Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Persecuted Priests Praying



Have you read Priestblock 25487, by Jean Bernard?  It's a memoir of a priest, Jean Bernard, in Dachau.  The horrors of the concentration weren't only perpetrated on the Jews.  Anti-Nazi Catholics were persecuted, also, in particular, priests.  In watching this video of priests praying in Dachau, I couldn't help but think of Fr. Bernard.  Look at the faces in prayer.  Watch the fingers praying the Rosary.

Look in their eyes.

3 comments:

Kevin O'Connor said...

There is a beautiful excerpt from “Priestblock 25487: A Memoir of Dachau” in the December issue of Catholic Digest.

This passage describes Fr. Bernard’s first Christmas imprisoned in the camp with fellow clergy.

Quote:

Christmas Eve in the concentration camp!

We are allowed to stay up later than usual. From somewhere a pine bough has suddenly appeared. It is stuck in a tin can and decorated with two candles, which we light. Someone made them using his margarine ration from Thursday. Then the Poles sing melancholy songs.

A man with a marvelous voice sings the Gloria to the tune of an old chorale. The Polish bishop gives commentary. We go to bed feeling sad and dream of home. May our sacrifice contribute to bringing peace to the world….

“I’m on gate duty today,” my dear friend Cappy [Capuchin Father Heinrich Zöhen], whispers to me. We are returning from the assembly square on Christmas morning, and our column is marching alongside the German clergy’s column for a brief moment.

When it is time to deliver the pails for the midday meal I exchange with a colleague assigned to go to Barrack 26 that day. I suspect that Cappy wants to give me something and am eager to find out what it is.

He is standing at the entrance of the barbed-wire barrier around the barrack, as announced. We are not allowed to enter, but have to leave the pails in front of the “gate.” I set mine down next to Cappy, and as he bends down to pick it up he quickly presses a carefully folded piece of paper into my hand. Very softly he mouths the word “ichthys.”

I have difficulty concealing my excitement. Swiftly I hide the precious gift in my glove. And as I hurry back home images from the time of the catacombs come to mind. Back then, as now, the Most Holy had to be preserved from desecration, and so the Greek term for “fish” ichthys, became a code word for the Eucharist, since it is composed of the initial letters of the phrase “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.”

After the evening meal we Luxembourgers met a few friends inconspicuously in the darkness outside the barrack and carefully divided the precious Host into as many particles as humanly possible to share with one another. And then, as we tenderly partook of Him, the Christ Child entered our hearts…

End quote.

Faith said...

Yes, I remember this also. And I read this at least a year ago. It touched me, too.

Faith said...

I think I figured out why the priests keep blessing themselves. At first, they reminded me of my "cloistered brothers," not only because they're in prison, but because every time they pray "Glory Be..." they bless themselves. So I thought that they must be praying a Rosary.
But the blessing of themselves was too often. Then watching my "cloistered brothers," pray the Divine Office, I realized that that was it. The priest are praying their Office. And every time they pray "Glory be...," they're blessing themselves.
That's the way we were taught, also. You bless yourself every time you pray "Glory Be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit."