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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Labyrinth

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

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 www.thelabyrinthdocumentary.com


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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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