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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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James of the Marche: Meet one of the fathers of the modern pawnshop! 
<p>James was born in the Marche of Ancona, in central Italy along the Adriatic Sea. After earning doctorates in canon and civil law at the University of Perugia, he joined the Friars Minor and began a very austere life. He fasted nine months of the year; he slept three hours a night. St. Bernardine of Siena told him to moderate his penances. </p><p>James studied theology with St. John of Capistrano. Ordained in 1420, James began a preaching career that took him all over Italy and through 13 Central and Eastern European countries. This extremely popular preacher converted many people (250,000 at one estimate) and helped spread devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. His sermons prompted numerous Catholics to reform their lives and many men joined the Franciscans under his influence. </p><p>With John of Capistrano, Albert of Sarteano and Bernardine of Siena, James is considered one of the "four pillars" of the Observant movement among the Franciscans. These friars became known especially for their preaching. </p><p>To combat extremely high interest rates, James established <i>montes pietatis</i> (literally, mountains of charity)--nonprofit credit organizations that lent money at very low rates on pawned objects. </p><p>Not everyone was happy with the work James did. Twice assassins lost their nerve when they came face to face with him. James died in 1476 and was canonized in 1726.</p> American Catholic Blog Let us never tire of seeking the Lord—of letting ourselves be sought by him—of tending over our relationship with him in silence and prayerful listening. Let us keep our gaze fixed on him, the center of time and history; let us make room for his presence within us.

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