Thursday, November 20, 2003

Pretending to be Catholic--In Order to Save Your Life

I'm working on talks for my upcoming mission and illustrations for the talks. One of the most remarkable people that I have come to befriend in the past few years is someone who for a period of her life pretended to be Catholic in order to save her life. She is a Polish Jew who growing up in Poland in the late 1930's literally survived the horrors of the Nazi occupation by pretending to be Catholic. She was given a fake Baptismal Certificate, a Christian name, and she attended Mass regularly (Communion was not a problem in the pre-conciliar church because hardly anyone received regularly). Much later in life she became close friends with a fellow Pole (besides me that is) who just happens to be the Pope. In a correspondence with her, one of his recurring messages to her, is that she "be herself" and I find this remarkable because of her early history where survival was only possible by not being herself but pretending to be someone else. Even though she is a Jew the Pope is very Christian in his correspondence to her, he recommends her to the Blessed Virgin Mary, wishes her well on Jewish feasts as well as those connected to Christ, he even sends her a piece of his Oplatek, Na szczescie, na zdrowie z Wigilia!.

She has written a book about Him and her own experiences entitled Building Bridges: Pope John Paul II and the Horizon of Life.

What strikes me about Lena's story is how many of us are pretending to be Catholic in our own day? And why?

I often wonder when I hear people talk about what they believe and what they do not believe and wonder why they remain Catholic if they really don't believe? The amazing thing I have learned from my experiences with Dr. Allen-Shore is that she believes more about the Catholic faith than many who say they are Catholic. She once pretended to be Catholic in order to save her life and perhaps in the end all of us our pretending to be Catholic so that we too might save our lives. But is "pretending" going to be enough in the end?

If we followed the Pope's advice to Lena to "be ourself" would we be something else? I know deep down that when the Pope tells Lena to be herself that he knows that she is a follower of Christ. That something in her early years catechized her to the truth of the Gospel and it has never left her. And I truly believe that if each of us was the person that God created us to be, namely ourself, we too would hear the truth of the Gospel and coming to Christ in the Eucharist would be something that would enable us to become even more truly who we are!