God permits moral evil – He never wills it, let it be said – but He does allow it, even the grave and demonic kind, for reasons that are mysterious. But one which we may glean, as Saint Thomas says, is that such evil allows moral goodness – far more powerful – to shine out all the more clearly. As the Book of Wisdom says, the virtuous will run like sparks through the stubble.
Such bright lights in a dark world were the Ulma family, Józef, his wife Wiktoria, and their six children – and Wiktoria was nine months pregnant with their seventh. During the Nazi occupation of Poland, the Ulmas, devout Catholics and pillars of the community, hid Jews in their house, a ‘crime’ punishable by death. “Hid” is sort of ambiguous, for they would treat them as part of the family, and they would help around the farm.
A local police officer betrayed them – fear and obeisance are powerful motivators – and the Nazi soldiers surrounded the house, rounding up the eight Jews from the Szali and Goldman families, summarily shooting each on in the back of the head. They then murdered – martyred – Józef and Wiktoria in front of their children. After that, with calculated demonic coldness, they killed each of the six children: Stanisława, age 8, Barbara, age 7, Władysław, age 6, Franciszek, age 4, Antoni, age 3 and Maria, age one and a half. The seventh unborn child was born as Wiktoria died.
The mind reels, and the soul revolts, even picturing this horror. Yet we should recall that the evil of the Nazis began with their unhinging of the ‘law’ from any foundation in objective morality, so that murder, even the most brutal sort, eventually became mundane, a routine task done under orders, even if one had to sear one’s conscience, and give one’s soul almost completely over to evil, to carry it out. There are stories of such soldiers becoming physically ill, even vomiting, with their first murders but, as the slithery Thomas Cromwell said to Richard Rich after the latter’s own less-violent but politically more significant betrayal of conscience: ‘it gets easier’. The end of such moral degradation, barring deep repentance, is eternal damnation in hell.
Of course, human law should be a guide to morality, in accord with what Saint Thomas describes as its pedagogical role – and woe to us when it ceases to be. We should recall that the misuse of law, and the consequent atrocious evils, is not unique to Hitlerism. It was so in the despotism of Antiochus Epiphanes in the time of the Maccabees; in the decadence of Nero, Caligula and the rest; in the era of barbarism and the pagan hordes; in the fanaticism of radical Islam; in the bloodlust of the French Revolution and the inhumanity of Communism – all of it done ‘within the law’. And we’re headed that way ourselves – in fact, we’re already well on the way, as abortion and euthanasia, the murder of the unborn and the elderly, encroach upon each end of life’s pilgrimage, until they, well, meet in the middle.
All of these evil regimes were resisted by the courage of martyrs, known and unknown, through the ages, who followed God’s law, first. And we should be prepared for whatever lies in store in our own time, as the age of Antichrist, and the final unleashing and culmination of evil, approaches. When? We know not, but we must have our loins girded and lamps lit, for as Saint John warns, many antichrists have already come, and will do so unto the end.
Fear not. Christ has overcome the world, and victory is His, and ours if we follow Him and persevere unto whatever end He wills for us. All of nine of the Ulmas were beatified this last Sunday, September 10th, declared martyrs for the Faith and for charity, the unborn baby receiving baptism by blood, the first entire family to be raised to the altars in the history of the Church. They all rejoice in unending and unimaginable happiness together in heaven, which is the end of all our striving, whether we’re here for one year or a hundred.
I think I have some new favorite patron saints – their feast is, quite fittingly, July 7th, Józef and Wiktoria’s wedding day.
Holy Ulma family, orate pro nobis! +
source, in partibus: wikipedia.org