Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Face of The Crucified Christ

In Discalced Carmel today we are celebrating the feast of Blessed Alphonsus Mary Mazurek, one of our martyrs.  Blessed Alphonsus, a Polish friar, was murdered by the Nazis in 1944; he was beatified by Blessed John Paul II in 1999.   Here is a brief biography from the Postulator's office:
Joseph Mazurek was born March 1, 1891, in Baranowka, Poland. He attended the Minor Seminary of the Discalced Carmelites and in 1908, received the Carmelite habit and the name Alphonsus Mary of the Holy Spirit. He was ordained a priest in July, 1916. Because of his ability as an organizer and educator, Father Alphonsus was made prefect and professor at the minor seminary he had attended as a youth. He continued at the seminary until 1930 when he was elected prior (superior) of the Carmelite monastery at Czerna. It was at this monastery that he would work and live until his death. The new prior threw himself into his new responsibilities. Although the monastery was far from town, Father Alphonsus rekindled the apostolic work of the group. He also organized Carmelite devotions. The prior impressed all with his zeal and dedication to his priestly and religious vocation. The Nazis had begun occupying the area in 1939, but this did not stop the Carmelites from living their religious lives to the full. In spite of the threat of retaliation, the Carmelites continued to accept novices into their community and helped the refugees as best they could. In August of 1944, one of the Carmelite novices was shot. Shortly afterwards, the Nazis forced the friars to another village to dig war trenches. Father Alphonsus Mary was separated from his community and forced into a car where he was assaulted. When the car finally stopped Father Alphonsus was pushed out and told to start walking. Soldiers fired at him and the priest fell. When the murderers realized he was not dead, they filled his mouth with dirt, put his body in a horse drawn carriage and drove to a nearby cemetery. Providentially, the carriage passed the other friars on their way to dig the trenches. One of his brother priests was able to give Father Alphonsus absolution before he died. Throughout his torture and death, the priest had a rosary clutched in his hands. The Carmelites buried their prior and despite the curfew, many people attended the funeral. Father Alphonsus was murdered on August 28, 1944, at the age of fifty-three. In a letter to Carmelites throughout the world, the Superior General of the Carmelite order calls Father Alphonsus’s martyrdom the "crowning of a life of fidelity". Father Alphonsus himself, in his writings states: "All our sanctity and perfection consists in conforming ourselves to the will of God, which is the sole and supreme rule of perfection and of holiness." For his fellow Carmelites and the people of the surrounding area, Father Alphonsus was immediately revered as a martyr. In September, 1945, the Carmelites at Czerna built a monument over the spot where Father Alphonsus was shot. On the monument it says, in part, "...We do not pray for you; because the enemy has snapped the thread of an innocent’s life; since, when the earth bled, the Lord looked for the victim who had overcome hatred by love." Father Alphonus Mary was one of the one hundred eight Polish martyrs beatified in 1999.
In Blessed Alphonsus, as in every martyr we see the face of the Crucified Christ.  We see Christ condemned in their condemnation, tortured in their suffering and his death in their death. We also see his resurrection in their glorification.   This should inspire us, then, to have confidence when we ourselves are led to suffer for our faith.  We too should see Christ standing with us, and as we endure whatever suffering that is inflicted on us, we do so knowing Christ endured worse and that he is even now carrying his cross in our midst and calling us to follow on after him. 
In the brief biography I am struck by the epitaph on the monument erected over the spot where Blessed Alphonsus was shot: "the enemy has snapped the thread of an innocent's life".  That sums up many persecutions and unjust deaths.  But it also sums up abortion.  In these days in Ireland it is a phrase that may well describe what our legislators are about to do: snap the thread of an innocent's life.

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