August 14 - St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, Priest and Martyr
Long before the word "holocaust" came into popular use as reference to the Nazi killing machine which practically eradicated Eastern European Jewry and assorted "undesirable" others, the reality of that horror was known to me. The area of Brooklyn, New York in which I grew up was shared by Italian Catholics and Jews of mostly Russian or Eastern European heritage. While the former came to this country largely to escape poverty in the Mezzogiorno of southern Italy and Sicily, the later had come to escape military service in the army of the Russian tsar or lethal pogroms periodically declared to clear the countryside of a Jewish presence.
The Saints Teresa Benedicta and Maximilian Kolbe are our Holocaust reminders in August of each year. Yes, we have the moving Diary of Anne Frank and the film Schindler's List to remind us. But as Catholics following the liturgical year these names and their stories come before us year after year to bring to our eyes the inhumanity of which we are capable. But they also speak of the heights of courage, fortitude and generosity of which human beings are still capable.
With such memories in mind, I thought today of the 'holocausts' of our own days in the streets of Baghdad, on the parched earth of Darfur in the Sudan, in the wee hours of the morning as four young people are gunned down execution style in Newark, New Jersey.
Receive the tears of the world, in the drop of water in the Chalice; receive the tears of old mothers who weep in the ruins of their homes, rifled nests of the little birds that were once their sons; receive the tears of frightened children, of homesick children. Receive the privileged tears of those who can weep for contrition; receive the tears that are not shed, that are hard as salt-water frozen in hearts that can weep no more; that ache in the throats of those who have no more tears to shed. Receive, O God, from my hands, who am not worthy to breathe the air He breaths, the tears of Christ in the Chalice of our salvation, the tears of the Infant in Bethlehem, the tears of the little foreign Child in Egypt, the tears shed over Jerusalem, the tears shed over Lazarus...O God, we offer Thee the tears of Christ in the tears of the world: "We offer Thee the Chalice of Salvation, humbly begging Thy mercy that it may ascend to Thee for our salvation and for that of the whole world."