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The Labyrinth

Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

A 17 year-old teenager was on the first transport to Auschwitz in 1940. His name was Marian Kolodziej and he had asked his priest if it was a good idea to join the Polish resistance. The priest said yes, but Marian was no match for the Nazi machine. He was captured almost immediately and the number 432 was tattooed on his forearm. He says of his first weeks there, “I built Auschwitz because I arrived there in the first transport. It was also true that for almost fifty years I did not speak about Auschwitz. But nevertheless throughout that whole time Auschwitz was present in everything I did.”

After the war he married and designed sets for theaters. He also kept silent about Auschwitz until he had a stroke when he was 72 years old. He fell into a depression and then one day asked for paper and pencil and began to draw his way to healing. The tragic images flowed from his haunted memory and became large murals and panels numbering more than 300. “Until his death in 2009,” explains filmmaker Father Ron Schmidt, SJ, “Marian kept adding new pieces and rearranging the drawings as his memory invited him.”

Today the art of Marian Kolodziej is on display in the basement of a Franciscan church in Harmeze, about 13 km from Auschwitz, or Oświęcim as the town is called in Polish. As this stunning documentary shows, Marian arranged the murals in the shape of a classic multipath labyrinth, the kind that is a maze that is difficult to navigate. “Marian’s labyrinth metaphor,” Fr. Schmidt added in an interview, “is that as the prisoners never knew what the Nazis would do next, where they would go or what they would have to do or how they would be punished, they never saw the end in sight. Marian’s labyrinth is a maze where people can wander not knowing where the path will lead them until they finally reach a stairway that leads to the light outside.”

The narration is by Roman S. Czarny, whose mature, Polish-accented English gives the film great authenticity; he makes you think that Marian himself is guiding you through his experience of the death camp. The musical score is haunting yet contemplative.

Themes of survival, art as a healer, the resilience of the human person, man’s inhumanity, and finally hope, are some of the themes the film reflects as it leads us through this phenomenal maze of genius. For more information about this film and to order a copy of the DVD, visit

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Denis and Companions: This martyr and patron of France is regarded as the first bishop of Paris. His popularity is due to a series of legends, especially those connecting him with the great abbey church of St. Denis in Paris. He was for a time confused with the writer now called Pseudo-Dionysius. 
<p>The best hypothesis contends that Denis was sent to Gaul from Rome in the third century and beheaded in the persecution under Emperor Valerius in 258. </p><p>According to one of the legends, after he was martyred on Montmartre (literally, "mountain of martyrs") in Paris, he carried his head to a village northeast of the city. St. Genevieve built a basilica over his tomb at the beginning of the sixth century.</p> American Catholic Blog The saints share in God’s glory, for they are God’s new creation through Jesus Christ. This new creation radiates God’s glory, for God fills the saints with his grace. He shares his glory, his divine life, with those who are willing to receive it through the work and person of Jesus Christ.

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