Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Archbishop Thomas Murphy was a groundbreaking leader on the subject of Christian stewardship in the United States.
One of the concepts that the Archbishop promoted was that the Lord isn’t only interested in the 10% that we might be inspired to give to the Church and other charities. He said that Our Lord is also interested in the remaining 90% of our lives and resources as well--the whole of our lives for the good of His Kingdom.
This idea came to mind on Sunday, September 10th, when the Church beatified an entire family, a first in the history of the Church. The Ulma family serves as an ultimate example of stewardship as they gave all of their lives and resources to do God’s work.
Josef and Wiktoria Ulma hid 8 Jewish friends that were slated for death in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II from their village of Markowa, Poland. After many months of loving care, the Ulma family’s act of mercy was discovered and the entire family was executed in 1944. The family included Josek and Wiktoria Ulma and their 7 children, the youngest of whom was a preborn child in his/her mother’s womb, also a first in the history of the Church. The entire family was beatified as martyrs.
The Ulma family led ordinary lives against the backdrop of the Second World War. Josef worked in the fields, while Wiktoria managed their home and cared for their children. They exemplified the teachings of the Gospel throughout their lives, not just at the end. The Ulmas shared family prayers, studied the faith including Sacred Scripture and are known as Good Samaritans, supporting society’s most vulnerable, in this case, persecuted Jews. Their home was what Pope John Paul II termed a "Domestic Church."
It was reported in the canonization investigation that within their family Bible, a word was underlined: "Samaritan,” accompanied by a resounding "yes." This was not a coincidence but a decision on the part of this courageous couple in a world fraught with danger, violence, war and division.
When the Ulmas were betrayed, Nazi forces stormed their home, and their attic, where they had concealed their Jewish friends. Josef and Wiktoria were executed first in front of their children who were also summarily executed. Their house was then set ablaze on March 24, 1944.
There are so many lessons to be learned in this heartrending story—the importance of the witness of the Christian family, Christian charity, a public witness to the support of human life, ecumenical relationships and respect for pre-born children and the power of their witness even in the womb. This preborn child reminds us that no child dies in vain. The beatification of their unborn child is a remarkable affirmation of the dignity of every human being made in God’s image and likeness from conception to natural death. This story also reminds us that hope can be born even in the context of the horror of war when Christians embrace the gospel in its fullness.
Recognized as “Righteous among the Nations,” by the State of Israel, the Ulma family's light continues to shine decades after their deaths. Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, called it a "Baptism of Blood," echoing the tragic narrative of the Holy Innocents in Bethlehem that were murdered by the evil King Herod who searched for the Christ child.
Let us be inspired today by the love, compassion and sacrifice of this family. The Ulma family's legacy underscores the power of love, compassion, and sacrifice, even in the darkness of war. As they risked, may we too risk for the good of humanity in obedience to God.
Fr. Don Kline, V.F.BACK TO LIST