Saturday, March 24, 2012

Signs of spring arriving.......

....crocuses showing through the ground, but we've had snow twice this week while the rest of the country basks in summer-like temperatures of 20-30 degrees.  Still "If winter's here can spring be far behind?"  Let's hope not. 
So, two books that I've read recently are:  The Shadow of his Wings" The true story of Fr. Gereon Goldmann, OFM  and "Where we got the Bible" a not really ecumenical book by Henry G. Graham, former Presbyterian Minister, original edition 1911.
The first is the true story of a young German Franciscan Seminarian caught up in the Second World War.     In the summer of 1939 just after his final exam in philosophy he was ordered to report to the army.  But, the army got more than they bargained for.
On his first Christmas in the army, having bested a young lieutenant in argument, he was ordered to sing a "Church song", whereupon he and another seminarian began to sing the Te Deum in Latin, not quite what the lieutenant wanted.  Fr. Gereon said that his training by the Jesuits allowed him to run rings around the hostile officers, and the joke was on them.
His height probably commanded respect from others but even so he defended the Catholic Faith with courage, even when he was transferred to the SS.  He used his position there to help others, but his career was not long.  When they wanted to make him an officer, he declined the oath to renounce the Franciscans and his Christian beliefs, and was transferred back to the army.
In the army he acted as chaplain and medic, and received personally from Pope Pius XII permission to carry Communion to give to the dying.  A privilege usually reserved to priests at that time.
Throughout the war he used unorthodox methods to help his fellow soldiers, and always spoke the truth to those in power.  It is unlikely that he will ever be declared a Saint.   Imagine the uproar if the press got hold of such a story:  "Former SS soldier declared Saint by Catholic Church".
He ended the war in a North African prison camp and was almost executed by the French.  By this time he had been ordained and the story of his reprieve, if not quite miraculous, is amazing.
After the war he lived in Japan and worked with the poor, until old age and ill health forced him to go back to Germany.
In Japan he was known as the "Ragpicker of Tokyo". A wonderful story of courage and perseverance, and of what can be achieved with a strong faith and belief in God, in dark times.

The second book is the story of the Bible and the debt owed to the Catholic Church for preserving it down the centuries, and also the Church's authority for interpreting the Bible.  He also counters the accusation that the Church tried to keep the Bible from the people.  Well written, easy to read, brisk and no-nonsense, from an educated man, I loved it.  The second part of the book is Bishop Graham's conversion story from being a minister in the Kirk to the Catholic Church."