For decades I have been collecting quotations that touch me. Since high school I have been fascinated by people who stand up for justice, identify with the poor, and work for peace. About twenty years ago I began to put together a calendar of these heroes and quotes from them.
Each morning I check the calendar and I am often moved by remembering the many women and men who are witnesses to love, very often based in a deep faith in Christ.
Every once in a while I am reminded of some persons who have touched me in a steep way by their witness.
Today is the anniversary of the execution of three members of the White Rose, a group mostly of young students – Catholic, Lutheran, and Orthodox – who made a courageous witness against Nazism. On February 22, 1943, Sophie and Hans Scholl (sister and brother) and Christoph Probst were executed in Munich. Others were later apprehended and executed.
They didn’t start a revolutionary movement. Their major weapon was an illegal duplicating machine which they used to print thousands of leaflets that they distributed in defiance of Hitler.
“We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace.”
I am touched that these young people had more courage than many religious leaders in Germany and elsewhere to denounce – in clear words – the evil that Nazism was.
They challenge me to speak boldly, yet peacefully and lovingly, in the face of the evils around us.
And, as far as I can discern, they did this because of a deep faith in God.
That gave them a great courage that moved them to rouse themselves from a survival ethic. As Sophie Scholl wrote:
The real damage is done by those millions who want to “survive.” The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honor, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.
How will we burn with the love of God and others in our hearts?