Heroes

A fairly quiet week for a change, so let’s back off a bit today and look around. A while back Gene Simmons of Kiss was visiting the Pentagon. He has some things to say. They are worth remembering. From Breitbart.

A remarkable story isn’t it? And yet it is not, that view of America is fairly common all around the world. Something to remember, and something to live up to.


I grew up in Northwest Indiana, and this man was on the news a lot in those strangely calm although noisy days. From Front Page Magazine.

I was checking the new releases in a local theater when I saw the title HesburghSounds like a Dracula spin-off, I thought. I had never heard the name before and I knew nothing about the movie. [ How sad is that, Fr. Theodore Hesburgh is, arguably one of the greatest men of the last 100 years. Neo] Curious, I did a quick Google search and discovered that Hesburgh is a documentary about a Catholic priest. A documentary about a Catholic priest running in a suburban multiplex? I had to see it.

Father Theodore Hesburgh was president of Notre Dame for thirty-five years, 1952–1987. He also played a role in the Civil Rights Movement, the effort to limit nuclear arms, and immigration reform. He had close, personal relationships with Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Clinton, and Obama, Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, Martin Luther King Jr and Ann Landers. Much of the film consists of grainy, decades-old film footage of the Space Race, The Civil Rights Movement, and the Vietnam War. A few scenes are reenactments of key moments in Hesburgh’s life. There are also contemporary interviews with people who knew Hesburgh, including Leon Panetta and Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson. Speakers at Hesburgh’s memorial service included Mike Pence and Condoleezza Rice.

Hesburgh sounds like a priestly Kardashian, no? Listen, I walked into the theater knowing nothing about Theodore Hesburgh and by the end of the film my face was sloppy with tears. I cry no tears for Kardashians. Why did this film move me so much?

The film depicts Hesburgh as a remarkably humble man. As a man who, yes, wined and dined with the rich and powerful, but who never lost the personal touch, and who was almost supernaturally humble, and relentlessly committed to his priestly vocation. In every scene I can remember, from the time he took his vows to his 2015 death at age 97, Hesburgh is wearing the exact same clothing: the unadorned, dark suit and white collar of a priest of the Congregation of the Holy Cross. Selecting personal dress and adornment is a fundamental human choice. Hesburgh surrendered that choice at 18 and never took it back. In a clip from an interview, TV host Phil Donahue presses Hesburgh. How have you lived your life alone, without a wife? Hesburgh’s visage is severe but calm. “I made that choice at 18.” It’s remarkable to witness a man of his word.

Pope Paul VI presented Hesburgh with his own emerald ring as a gift. The implication was that the pope hoped to elevate Hesburgh to cardinal. Hesburgh put the ring in a drawer. His vocation was as a priest, not a “prince of the church.” Former students from Notre Dame testify on camera that Hesburgh was like a father to them. Journalist Robert Sam Anson, a Notre Dame alum, was taken prisoner in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Hesburgh phoned the Vatican to help broker his release. Anson is visibly moved when discussing Hesburgh.

Hesburgh’s most sustained effort in public affairs, at least as depicted in the film, was in the field of Civil Rights. In one of the most famous images of Hesburgh, he is linking arms with Martin Luther King Jr. at Soldier Field in Chicago in 1964, as they sing together “We Shall Overcome.” Hesburgh was no mere fellow traveler. When Civil Rights Commission members were stonewalling each other, the Northerners against the Southerners, Hesburgh kept his eye on the individual human soul. His faith taught him that each Commission member, no matter how obstructionist, was made in the image and likeness of God. With that perspective, Hesburgh recognized that one thing all these diverse combatants had in common was a love of fishing. He arranged for a Notre Dame donor’s private jet to transport them to a secluded lake. There they could connect as human beings, and make progress. Hesburgh was willing to stick his neck out even when the presidents who counted him among their friends dropped the ball. The Kennedy administration had concluded that pushing Civil Rights would cost Kennedy votes in the South, and, thus, the election. They decided to “slow walk” progress. Hesburgh at this instance, and at other key moments as well, took it upon himself to press for an end to Jim Crow. Sorry, Hollywood and film critics cum social justice warriors, but yes Hesburgh was one of many white allies without whom the Civil Rights Movement would have been an historical blip that reached the same dead-end of a thousand other liberation movements in societies without conscience.

Like any serious Catholic, Hesburgh faced criticism from the right and the left. The Catholic Church opposes abortion, and, thus, gains approval and allies on the right. Other stances on poverty and immigration earn approval and allies on the left.

He faced more than criticism really, it was more like vilification as we see it today, and yes from both the right and the left. And the author is right, it was because he was a Catholic, an authentic and dare I say orthodox one. That may be one of the most difficult things to be in the world today.

The author found another interesting movie:

Franciszka Halamajowa died in obscurity. Few outside her immediate family had any idea of her heroism. She never rubbed elbows with the rich or the powerful. When Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia invaded Poland in 1939, Halamajowa was a 54 year old Polish, Catholic farm woman, her gray hair brushed back into a simple bun. She was plump, with apple cheeks and kind eyes. She wore simple, loose, cotton dresses. She lived on a small plot of land with fruit trees and pigs in the small town of Sokal. Sokal was then in Eastern Poland; it is now in Ukraine. In 1939, it had a mixed population of Poles, Ukrainians, and 5,200 Jews. Only thirty Jews survived the war. Sixteen Jews were sheltered by Franciszka Halamajowa. The documentary No. 4 Street of Our Lady tells the almost unbelievable story of Halamajowa’s heroism. This ninety-minute, 2009 documentary is currently available on Vimeo.

One can’t begin to understand Halamajowa’s feat without understanding the Nazi and Soviet approach to Poland. Both were genocidal, and their hostility to the continued existence of Poland had begun centuries before. Under German and Russian occupation beginning in the eighteenth century, at times and in places, Poles could not build permanent dwellings on their own land, could not speak their own language in school, and were subject to mass deportations to Siberia, where many died. The Nazi Generalplan Ost called for the genocide and occupation of Slavic nations. In his infamous August, 1939 “Armenian speech,” Hitler said, “I have placed my death-head formation in readiness … with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (Lebensraum) which we need.”

Soviet Russians, Sokal’s first World-War-Two-era occupiers, deported between 500,000 and 1.7 million Poles to Siberia. Soviet Russians arrested and imprisoned hundreds of thousands of other Poles. Many were tortured and executed, including 22,000 Polish Army officers shot in the Katyn Massacre. Soviet propaganda depicted Poles as enemies of the people. Polish land was seized and redistributed, most to collective farms. An estimated 150,000 – 500,000 Polish citizens died during the Soviet occupation.

In June, 1941, as part of Operation Barbarossa, the Nazis arrived. Scarred by the 1932-33 Soviet-orchestrated Ukrainian famine, interwar Polish rule, and Soviet occupation, some Ukrainians collaborated with the Nazis. In addition to persecuting Jews, Ukrainians tortured, mutilated, and massacred Polish Catholics. Historians estimate that approximately 100,000 Poles were murdered by Ukrainians.

All this bloody history swirled around Franciszka Halamajowa as she tended her fruit trees, chickens and pigs. Ukrainians knocked on her door and told her to leave. Sokal was now Ukrainian territory, and no longer safe for a Polish woman alone with a young daughter. Nazis could kill Poles for infractions so minor as owning a radio. Poles were regularly rounded up and sent to slave labor or concentration camps. Any aid given to any Jew, even something so simple as offering a drink of water, was a capital crime, not just for the one giving the aid, but for her entire family. This punishment was unique to Poland. Miep Gies, who aided Anne Frank in Holland, for example, survived betrayal and discovery. One list of Poles killed for helping Jews includes 704 names. No doubt many more were killed but their accounts cannot be documented.

Jews escaping a Nazi aktion asked Halamajowa for help. Yad Vashem reports that Halamajowa and her daughter Helena “believed that it was G-d who had brought the Jewish refugees to their door to test their faith. They considered it their religious duty to protect the Jewish refugees, and never demanded payment of any kind.” It was not until after the war that the Jews Halamajowa was hiding in a pigsty discovered that she had another Jewish family hiding in a specially built dugout under her kitchen floor. Indeed, Halamajowa was also hiding a renegade German soldier in her attic. He did not want to participate in Nazi killing.

This post is already ridiculously long, so I’m not going to comment on it other than to say that this is what the left is trying to destroy when the attempt to destroy Christianity, for Gene Simmons’ story is not really that different, except in outcome to millions of others. If not for Christianity, and in a sense the last gasp of European culture, America, it may well have been lost by now, and very likely would be.

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13 Responses to Heroes

  1. Nicholas says:

    There is a salutory warning in this for both the Left and the Right: do not let your anger become a doorway for the Devil to enter your heart. Both sides of politics are at risk of becoming fascists, and the humility of admitting this is good for our souls. We are right to complain about what the Left is doing to us today – truly it is correct to criticise Antifa and the evil anti-semitism in the Democrat and Labour parties – but we must not let our anger do that to us, either.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. the unit says:

    Quiet week, oh yeah. Except the spatter of spit and etc. 🙂
    Reparations, reparations, reparations. Here and abroad. Sort of seething underneath the conversation.
    Any settled science ideas from the promulgators of abortion for reparations to the aborted.
    Time may come it’s not too late.
    https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/04/17/pigs-brain-brought-back-life-sort-of-yale-scientists-say/3485102002/
    There was a quote a blog or two back here from, I forget, Adams or Jefferson that peace is not the normal for mankind. Paraphrasing of course. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. audremyers says:

    I’m new to this blog but I’m quite certain you have outdone yourself. A lot of powerful information here; information that requires thought, reflection, additional research. It’s a challenge.

    It’s trite, I know, to state that America is on the cusp – but it is. I fear the wind that will blow her into the abyss and pray for the wind that will push her back from the fall.

    Liked by 2 people

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