Wednesday, February 29, 2012


     It's Lent, and as happens every year, but most particularly this year, I am learning things I hadn't conceived of needing to be learned.  I've been reading A Biblical Walk Through The Mass,  Understanding What We Say and Do in the Liturgy, by Edward Sri..  As an example, this quote on making the sign of the cross:
    "Let the cross, as our seal, be boldly made with our fingers upon our brow and on all occasios; over the bread we eat, over the cups we dring; in our comings and in our goings; before sleep; on lying down and rising up; when we are on our way, and when we are still.  It is a powerful safeguard...for it is a grace from God, a badge of the faithful, and a terror to the devils...For when they see the Cross, they are reminded of the Crucified; they fea him who has 'smashed the heads of the dragons'." St. Cyril of Jerusalem.
    "A safeguard"?  "Terror to the devils"?  I thought it was just something we did honoring the Trinity.  I won't make the sign of the cross so flipently again!  As if that weren't enough, "In Scripture, a name is not merely a conventional way of refering to a particular person.  A name mysteriously represents the essence of a person and carries the power of that person.  Therefore, to call upon God's name is invoke his presence and his power."
     Another example is "Lord have mercy."  I've already learned that to call upon "The Lord," is to invoke his presence and power.  But I didn''t understand his "mercy," or his forgiveness.  Then, after reading about the prodigal son, Mr. Sri tells us, it isn't a welcoming of the child back home, but a welcome of the changed child; a child whose heart has change, who has sorrow for his sins, and a noble desire to get his life back on track.  Mercy is not to be seen as a higher power like a monarch randomly pardoning criminals in his kingdom.  It is about God's Love for us, even in the face of our sins.
     As Thomas Howard said in If Your Mind Wanders at Mass,
        "In the Kyrie...we may hear the fathomless cry of the whole race of man ascending to heaven from the depths. Kyrie! Goes up from all windows, and all dispossessed and brutalized children, and from all the maimed, and the prisoners and exiles, and from every sickbed, and indeed from all wounded beasts, and we could believe from all rivers and seas stained with man's filth and landscapes scarred by his plunder.  In the liturgy, somehow, we sttand before th Lord on behalf of his whole groaning creation."
     I wonder, what more do I have to learn?  I am humbled by my lack of forethought.  I am humbled daily by my inability to become the person I believe God would have me be.  I am humbled by that thought, for I can't.  I can only grow as I ask for His help.  Thanks be to God!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Philosophy, Humility and the Holocaust 2

Another good read is
Christopher B. Kebs, A Most Dangerous Book.  The author follows the path of  Tacitus' Germania from origin to foundational importance in the Third Reich.
           A few quotes:
  • "It is the greatest honor, the greatest power to be at all times surrounded by a huge band of chosen young men"  motto for  a 1935 Hitler Youth manual, taken from Germania.  (p.29) 
  • "The tribes in Germanien, not tainted by intermarriage with any other nations, exist as a distinct unadulterated people that resembles only itself.  Consequently, all of them even share the same physical appearance...fierce blue eyes, tawny hair, huge bodies."
So much evil has come from these two quotes from Tacitus.  The glory of numbers, Hitler Youth, the Nuremberg Rallies.  All these young men bonding together, honor bound to support their nation, Germany.  And yet, when Tacitus wrote, Germany did not exist as a nation, but only as scattered barbarian tribes, wearing little but skins, but fierce in battle.

The second quote, formed the seed of opinion about "the other."  Not only Jews, but Poles and Slavs were the other. Only the Aryan look was Germanic in the end.  Only the way of the soldier, or mother, or productive worker was necessary to the nation.  So the invalid, the insane, the crippled in body or mind, the homosexual, all religions were dangerous to the Reich.  These "others" were responsible for the first world war defeat.  To rule the world, as was their right, these others needed to be destroyed.  And so they were.

The word Holocaust is often misused today.  It has as a first meaning, "destruction by fire."  And the evidence of the destruction of the other was destroyed by fire. Genocide is the word that should be used in the many cases today of one group's effort at eliminating "the other" from their homeland.  And there are so many genocides in process today.  I'm especially thinking of Africa now, and another book I've finished, Little Bee, by Chris Cleave. 
     Little Bee is the name a young Nigerian girl gives herself when she is able to escape to England.  But, she is an illegal immigrant, and it doesn't matter that she will die if returned to her home country.  So much bloodshed fills this world, though it is more difficult to hide what life could be with different rulers and freedom.  To change a system is difficult, and not without more bloodshed, and perhaps, not without outside help.  We couldn't have won our own revolution without the arrival of French Ships.  We were lucky, our people were educated, we had leaders who could see the way the future lay, in countries without a strong religious base or an educated populace, the way to the future is less clear.
     I blame some of this on Empire Building.  Like a Rajah, or a King, or another strong ruler, we empire builders kept all but a few of the people uneducated, untrained, and unschooled in government.  So to set a people free can doom them to the current lives of tribal and ethnic warfare.  Often I think good decisions are made for the wrong reasons, and chaos follows.
     I promise to move on from these thoughts that fill my mind and my reading.  Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Holocaust and Good Books

The Holocaust weighs heavily on my soul.  However, I have found that there were people in every country, including Germany, who saw beyond the propaganda.  While some of these people were killed or sent to camps, others provided great service to the wold, saving those condemned.

Some Survivor Stories to add to your reading list:
Flory A. Van Beek, flory.  Her experiences in Denmark under German Occupation.
Jenna Blum, Those Who Save Us.  A mother who gives all, even life with a Nazi, to save her daughter.
Thomas Buergenthal, A Lucky Child.  Sometimes even in Auschwitz, a German soldier will allow a child to enter the camp instead of the "showers."
Tatiana De Rosnay, Sarah's Key.  A novel.  Sarah lives in France.  She locks her brother in a cupboard so that he may be saved, but she is taken and no one knows he is there.

I have done considerable research for my novel, OTTO,  Otto, and others, are Bavarian farm lads when Germany enters WWI.  Through their experiences together in the trenches they become friends.  They go their different ways when Germany loses the war.  Otto and his lieutenant end up as brown shirts and latter SS.  Otto becomes a member of the Einsatzgruppen which destroys those dangerous to Germany.  Otto's group is responsible for "cleansing" Lithuania.

I have been able to find two diaries which clearly describe, day by day, the events as they happened.  If you'd like to read them:

Kazimierz Sakowic, Ponary Diary 1941-1945.
William W. Mishell, Kaddish for Kovno.  Life and Death in a Lithuanian Ghetto 1941-1945.

I've read several other good books this year, some heavy, others not so...

Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants
John Hart, The Last Child
Kate Morton, The Distant Hours
Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden
Dan Simmons, Black Hills.

 Talk to you soon.  Kathy