Call Me Catholic

Rosary Rally for Fr. Altman

We attended, as usual, Fr. Altman’s 11:30 TLM this morning.  As we pulled up, a half an hour early because the boys were serving, we noticed the crowds milling about outside–men in suits, ladies in dresses, veils blowing in the wind, and little children running everywhere.

Of course we expected a larger crowd, as the Rosary Rally was later in the afternoon, but this was something!  Since moving to the area, today’s Mass was the fullest I’ve ever seen it.

Prior to Mass, I had to take the 2-year-old to the bathroom and was met with a fifteen minute line, which was interesting.  A woman from Colorado had driven all night with her family and was apologizing for her red eyes.  Moms from Montana were straightening out their dresses.  An old lady from northern Wisconsin was chatting with some Minnesotans about stumbling upon Fr. Altman and thanking the Lord for his courage and witness.

Well, anyway, we eventually made it back to our pew for Mass–it was a beautiful High Mass with all the bells and smells and eight altar boys.  I thought the Collect was especially striking:

Let Thy continual pity, O Lord, cleanse and defend Thy Church: and because it cannot continue in safety without Thee, may it ever be governed by Thy goodness.

And how was Fr. Altman’s homily, which was not live, due to restrictions put forth by Bishop Callahan?

It was short and surprisingly, nonpolitical.  He seemed tired, and my heart went out to him, as I have some idea of how this week went for him.  The office was bombarded with phone calls, emails, and letters–most of which, I understand, were positive and encouraging, but the few that weren’t, were vile and disgusting.  New measures of safety were taken this last week, and anybody who was paying attention at Mass will have noticed a few gentlemen monitoring the activity of all present.

In any case, after Mass I found myself visiting with a young lady from Chicago.  She and her father drove here to support Fr. Altman and were presently on their way to the Rosary Rally, where Fr. Heilman would be leading the community in prayer.  We, too, were loading up the van and driving straight to the Cathedral, for what kind of crowd would we find there?

We weren’t disappointed.  We parked a few blocks away and followed the dads and moms and teenagers and babies and grandmas and grandpas and you-name-it.  The crowd wrapped around the Cathedral block.  When Fr. Heilman showed up, cheers and clapping erupted on both sides of the street and everyone attempted to move closer.  The local TV/News station filmed it all.  I think they were about the only ones wearing masks.  And there certainly wasn’t any social distancing.  (We’re all family, right?)

Fr. Heilman spoke movingly about watching Fr. Altman’s videos and feeling, sensing in his gut that here was something.  This was truth–finally!  He knew he had to back Fr. Altman.  He compared our whole insane situation in the Catholic Church, with its very few courageous leaders, to those brave men who sacrificed their lives on the beaches of Normandy.

Indeed, he told the story of his sister-in-law’s father, who fought on those beaches and survived.  That man found himself in the chapel of a bombed-out palace.  As he was crawling to safety, he came across a large crucifix, which was lying on its face.  He reached out, turned Jesus over, and something fell out of the skullcap.  He thought it might be something important, so he put it in his pocket.  Later, back in the States, he found that he had saved a relic of the True Cross.

At that moment, Fr. Heilman unveiled that very relic.  We fell to our knees, and then Fr. Heilman began reciting the rosary.

I’d like to say it was a deeply prayerful moment for me, but alas, I have seven children.  One was digging in the gutter and another was piling leaves on someone’s car.  A drone was humming overhead videoing the whole thing.  Others with video equipment were strolling about, filming the crowds.  And my knees ached from kneeling on concrete.  (I’m such a wimp.)

Nevertheless, I was happy to be there–happy to support Fr. Altman.  May more priests find the same courage to speak out.

Here we are, meeting up with friends, in front of the Cathedral.
Entering the crowds.
Fr. Heilman reveals the relic of the True Cross, saved from WWII.

Lastly, if you haven’t had a chance to watch Dr. Taylor Marshall’s recent interview with Fr. Altman, click HERE. It’s excellent and worth your time.

Book Review

Holocaust Memoirs: Book Review

I recently finished reading Rena’s Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz.  It’s the real-life story of Rena Kornreich and how she survived 3 years living the Auschwitz Death Camps.  It’s gruesome, shocking, and sad.

It should be required reading for anyone mature enough to handle it.  (Maybe as young as 17.)

In the last year or so, this is the third book that I’ve read pertaining to survivors of World War II.  All three books are worthy of your consideration and your library shelf.  I’ll list them below:

  1. Rena’s Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz by Rena Kornreich
  2. The Nazi Officer’s Wife by Edith Hahn Beer
  3. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

I’ll also mention that all 3 books are very complimentary.  Rena’s Promise chronicles the life of a young Jewish woman, bereft of faith, but suffering tremendously for it.  She certainly lived an active Jewish life prior to the war, living with her family, but at the death camps, and without blatantly stating it, she loses her faith.

In fact, one wonders if hate hasn’t crept into her heart as she participates in the beating of a superior.  Throughout her time in Auschwitz/Birkenau, she wonders, “Where did God go?”  She’s grappling with the question of a good God allowing evil.  And she has no answer.  She can only rely upon herself to survive, which she does against all odds.

It’s truly miraculous how she and her sister survive such torture.  (Note that I used the word “miraculous.”  She wouldn’t use that word.)

The second book on the list is one that I previously reviewed for these pages last year.  (Click HERE for it.)

The Nazi Officer’s Wife is also the story of how a young Jewish woman, Edith Hahn, survives the war, but her story is dramatically different than Rena’s.  Hahn does end up in labor camps, but then is able to hide and take on the identity of a gentile, thus avoiding the death camps.  Eventually she marries a German officer.

This book is so valuable for not only her personal story, but for a close look at the German Thing from the inside.  It’s so eerily close to what’s happening in our culture that it makes your skin crawl.

Since I am always interested in the question of Faith, I can’t help but compare Rena’s story to Edith’s.  Even though Edith does not practice her Jewish faith, she has more hope.  She notices something is missing.  Rena’s is much darker by contrast.

Lastly, I read a book called The Hiding Place a few months ago.

While I’d rate the previous two books as a 10, this book gets a 10+.

At the outset of World War II, Corrie Ten Boom was a middle-aged spinster, helping her father fix and sell watches in Holland.  They were devout Christians who helped Jews hide and escape, but the Ten Booms were eventually discovered by the Germans.  This book tells about the horrific (and heroic) suffering of Corrie, but more importantly, it shows her immense love of God in a dark, dark place.

This is the stuff of saints.  You need to read it.  In fact, you should read all 3.  Why?  Because if we don’t get it, then history will repeat itself.  This evil and tragic event has eternal consequences.  We cannot in fact understand who we are today, without understanding that horrible war–it’s beginnings and aftermath.  We are still suffering the consequences of those driving ideologies.

Final Question

Has anyone read any other good, first-hand accounts of Holocaust survivors?  I’m especially interested in the men.  What was their experience?

If you’ve read any, drop a line in the comments box.

Of course I have read Fr. Goldmann’s account of his miraculous survival in his book The Shadow of His Wings.  Truly, that book is one of the best books ever written, and by a Catholic priest serving in the SS no less!  I’d review it, but it’s been years since I’ve read it.  Probably many of you are already familiar with it?