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To be Condemned to Death

Ave Maria Meditations

On this memorial of the Martyr Saints Perpetua and Felicity, here are thoughts from a more recent martyr:

“Condemned to death…” Priest Memoir from Nazi Camp 

Condemned to death. The thought refuses to penetrate; it almost needs force to drive it home. The thing that makes this kind of death so singular is that one feels so vibrantly alive with the will to live unbroken and every nerve tingling with life. A malevolent external force is the only thing that can end it…

Up to now the Lord has helped me wonderfully. I am not yet scared and not yet beaten. The hour of human weakness will no doubt come, and sometimes I am depressed when I think of all the things I hoped to do. But I am now a man internally free and far more genuine and realized that I was before. Only now have I sufficient insight to see the thing as a whole…

All these long months of misfortune fit into some special pattern. From the first I was so sure everything would turn out well. God always strengthened me in that conviction. These last few days I have doubted and wondered whether my will to live has been sublimated into religious delusions or something like that. Yet all these unmistakable moments of exaltation in the midst of misery; my confidence and unshakable faith even when I was being beaten up, the certain “in spite of it all” that kept my spirits up and made me so sure that they would not succeed in destroying me; those consolations in prayer and in the Blessed Sacrament, the moments of grace; the signs I prayed for that were vouchsafed again and again–must I put them all away from me now?…

But one thing is gradually becoming clear–I must surrender myself completely. This is seed-time, not harvest. God sows the seed, and some time or other he will do the reaping. The one thing I must do is to make sure the seed falls on fertile ground. And I must arm myself against the pain and depression that sometimes almost defeat me. If this is the way God has chosen–and everything indicates that it is–then I must willingly and without rancor make it my way.

+Father Alfred Delp, S.J. ( a German Jesuit priest condemned to death by the Nazis in Berlin, Germany)