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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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Alphonsus Rodriguez: Tragedy and challenge beset today’s saint early in life, but Alphonsus Rodriguez found happiness and contentment through simple service and prayer. 
<p>Born in Spain in 1533, Alphonsus inherited the family textile business at 23. Within the space of three years, his wife, daughter and mother died; meanwhile, business was poor. Alphonsus stepped back and reassessed his life. He sold the business and, with his young son, moved into his sisters’ home. There he learned the discipline of prayer and meditation. </p><p>Years later, at the death of his son, Alphonsus, almost 40 by then, sought to join the Jesuits. He was not helped by his poor education. He applied twice before being admitted. For 45 years he served as doorkeeper at the Jesuits’ college in Majorca. When not at his post, he was almost always at prayer, though he often encountered difficulties and temptations. </p><p>His holiness and prayerfulness attracted many to him, including St. Peter Claver, then a Jesuit seminarian. Alphonsus’s life as doorkeeper may have been humdrum, but he caught the attention of poet and fellow-Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins, who made him the subject of one of his poems. </p><p>Alphonsus died in 1617. He is the patron saint of Majorca.</p> American Catholic Blog People mess up, and it’s especially hard to watch as our children and other young people go down paths we know are likely to lead to heartbreak. Providing gentle guidance when it’s needed, and love even when that guidance isn’t followed, helps them to start fresh.

 
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