Asking forgiveness, it’s never too late nor futile…Poland is such an example

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has
forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

C.S. Lewis

“Freedom is the capacity to assert one’s will against the willfulness of others.”
William of Ockham


Over the past weekend, I caught a lovely news story.

In between the nerve-racking updates about Hurricane Dorian here on the east coast—
the hurricane that just doesn’t want to go away—
to the sorrowful story coming out from the west coast about the tragic boat fire in the
Pacific claiming nearly 40 lives, to another sorrowful mass shooting…
finding a news story that read of hope, if not simply civility, was greatly welcomed.

Below, I’ve simply cut and paste the AT&T news story.
My take on it all follows…

Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has asked for Poland’s forgiveness
80 years after the start of World War II.

“I stand before you, those who have survived, before the descendants of the victims,
the old and the young residents of Wielun, I am humbled and grateful,”
Steinmeier said during a ceremony in the Polish city of Wielun,
the site of one of the first Nazi bombings in the country on September 1, 1939.

“I bow to the victims of the attack in Wielun,
I pay tribute to the Polish victims of German tyranny and I ask for forgiveness,” he said.

Nearly 6 million Poles died during World War II,
which remains the bloodiest conflict in history.

More than 50 million people were killed in the conflict overall,
including some 6 million Jews, half of whom were Polish.

At a ceremony in Warsaw, Polish President Andrzej Duda spoke of the atrocious history
suffered by Polish people during WWII and the “trauma” that they still carry today.

The Polish President remembered the fallen and thanked the soldiers
“who fought and sacrificed their lives for freedom.”

In an address on Sunday morning in Westerplatte, Gdansk,
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki spoke of the huge material, spiritual, economic
and financial losses Poland suffered in the war.

“We have to talk, we have to remember about the losses we suffered,
we have to demand the truth, we have to demand compensation,” Morawiecki said.

War reparations remain a contentious issue in Poland —
since coming to power in 2015, the Law and Justice (PiS)
party has revived calls for compensation, Reuters reported.
Germany made the last payment on reparations in 2010.

US Vice President Mike Pence spoke in Warsaw on Sunday at the commemoration ceremony
to mark the 80th anniversary of Germany’s invasion of Poland.
Two days later, on September 3, Britain and France declared war on Germany.

“During the five decades of untold suffering and death that followed the outbreak of World War II,
the Polish people never lost hope, they never gave in to despair,
and they never let go of their thousand-year history,” Pence said.

“In the years that followed this day 80 years ago,
their light shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it,” he added.

https://start.att.net/news/read/article/cnn-german_president_asks_for_forgiveness_80_years_aft-cnn2/category/news

The nation of Poland has a great deal to teach the rest of the world about perseverance
as well as the ability to forgive…just as it seems a German leader has a few things to teach
all of us about the never-ending ability to ask one who has been tragically wronged, to forgive.

But you’d need to understand a bit of history first to truly appreciate this story.

I’ve touched on Poland and her history before in a few previous posts,
but it seems the importance of revisiting has resurfaced.

Poland sits in a pivotal location geographically.

According to the renowned author and biographer, George Weigel, in his international bestseller
Witness to Hope / The biography of Pope John Paul II,
Poland’s location at the crossroads of Latin and Byzantine Europe, it’s geography,
and its repeated experience of invasion, occupation, resistance and
resurrection gave rise to a distinctive Polish way of looking at history.

Poland sits in the middle of Europe—in between the majority of Europe to the west
and Russia along with her broken minions to the east.
Poland has, down through the centuries, proven to be a historical bulwark.

She has literally been the defending line between tyranny and democracy for centuries.
And she has never complained about her pivotal lot.

I am reminded of the verse from the book of Luke:
“From everyone who has been given much,
much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much,
much more will be asked.

Luke 12:48

“Polish history is generally taken to begin with the baptism
of the Piast prince Mieszko I in 966. Mieszko’s choice for Latin Christianity
over Eastern Christianity, which had been formed in the orbit of Constantinople,
decisively shaped Poland’s history for more than a millennium.”

By Mieszko’s choice, a Slavic land and people would be oriented toward the Latin West.

These Roman Slavs were a bridge between Europe’s two cultural halves;
they could “speak the language of two spiritual worlds.”
Poland’s Catholicity and its geographic location led to a certain catholicity
of cultural temperament.

Tartars and Swedes had laid waste [to] the country; the Austrians had stripped the
Old Town of its fortifications and walls (Kraków); occupying powers of varying degrees of
ferocity had displaced the kings and queens of Poland from the royal castle,
atop the “Polish Zion.”
Now, on September 1, 1939, Wawel Cathedral was about to experience something beyond the
imagining of those who had worshiped beneath its gothic vault for centuries.

Poland, as a nation, has been erased numerous times from the known geographical
maps of human history.
Meaning, she was eliminated as a nation…
absorbed by her greedy neighbors on more than one occasion…
actually being erased for over 100 years from any historical map.
Yet the Polish people and their spirit as a unified people, has always remained.

Weigel notes “Poland is not always appreciated this way.
Indeed, the suspicion seems widespread that the Poles
must, for some reason or other, deserve their bad luck.
Yet Poland’s curse is neither in the stars nor in the Polish people.
It’s the neighborhood.”

“For more than a thousand years, the Polish people and their state have inhabited an enormous
flat plain bounded by large, aggressive, materially superior neighbors.
…The Germans were always to the west, and almost always aggressive.
German-Polish enmity followed and peaked in World War II,
when the Nazis sought to eradicate the Polish nation from history.

World War II, which the Poles sometimes describe as the war they lost twice,
was an unmitigated disaster for Poland.
Six million of its citizens our of a prewar population of 35 million,
were killed in combat or murdered– a mortality rate of eighteen percent.
The nation was physically decimated.
Poland became the site of the greatest slaughters of the Holocaust.
And, at the end, another totalitarian power seized control of Poland’s political future.

Karol Wojtyla, the future pope, would live under and eventually be formed by
these two occupying and oppressive regimes–two regimes that would each lend an
unknown hand to the building of a formidable world leader and in turn their own
nemesis and foe.

According to Wikipedia:
On 16 October 1978, Poland experienced what many Poles literally believed to
be a miracle.
Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, the archbishop of Kraków, was elected pope at the Vatican,
taking the name John Paul II. The election of a Polish Pope had an electrifying
effect on what was at that time one of the last idiosyncratically
Catholic countries in Europe.
When John Paul toured Poland in June 1979, half a million people came to welcome
him in Warsaw; in the next eight days, about ten million Poles attended the
many outdoor masses he celebrated.
John Paul clearly became the most important person in Poland, leaving the regime
not so much opposed as ignored. Rather than calling for rebellion,
John Paul encouraged the creation of an “alternative Poland” of social
institutions independent of the government, so that when the next crisis came,
the nation would present a united front.

On 27 October 1991, the first (since the 1920s) entirely free Polish parliamentary
election took place.
This completed Poland’s transition from a communist party rule to a Western-style liberal
democratic political system.

And so despite the centuries of war, siege, occupation, death, murder, and even obliteration…
Poland has remained…just as she continues to remain.

And so we are fortunate in that we, as a world, may watch as a one-time warring
and occupying nation sincerely offers a very humble and visceral apology.
Words that cannot erase the pain, suffering, loss or unfathomable human tragedy…
but words offered by a nation who can admit to the sins of her past…
which in turn now offer hope to a renewed future for us all.

Forgiveness, Hope and Healing—all offered to a very troubled and very needing world…

We continue to hold on to Hope…

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander,
along with every form of malice.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other,
just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:31-32

a teacher’s ultimate love

The mediocre teacher tells.
The good teacher explains.
The superior teacher demonstrates.
The great teacher inspires.

William A. Ward

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(Miss Hunt’s first grade class/ 1966-67 / High Point Elementary )

One of the oldest tricks of the trade of any educator…
Put that one student next to you who needs that extra eye…
The student who you can easily redirect when they’re off task by merely having them within reach…
You may note who it is who is situated right by the teacher in reading circle…
yours truly…

Whenever I spot a positive story about a teacher…
it is the teacher in me who feels the need to share…

You most likely have seen those stories, often featured in the news,
which relay the virtues of “true educators”…
Those stories featuring those teachers who go above and beyond the mere job…
elevating the job to what it is…a true vocation.
Those educators who go above and beyond the expected…
Those teachers who hold and comfort their kids during those unforeseen crises…
those moments in life which go beyond what would normally be expected of any educator…

This story is no different…
A young Scottish teacher who left the familiarity of home…
who went to teach young Jewish children in Budapest…
who at the onset of a world war was encouraged to come back home,
but who refused to leave her “kids”
Who was eventually sent to Auschwitz for her involvement with her “Jewish” children….
And who eventually gave her very life for her “kids”…
It’s is what any real teacher will do….

http://www.foxnews.com/science/2016/09/14/holocaust-heroines-will-lost-photos-unearthed-in-scotland.html

In everything set them an example by doing what is good.
In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned,
so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
Titus 2:7-8

the seeds have been planted…

Who stands firm?
Only the one for whom the final standard is not his reason,
his principles, his conscience, his freedom, his virtue,
but who is ready to sacrifice all these,
when in faith and sole allegiance to God he is called to obedient and responsible action:
the responsible person, whose life will be nothing but an answer to God’s question and call.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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(tigerlilly seeds / Julie Cook / 2016)

The post originally intended for yesterday was to be one of butterflies…
of the lovely, amazing, peaceful and inspiring happy side of life…
It was to be a light and airy, happy and colorful sort of post…

All the images had been taken, chosen and uploaded…
the text had been written…as all was ready for posting…

And then a truck ran into a crowd of holiday revelers in Nice, France…

There were…
Children with dolls and ice-cream…
young couples holding hands…
grandparents remembering when…
tourists basking in the celebration…
as locals relished their independence…

Innocents…contended and happy individuals….much like the butterflies….

And suddenly, just like that, life was no longer about butterflies or anything else lovely, light or etherial…

Reality hit, once again, and it hit hard and fast….

Yet we neither want nor like reality with all of its ugly hard and fast..
We still want the butterflies…
the light, happy, pretty images…
We don’t want to see the macabre surrealism of the mangled bodies of children with their loving dolls keeping silent vigil.

That isn’t why we come to the internet..
We don’t want to see, hear or read the truth of reality..
Rather we prefer to disconnect from Reality as we relish in savoring the pretty,
the colorful, the light, the nice…

When Dietrich Bonhoeffer was arrested in 1943 for taking part in the assassination attempt against Adolph Hitler, it came as a shock to many who had known the young Lutheran pastor…a shock that he would be involved in such an act because he was known for his pacifism…
and how on earth could a pacifist ever take part in the conscious decision to take the life of another….

But what many did not know was that Bonhoeffer, along his Catholic co-conspiritiors of which Pope Pius XII could be counted, had used the writings of St.Thomas Aquinas to justify their taking an active role in the fight against evil and tyrannical powers.

The moral issue here is that of tyrannicide…
the killing of a tyrant, and specifically, the killing of a tyrant by a private person for the common good. Technically, there are two classes of tyrants: a tyrant by usurpation (tyrannus in titulo), a ruler who has illegitimately seized power; and a tyrant by oppression (tyrannus in regimine), a ruler who wields power unjustly, oppressively, and arbitrarily.

The key conditions for a justifiable act of tyrannicide in this case include that the killing be necessary to end the usurpation and restore legitimate authority; that there is no higher authority available that is able and willing to depose the usurper; and that there is no probability that the tyrannicide will result in even greater evil than allowing the usurper to remain in power.

However, if the tyrant by oppression attacks the citizen, jeopardizes the welfare of the community with the intent leading it to destruction or killing the citizens, or commits other evils, then a private citizen can morally commit an act of justifiable tyrannicide. Moreover, if because of the tyrant’s rule, a nation cannot defend itself, is on the course of destruction, and has no lawful means to depose or to condemn the tyrant, then a citizen may commit an act of justifiable tyrannicide. Interestingly, many modern political philosophers would posit that a leader who abuses power and has become tyrannical ipso facto loses legitimacy and becomes an usurper.
(Catholic Resource Education Center / Fr William Saunders)

And whereas it appears in such teachings against the hand of evil that the Church actually condones such acts of killing and assassinations, it must be noted that the Church does not actively teach nor proclaim such concepts…as some detractors may beg to differ.

…yet Aquinas’s writings and teachings remain buried in the layers of the historical fabric within the Church… percolating ever so often upward from the historical depths of time into the present light of a gloomy world as the faithful sit staring, once again, in disbelief at the ongoing images of evil wondering what is truly just…

These seeds of evil and death however were sown a very long time ago.

First with the falling of light into darkness…
Secondly with the determined choice of will in the acceptance of a seemingly simple apple.
and lastly with the death of a brother by the hands of a brother…

Yet the growth of those seeds did not end with the birth of both evil and death.

It has been said that the Magna Carta is one of the single greatest charters ever written by man as it has been the single building block for all civil societies ever since its proclamation and implementation at Runnymede, in England in 1215, by then King John and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langdon.
Even the American Colonists based their own formation of a constitution on the Magna Carta…

It has struggled throughout the course of the past 800 years. It has been amended, abridged and reassigned, and yet, it has continued as the chief cornerstone of Western Civilization.

This ancient charter, steeped in the protection of the rights of all individuals, has helped to formulate judicial systems as it has directed the workings of all governments rooted in the democratic liberties throughout Western Civilization.
It is a lynchpin to our western civility and society as we know it today.

The same civility and democratic liberty that is in sharp contrast to Muslim Sharia law.

It has always been, in part, the responsibility of the Church, in conjunction with the leading governments, to help protect those very civil liberties of all citizens in a democratic society.
It has been her, the Church’s, moral and ethical responsibility—
Yet she too has often failed at the task.

Yet it is this duty to and for the faithful that often puts her at odds with acting governments as she has often been the last bastion between hope and collapse.
All the while as she has tried to maintain her separation from those very governments of those people both hers and not.

Sharia Law and its use of the word of Mohammad stands in stalk contrast to the civil liberties of Western Civilization as it also stands in sharp contrast to the foundations of our Judaeo / Christian society.
We see this power play struggle daily.

And whereas the Church and her members have long recognized the importance of protecting the liberties of the individual citizen, the current Administration of the United States, as well as its fellow administrations of various governments throughout Western Civilization, has failed and continues to fail to see the correlation or relevance to the contrast between the protection of freedom verses that of the tolerance of tyranny.

The civil liberties, the equality, the judicial process, the democratic freedoms enjoyed by the West are nothing short of polarizing to the Sharia Law of Mohammed–
the two are not and will never be compatible…

And until our leaders can understand that one small fact, we will continue witnessing the repercussion of this massive collision.

All the while as Islamic extremists continue the systematic killing of innocent victims who merely wish to live life in their respective democratic societies.

Sadly yet undeniably the butterflies have been replaced by the ugly reality of the hard and fast truth of our current world.

“Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
John 18:37

Travesties

There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience.
It supercedes all other courts.

Mahatma Gandhi

In war, truth is the first casualty.
Aeschylus

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(a bumblebee busily enjoys the sunny day / Julie Cook / 2016)

Truth and justice…
Two of the massive building blocks to man’s existence.

If this was a perfect world, a pre-fallen world, or rather a never fallen world, then truth and justice would be as commonplace as breathing. They would be woven into the everyday living of man and most likely never really contemplated or fretted over…

They would be nothing out of the ordinary.
As nothing could challenge such as each would simply just be part and parcel of man’s existence.

For if there were no fall of man, there would be no lies, no falsehoods, no injustices, no deceptions,
no fabrications, no misdeeds hidden under the pretense of false or half truths and no repercussions of such…

There would be no harm nor fouls.
No need for others to impose justice in defense of the truth…
no casualties of war as there would be no wars….

Yet sadly, for better or worse, we do live in a fallen, as well as broken, world.

We, both you and I, are victims of our own duality—the inner struggle between right and wrong…
With that duality being rooted in the very fall of man…
and in turn…a direct result of man’s sinfulness…

The duality of Good and Evil…
with “truth” being the first victim of that sinful nature.

There is the metaphysical and philosophical concept of dualism, or binary opposition, which addresses the concept of man being both good and bad.
There is also the Christian concept of dualism, or the inherent condition of man’s sinful nature, and the earthly battle of Good and Evil.

C. S. Lewis, the noted British academic, theologian and writer observed that “good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.”

Lewis goes on at length about the concept of dualism and its relationship to Christianity…
“But I freely admit that real Christianity (as distinct from Christianity-and-water) goes much nearer to Dualism than people think. One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe–a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death and disease, and sin. The difference is that Christianity thinks this Dark Power was created by God, and was good when he was created, and went wrong. Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel.”

We fight a constant battle—within ourselves as well as without.

We are often victimized doubly—first by our own sinful nature, then as the direct result of the sinful nature of our fellow man.
Victims of crime, of war, of lies, of deciet…all attacks outside of ourselves, attacks that we are often helpless to defend.

6 million innocent lives taken in the death camps of World War II—-
…victims of the evil duality of man.
First that of Hitler, then of his commanders, then of his soldiers who carried out the arrests, the tortues and the deaths and finally to the culpability of their fellow countrymen who placed all blame for all things wrong with Germany upon their Jewish neighbor’s shoulders.

We face a constant barrage of attacks from outside of ourselves.

You can call it what you will, but Evil has claimed Earth as his own.
It happened that fateful day in the Garden…
And it has raged against us ever since.

Pope Emeritus Benedict continues this idea of duality and Good and Evil in his 2008 Advent catechesis on original sin
“And finally, the last point, man is not only curable, he is in fact cured. God has introduced healing. He entered in person into history. To the permanent source of evil he has opposed a source of pure good. Christ crucified and risen, the new Adam, opposed the filthy river of evil with a river of light. And this river is present in history: We see the saints, the great saints but also the humble saints, the simple faithful. We see that the river of light that comes from Christ is present, is strong.

The dark night of evil is still strong. And that is why we pray in Advent with the ancient people of God: “Rorate caeli desuper.” And we pray with insistence: Come Jesus; come, give force to light and goodness; come where falsehood, ignorance of God, violence and injustice dominate; come, Lord Jesus, give force to the good of the world and help us to be bearers of your light, agents of peace, witnesses of truth. Come Lord Jesus!”

So yes, come Lord Jesus….
Even in the duality of this Good and Evil and in our constant battle… we can rejoice…
As Pope Benedict reminds us, we have already been cured and healed…the hope is regenerated with each Advent, the healing began on Good Friday and the cure came Easter morning…
Hallelujah!!!

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair.
We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”

Pope John Paul II

The White Rose

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Who would have thought it possible that a tiny little flower could preoccupy a person so completely

that there simply wasn’t room for any other thought.
—SOPHIE SCHOLL

Thanks to my sweet and wonderful future daughter-n-law and son, I received this beautiful tiny white rose bush for Mother’s day. My husband gave me a nice new camera as well, which is a nice step up from my little pocket digital Sony. I thought I’d try out the new camera by snapping a few shots of the rose bush.

The tiny white rose blossoms appear demure and almost shy– so unlike their larger showy cousins. I wanted to find the perfect quote or saying to accompany the photographs. I actually found this wonderful quote by Sophie Scholl, when suddenly I remembered the book I had sitting in my stack of books to read—A Noble Treason –The story of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose Revolt Against Hitler.

Sophie Scholl and her brother were founding members of the White Rose Society—a group of college students who worked to undermine the Nazi regime with the use of passive resistance. It was their hope and vision that, by joining together, the youth of Germany could topple Hitler and his regime.

They helped to publish and distribute leaflets condemning National Socialism. They also painted denunciations of Hitler and the Nazis on the walls of buildings and houses. When seen tossing a stack of leaflets from a college window, the Gestapo arrested Sophie, her brother and another young man. The trio was quickly tried in a farce of a court hearing, sentenced to death for sedition against the state, and were beheaded within hours of the sentencing.

Does it make me sad that upon seeing such a beautifully small white rose I am suddenly reminded of the sad true story of a brave young German girl? Not in the least–I find it a comforting reminder that there have been brave people who stood up to tremendous evil–all at such an overwhelming cost. I enjoy my freedom today because of the brave men and woman of a previous generation. Will a future generation feel the same towards our generation—that I cannot answer.

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