Aug 1, 2022, 2:49:41 AMAug 1
He did all things well
It is not enough to do good things, but we must do them well, in
imitation of Christ our Lord, of whom it was written: Bene omnia fecit
--He did all things well. We ought, then, to strive to do all things
in the spirit of Christ; that is, with the perfection, with
circumstances, and for the ends for which He performed His actions.
Otherwise, even the good works that we do will bring us punishment
rather than reward.
--St. Vincent de Paul
August 1st – Martyrs of Nowogrodek
On 5 March 2000, the Holy Father John Paul II beatified 11 Sisters of
the Holy Family of Nazareth, Martyrs from Nowogrodek: Sr. Maria Stella
and her 10 Companions, in Rome.
When the first nuns of the Holy Family of Nazareth arrived in
Nowogrodek on 4 September 1929 Nowogrodek was a small town in the
eastern lands of the Republic of Poland (now Belarus), with a
nationally diversified population.
The first apostolic work of the nuns in Nowogrodek, as a condition of
educational activity – the nuns ran a school – was ministry connected
with the Church of the Transfiguration, called ‘Biala Fara’ [White
Church]. The nuns, who formed the community of the House of Christ the
King, gave examples of deep faith, hope and love to the local people.
From the beginning of their activities the nuns tried to discern the
needs of the society.
Under two occupations
The outbreak of World War II on 1 September 1939 and the occupation of
those lands, first by the Soviets and then by the Germans, disturbed
the order and harmony of the community in Nowogrodek. During the
Soviet occupation, when the nuns could not run the school officially,
they became much closer to the local people. Expelled from the house,
forbidden to wear their habits, they experienced hardships of daily
life and saw the sufferings of the inhabitants of Nowogrodek and the
neighbourhood; they saw the arrested and transported to the steppes of
Kazakhstan and to Siberia. During the German occupation the nuns could
wear their habits and they returned to the cloister to be signs of
hope for the tormented people. The parish church, filled with
believers, was also such a sign during both occupations.
When the special Gestapo units arrived in Baranowicze terror against
the civilians in the town and the whole district increased. The first
mass execution took place on 31 July 1942 in the forest near
Nowogrodek. Then 60 people, including two priests: Fr Michal Dalecki,
the Nowogrodek dean and Fr Jozef Kuczynski, were shot. In the spring
of 1943 the nuns intensified their religious and charity activities.
The citizens of Nowogrodek, tormented by the regime, sought comfort
and peace in the church where Fr Aleksander Zienkiewicz, the only
survived priest in the vicinity, celebrated Mass in the morning and in
the evening, when the Blessed Sacrament was exposed the faithful
together with the priest and the nuns, recited the rosary. The next
wave of terror happened on the night of 17-18 July when ca. 120 people
– fathers and other Polish family members – were arrested to be
executed. On the afternoon Sr. Maria Stella said during a meeting with
Fr Zienkiewicz, ‘My God, if sacrifice of life is needed let them kill
us and not those who have families. We are even praying for that.’ It
was a common decision of the nuns and Sr. M. Stella as the superior of
the house told the chaplain about it. Those who were sentenced to
death were transported to work in Germany. Some people were released.
The transport set out westwards on 24 July 1943. All those who were
transported survived the war.
Martyr’s death of the nuns
Facing the danger of death of the only priest in the vicinity Fr
Zienkiewicz, who was on the list of those sought by the Gestapo, Sr.
M. Stella expressed the sisters’ readiness to sacrifice their lives,
‘My God, if sacrifice of life is needed, accept it from us and spare
those who have families.’ We are even praying for this intention.’ On
31 July 1943 Sr. Maria Stella was asked to come to Gebiets-Office
located in the building of the former voivodship office at 7.30 p.m.
The oral command was given by a German who came to the nuns dressed as
a civilian. After the rosary 11 nuns of the Family of Nazareth
together with their superior went to the building. The sisters’ names
were: M. Stella, M. Imelda, M. Rajmunda, M. Daniela, M. Kanuta, M.
Sergia, M. Gwidona, M. Felicyta, M. Heliodora, M. Kanizja and M.
Boromea. The nuns thought that the worst thing that could happen to
them was transportation to work in Germany. The twelfth sister
Malgorzata Banas, who was to care for the church and the chaplain,
remained at home. Then things happened very quickly. The verdict had
already been taken. The extermination of priests and nuns in
Nowogrodek was the task of the security police in Baranowicze. The
police were subordinated to the Reich Central Security Office, its aim
being the complete destruction of Christianity. That’s why the nuns
did not hear any accusations and there was no investigation. After two
hour visit to the office the nuns were escorted and ordered to get in
a lorry and they were transported towards the military barracks along
the Nowojelenski tract. Because of the heavy traffic the Gestapo
officers decided to go back. The nuns spent one night in the cell of
the police station, praying and lying prostrate, preparing to offer
the sacrifice of their lives. On Sunday, 1 August 1943, at dawn the
nuns were transported and killed in a small birch-pine tree woods,
five km away from the town. The task was fulfilled by the officers of
the flying squad from Baranowicze. The nuns died martyr’s deaths,
killed by the Nazi torturers. Fr Zienkiewicz and all those for whom
the nuns had sacrificed their lives survived. ‘No one has greater
love…’, said the Holy Father on the day of their beatification.
Since 13 September 2009 there has been the Province of the Blessed
Martyrs from Nowogrodek in Belarus and there are the relics of the
nuns and the beatification picture in the parish church there. The
convent of the Blessed Martyrs has a museum and a communion host
bakery. The religious community and novitiate are located in the
former school. From among the people connected with the Blessed
Martyrs two are candidates for the altars. These are the Servants of
God: Sr. Malgorzata Banas, who survived the war and the sisters’
chaplain Fr Aleksander Zienkiewicz.
People who keep themselves low in their own estimation and love to be
considered of little account and despised by others please God in the
--Thomas a Kempis
And they brought to him young children, that he might touch them. And
the disciples rebuked them that brought them. Whom when Jesus saw, he
was much displeased, and saith to them: Suffer the little children to
come unto me and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God.
Amen I say to you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a
little child, shall not enter into it. (Mark 10:13-15)
"Paul says that we should receive the weak man in order that we might
support his weakness by our strength. Neither should we criticize his
opinions by daring to pass judgment on someone else's heart, which we
do not see.
-- St. Augustine, Commentary of Romans
A Prayer for Light
O Light everlasting, surpassing all created light! (Ps. 27:1; John
8:12) Pour forth from Heaven the glorious rays of Thy light and pierce
the very depths of my heart! Purify, gladden, light and quicken the
powers of my spirit, that it may hold to Thee with joy unspeakable.
Oh, when shall come that blessed and longed for hour, when Thou
filleth me with Thy presence and be to me All in all. (1 Cor. 15:28)
Until Thou granteth this, I can know no fullness of joy. As yet, alas,
my lower nature is strong within me; it is not yet wholly crucified,
nor entirely dead. (Rom. 6:6) It still fights strongly against the
spirit, stirring up conflicts within me and will not allow the kingdom
of the soul to remain at peace. O Christ, who rules the power of the
sea and quells its raging waves, (Ps. 89:9) come near and help me!
Scatter the nations that delight in war (Ps. 68:30) and overcome them
in Thy strength. (Ps. 60:12). Display thy mighty power, I pray, and
show Yourself glorious in might; I have no hope nor refuge (Ps. 31:2)
but in Thee, O Lord My God.
--Thomas à Kempis --Imitation of Christ Bk 3, Ch 34