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Monday, 28 April 2014

Obedience, Personal Responsibility, and Saintliness

The human tragedy of the Korean ferry disaster and the picture that I cannot get out of my mind, of doomed children huddled obediently awaiting their deaths, reminded me of the Lady of the Angels tragedy.
I happened upon a tv documentary on that fire, about which I knew nothing, but Himself is older and grew up in Chicagoland, and he said that news story haunted him and every child he knew, even in their suburban public schools. Some blame seemed to attach, even if it was not expressly articulated, to the teaching sisters who kept children praying in the burning building waiting for rescue that never came and to a Catholicism-the-way-it-used-to-be culture of obedience to authority.
When I learned about Our Lady of the Angels I wondered what I would have done had I been a pupil in such a situation.  I was an ornery kid, but I don't know that I was confrontational enough to flout authority in the moment - I was more of a sneak who would argue my, er... principled position brazenly afterwards.
No print report or talking head had made this connection, until, (or so I thought,) this Op-ed piece in the NYTimes.
But no, that wasn't where Roger Cohen was going. While he mentioned the attitudes toward authority that may or may not be specific to the Korean culture, what he really wanted to address was the world-wide, the societal or racial, (and that would be the human race,) erosion of duty and personal responsibility as a value.
I think of that often. As an irresponsible slacker myself, I am acutely aware of other peoples' failure to live up to responsibilities.

I always laugh at polemicists insisting that a vocations' shortage can be chalked up to the fact that the Mean Ol' Catholic Church won't let Her priests have sex.

Do away with celibacy! our sex obsessed society clamors, as if that'll take care of the problem. (Not that most really want the problem taken care of -- the fewer priests, the fewer practicing Catholics - the happier that portion of society'll be. I digress.)

The anti-celibacy advocates are silent on why the other major vocation is also becoming rarer, since, uh.... married people are not only forbidden, they are urged to have sex by the Church.
But again, I digress.

This was the postion of the Cohen piece that caught my eye:
When I was based in Berlin, Germany renamed a military base after Anton Schmid, a soldier in Hitler’s army who disobeyed orders, saved hundreds of Jews and was executed by the Nazis in 1942 for his acts. Schmid, a sergeant, was moved by the suffering of Jewish children in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius who had been condemned to mass slaughter. He wrote of the children to his wife: “I could not think and had to help them.”

I've spent a lot of time talking about saints, and the Church's theology and procedures concerning sainthood the past few days, (haven't we all,) explaining what little I do know to children, to non-Catholics, to marginally practicing and essentially un-educated Catholics.

The universal call to sanctity, and the fact that heaven teems with people whose names we will never know until we, (hopefully,) join them, and the Church's prescriptions differentiating public and private veneration -- all of this seems hard for some people to grasp, and no doubt my inadequate exegesis is to blame.
But I believe I have known many saints in my life.

And just as I am happy to pray for the intecession of Himself's mother, I pray,
Anton Schmid, ora pro nobis
Anton Schmid

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