第二次世界大戰，納粹德軍入侵波蘭。一九四三年七月，一百二十多名波蘭男人被德軍從諾禾谷特Nowogrodek逮捕並準備處決，當中很多是家庭中的骨幹。納匝肋聖家女修會的瑪莉修女Sr. Mary Stella和別的修女們得悉，便向天主祈求：「天主, 若性命的犧性是必要的, 請由我們處接受, 為挽救那些有家庭的人。」盛其華神父Fr. Zienkiewicz遇有危難，這些修女們重申：「世界需要神父多於需要我們。祈求天主，假如有此需要，我們願意代替神父捨棄性命。」
Last weekend we commemorated the sufferings, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In this article, we are going to complete our reflections on the Sorrowful Mysteries by focusing on the Fifth Mystery--- Jesus died on the Cross.
Lessons of the Cross
God is all-powerful, and He could have saved us in whatever ways He wants. Hence, the Cross is not absolutely necessary for our salvation. But God decided to save us through the Cross, because it is fitting. Jesus on the Cross teaches us the love of God, the horror of sin, and the acceptance of suffering.
Jesus on the Cross is the expression of God’s love for us. It is also the model and standard of true love. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friend” (John 15:13). Here on earth, true love and sacrifice are inseparable. False love is self-centered and selfish, whereas true love is God-centered and selfless. If we truly love others, we must be willing to give ourselves.
Jesus on the Cross shows us the horror of sin. He accepted all the consequences of sin on His human body. When we contemplate the wounds and blood of Christ, we see the results of our sinfulness. Each time when we go to Confession, we are cleansed by the Blood of Christ. Let us be grateful, and not despise the Blood of Christ by giving in to sin.
Jesus on the Cross is our example in facing human sufferings. Though innocent, Jesus freely embraced the Cross for our salvation. He invites us to do the same. We can offer up of sufferings for the salvation of others.
Example Self-Giving Love
The Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth was founded in 1875 by Blessed Frances Siedliska. The foundress’ motto is “Thy will be done”. The charism of the Congregation is to serve the families to a heroic degree. The Sisters willingly sacrifice themselves for the building up of families in society.
Blessed Frances expressed her desire for her Sisters saying, “Charity, dear Sisters, charity.” In 1943, eleven Sisters in Nowogrodek, Poland, fulfilled the desire of their foundress by giving up their lives for the lives and families of others.
During World War II, the Nazis invaded Poland. In July, 1943 more than 120 men from Nowogrodek were arrested and were destined to be executed. Many of them were heads of the families. Aware of this tragic situation, Sister Mary Stella and her community offered their lives to God praying, “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.” When the life of a priest, Father Zienkiewicz, was in danger, the Sisters renewed their offering saying, “There is greater need for a priest on this earth than for us. We pray that God will take us in his place, if sacrifice of life is needed.”
On July 31, the Sisters were told to report to the Nazis Commissar’s office. An older Sister was chosen to stay behind, and the other eleven Sisters went to the Commissar’s office. The Commissar wanted the arrested men to work for him, but in order not to lose face, the Gestapo would not let the men go unless someone else would be executed in place of the men. The Sisters agreed to give up their lives for the lives of the arrested men.
Early August 1, the Sisters were taken out into the woods. Sister Stella blessed each of the ten Sisters. They knelt before an open hole--- a grave dug for eleven. The Sisters were shot and buried. The older Sister who left behind eventually discovered the spot of the execution and came back from time to time to tend the grave.
In 2000, Pope John Paul II beatified Sister Stella and her ten companions. During his homily he prayed, “We thank you, O blessed martyrs of Nowogródek, for your witness of love, for your example of Christian heroism and for your trust in the power of the Holy Spirit.”