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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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Jeanne Jugan: 
		<p>Born in northern France during the French Revolution—a time when congregations of women and men religious were being suppressed by the national government, Jeanne would eventually be highly praised in the French academy for her community's compassionate care of elderly poor people.</p>
		<p>When Jeanne was three and a half years old, her father, a fisherman, was lost at sea. Her widowed mother was hard pressed to raise her eight children (four died young) alone. At the age of 15 or 16, Jeanne became a kitchen maid for a family that not only cared for its own members, but also served poor, elderly people nearby. Ten years later, Jeanne became a nurse at the hospital in Le Rosais. Soon thereafter she joined a third order group founded by St. John Eudes (August 19).</p>
		<p>After six years she became a servant and friend of a woman she met through the third order. They prayed, visited the poor and taught catechism to children. After her friend's death, Jeanne and two other women continued a similar life in the city of Saint-Sevran. In 1839, they brought in their first permanent guest. They began an association, received more members and more guests. Mother Marie of the Cross, as Jeanne was now known, founded six more houses for the elderly by the end of 1849, all staffed by members of her association—the Little Sisters of the Poor. By 1853 the association numbered 500 and had houses as far away as England.</p>
		<p>Abbé Le Pailleur, a chaplain, had prevented Jeanne's reelection as superior in 1843; nine year later, he had her assigned to duties within the congregation, but would not allow her to be recognized as its founder. He was removed from office by the Holy See in 1890. </p>
		<p>By the time Pope Leo XIII gave her final approval to the community's constitutions in 1879, there were 2,400 Little Sisters of the Poor. Jeanne died later that same year, on August 30. Her cause was introduced in Rome in 1970, and she was beatified in 1982 and canonized in 2009. </p>
		<p> </p>
American Catholic Blog The people who know God well—the hermits, the prayerful people, those who risk everything to find God—always meet a lover, not a dictator. God is never found to be an abusive father or a manipulative mother, but a lover who is more than we dared hope for.

 
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