Two saints turn up in this week of March who have something in common: both were martyred for Christian love and service during World War II.
Blessed Restituta Kafka, a sister in the Austrian order, Sisters of Christian Charity, worked as a nurse but was ordered by the Gestapo to remove crucifixes she had placed in several hospital rooms. She refused and was arrested by the Gestapo in 1942, “sentenced to death for ‘aiding and abetting the enemy in the betrayal of the fatherland and for plotting high treason.’
“She spent the rest of her days in prison caring for other prisoners, who loved her. The Nazis offered her freedom if she would abandon the Franciscan sisters, but she refused. She was beheaded march 30, 1943 in Vienna.” (Source: Catholic News Agency)
Blessed Vilmos Apor, bishop of Györ, Hungary, provided emergency supplies to Jews being deported through his town. He also “hid and protected women from brutalities of Russian soldiers who were closing in on Germany at the end of World War II. He was shot on Good Friday by a drunken Red Army officer who was chasing women who had fled to bishop Vilmos for protection; he died three days later.” (Source: http://saints.sqpn.com/saintv0m.htm)
Vilmos appealed to everyone he could, in attempts to visit Jews and other prisoners in the camps or at least to plead on their behalf to those in power. He wrote letters and spoke out publicly against what was happening in Hungary:
When . . . in 1944 . . . the Jews were being deported to the death camps, Vilmos wrote to the minister of the interior in protest: “As bishop of the ancient city of Györ, I protest before God, Hungary, and the world against these measures, which are in contradiction to human rights. I hold you responsible for all the cases of sickness, humiliation, and death caused by these measures.”
On Whitsunday 1944 he preached against what was happening:
“He who assumes that men, whether Negroes or Jews, may be tortured, must be regarded as a pagan, even if he boasts of being a Christian. Everyone who approves of, or takes part in, the torturing of human beings, commits a grave sin.” (Butler’s Live of the Saints)
This week, may we remember those brave and kind souls who gave everything they had, even their lives, for the love of God and neighbor.