Photo: Dan Valenti
These graphic images were part of the Holocaust display on view Nov. 7 in the Great Room of the Marian Fathers' monastery adjacent to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, Stockbridge, Mass.
Final Solution, Final Disposition
Marian Fathers Remember Victims of Holocaust in Special Mass
Father Victor Incardona, MIC, reads the Gospel during a memorial Mass for Holocaust victims. The Mass was celebrated Nov. 7 at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, Stockbridge, Mass.
By Dan Valenti (Nov 7, 2009)
November is the month of "final dispositions." It is the month of the dead.
In November, the Catholic Church remembers the dead in a special way, with All Saints' Day, All Souls' Day, and a traditional focus on the souls in purgatory. The emphasis is on death not in a morbid sense but as the means through which we enter into the ultimate spiritual realm, where the all-merciful God settles our "final disposition."
A First on Eden Hill
In a first of its kind on Eden Hill, the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception this year added a special remembrance to these November traditions. It remembered victims of the "Final Solution" — Nazi Germany's systematic murder of minorities and outcasts, particularly Jews, known as the Holocaust.
History will never be able to determine the exact number of innocent people killed in the Holocaust, but the most accepted figure is six million. These victims died under horrific circumstances amid imponderable brutality. Perhaps the most shocking aspect of this tragedy is its place in time: the years 1933 to 1945, which circumscribe the reign of Nazi dictator Adolph Hitler. Historically, that's practically yesterday.
The special Holocaust memorial Mass celebrated Nov. 7 at 2 p.m. at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, Stockbridge, Mass., was the brainchild of Fr. Victor Incardona, MIC, whose mother is Jewish. With the approval and encouragement of Shrine Rector Fr. Anthony Gramlich, MIC, Fr. Victor went to work.
He organized the day, coordinated a special historical exhibit, saw to the distribution of a memorial prayercard, and presided over the day's liturgical feast, with Fr. Anthony as a concelebrant. Brother Michael Opalacz, MIC, served as acolyte and lector. The concelebrants wore white vestments, the color traditionally used in funeral Masses. Prior to Mass, Fr. Anthony said white signifies the resurrection of Jesus and — through redemption — the eternal truth that good always overcomes evil.
Then and Now: A Moral Proximity
In his homily, Fr. Victor noted the uncomfortable moral proximity of the events of the Holocaust and the moral decline evident in present-day America. Noting that many otherwise upright and good Christians in Europe ignored the systematic slaughter of the Jews, Fr. Victor itemized the consequences of the moral crisis in our time, in our country: war, divorce, sexually transmitted diseases, violence, substance abuse, pornography, lenient abortion laws, and euthanasia.
"Then and today: What is our relationship to life?" Fr. Victor asked. This question, he said, is vital. The abuses tolerated today in America indicate "the kind of people we have become. ... The Holocaust is here [in the United States]," evident by observing the direction of our [culture] — one that worships wealth, possessions, and social status.
These things aren't important, Fr. Victor said. Rather, "It's all about our relationship to God and our care about the wellbeing of others. We need to show hospitality to strangers and defend the underdogs." In short, we need to love one another, as Jesus taught. "We must not be indifferent to this great challenge."
Prayer is the Answer
"Pray to God everyday. Be thankful to God and be grateful for all your blessings. We are called to be Chosen People of God, all of us, everybody," in all that we do.
In a theme that has become a staple of Fr. Victor's body of teaching, he emphasized that with God, there is no "other." There are no distinctions such as the kind that were made in Nazi Germany, where the government literally defined which "types" of people were worthy of favor and which "types," because they were by definition "inferior," deserved to die.
Father Victor invited all present to visit the Holocaust exhibit set up in the Great Room of the Marian monastery adjacent to the National Shrine. The display included a film, many photos, and more than 50 oversized storyboards that graphically illustrated the heinous and ghastly nature of that sad era in history.
Roofless and Bare but Infused with Divine Light
Storyboards bore such titles as "Racial Hygiene," "The Loss of Identity," and "Deportation and Abandonment." To ponder the images brings one to an interior space that is both roofless and bare, the darkness touching every point of the Infinite. There is dread in these images, but there is also the inner view illumined by the thousand dawns of light — the infused and unfathomable light of The Divine Mercy.
On the back of a prayercard available to all as part of the remembrance is a text titled, "The Annihilation":
Almighty and merciful Father, we remember the millions of Abraham's children who were brutally destroyed because they were Yours. We also remember the myriads of countless others who were forgotten by the rest of the world during the Holocaust.
God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, let the ashes of Your children be always a vivid reminder to the world that hatred is destructive and violence is contagious. We are all made in Your image and likeness. Keep us mindful of these most precious souls who suffered, died, and are now eternally Yours once more. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.
Dan Valenti writes for numerous publications of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, both in print and online. He is the author of Dan Valenti's Mercy Journal.