.”

Archbishop Ferrofino died on December 20, 2010. He was 98 years old. He is counted among the many unsung heroes of World War II.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2018