What do John Paul II, Edith Stein, Emil Kapaun, Mother Luisita, and you all have in common? All of you have had in your lifetime, the opportunity to be light in the darkness. Whether in the face of the darkness of a communist regime or of a corona virus pandemic, all of you have had the choice to be paralyzed by fear, or to step with courage into the light of the Risen Lord.
If we look at a snap shot history of the lives of the amazing men and women mentioned above, we see over and over the testimony of minds and hearts penetrated by the power of the Resurrection. On April 7th, just over 40 years ago, John Paul II, stared bravely into the eyes of the communist officials who watched him, as over one million Poles thundered out behind him, “We want God! We want God…” for nearly a quarter of an hour. Three years later, after recuperating from the bullet wounds, he was in a prison visiting a man who had tried to kill him, and offering “his brother”, as he called him, forgiveness and mercy.
On August 2nd, 1942, Edith Stein and hundreds of other converts from Judaism to the Catholic faith were arrested as an act of retaliation towards the Dutch Catholic bishops who had spoken out against Nazi racism. At a train station where they stopped, Edith inquired of the conductor about the welfare of her friends who lived in that town. She combed the hair of children whose mothers were unable to care for them in the extreme conditions of the concentration camp. Finally, Edith and many of the other converts, gave their lives in union with Jesus, for the conversion of sinners, and for their own Jewish people, that they, too, would know the power of the Resurrection.
Suffering a similar fate as Stein, Emil Kapaun, a U.S. Army Chaplain, was captured on the battlefield during the Korean War, after he refused to leave the wounded. He was forced to march 87 miles to the Communist prison camp. On the way there, Father Kapaun supported a soldier who had a wounded leg. He kept the spirits of his fellow prisoners high by praying with them, telling jokes, speaking up on their behalf to the guards, and stealing coffee for them. He gave his own food to the weak. When his own health broke and the guards came to take him to the “hospital” or “death house”, he forgave them and stopped his men from fighting, saying, “I’m going where I always wanted to go…”, “Father, forgive them, for they know not…”
Mother Luisita also brought the light of Christ’s resurrection into the darkness of her world. While living in hiding during the government persecution of the Church, Mother Luisita and the sisters, continued to live and spread the faith, risking arrest and even death. Mother comforted the sisters in their anxieties. When a plague broke out in the town, the sisters cared for the sick, risking their own lives to help them.
That is the power of the Resurrection. As is proclaimed in the Easter Vigil Exsultet, it dispels the darkness of death and the gloom of sin, “drives out hatred”, “brings down the mighty”, restores “joy to mourners”, making the night “as bright as day…and full of gladness”. That is the power of the hope that flows through the veins of the saints, leaving a trail of light wherever they go. That is the power of the love of Christ, which you too can choose to let live in you that the light may shine in the darkness once again in 2020.
*To learn more about our Mother Luisita’s heroic virtues in the face of darkness, order a free copy of From A Mother’s Heart