Through the eyes of martyrs

Seventy years ago today, on February 2, 1945, a young Jesuit priest, Alfred Delp, was hanged in a Nazi prison. His crime: working together with others to plan for a new Germany after the war, a nation built on Christian principles.

In prison he wrote a series of amazing meditations, including some of Advent and Christmas that I have read many times since they were published in the 1960s as The Prison Meditations of Father Delp, with an introduction by Thomas Merton. Recently Orbis Books has released them in Alfred Delp: Prison Writings.

Today I ran across this sentence in one of his Christmas meditations:

The world is full of miracles but no one perceives them; our lives have lost the power to see.

For Delp, death is not the final word; oppressive regimes will fall; love will triumph – even if we must suffer. There is hope, even in a prison cell.

His witness and writings have been a light for me, sustaining me and challenging me to live love and justice. He has opened my eyes and heart to the poor and oppressed of this world.

It is not easy, when evil seems to triumph and when our efforts seem so small, but, as Father Delp wrote,

If through the life of a person, there is a little more love and goodness, a little more light and through, that person will not have lived in vain.

Fittingly Father Delp died on Candlemas, the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple by Mary and Joseph, the say when candles are blessed.

When the holy family arrive at the temple, the priests and the leaders do not recognize the presence of God in this child. An old man, Simeon, and a very old widow, Anna, see in the child the light of the nations, the salvation of the world.

Their long lives have opened them to see in the little child, in the small and despised of this world, the presence of God.

May the witness of Father Delp – as of Simeon and Anna – open our hearts to live in love and kindness.

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