Sometimes kids get obsessed with certain trends, games, or movie characters growing up. As a little girl, for me it was WWII history + the Holocaust.
May we never forget...
My Grandpa was a proud veteran of the war so maybe that had something to do with it.
As I got older, I watched a lot of war movies growing up with my Dad and loved reading Anne Frank's diary. Watching documentaries or meeting survivors of the Holocaust always deeply impacted my young heart. For my first real research paper in 8th grade, I wrote about the history of anti-Semitism and what led up to the tragedy of the Holocaust. Our family patron saint was Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan friar who gave up his life in Auschwitz to save a fellow prisoner.
So for the longest time, I have told myself that I needed to visit Auschwitz someday.
In preparing the last two years for World Youth Day in Poland, one of the things I was most anxious to see was Auschwitz. And having since been there, reading about a place and then visiting it are two radically different things.
It was also really important for me to see where St. Max died both personally and spiritually.
You see, St. Maximilian Kolbe is the patron saint of those who struggle with addictions. And when I was married, I developed a deep relationship with this humble priest always asking his prayers for healing and restoration to my former husband and our marriage.
Walking through this place I read about my whole life was one of the most sobering experiences of my life. The only way I can describe it was that this is the grave reality of what happens when we let hate, bigotry, and racism fester in our hearts and minds. It destroys people, it destroys our very humanity.
As I approached cell block 11 (where St. Maximilian Kolbe died) I knew I wanted to stop and spend some moments in prayer, but had no idea what would come out of my mouth.
I walked up to the brick building, put my hand on the wall and just began to cry. Throughout this year, I felt like God was calling me to really pray for my former spouse. I stood there crying and felt like God was somehow releasing me of that here in this place. I turned over the spiritual care/healing of the man I used to be married to St. Max; knowing he could not be in any better or safer hands.
I started crying harder.
I prayed for this man's healing, and total restoration. I prayed my heart would be able to trust again and not be hardened to men moving forward. I prayed for myself and the healing work I still have yet to do. I even prayed for whomever that man is I would someday re-marry. I prayed for people trapped and battling with addictions. I prayed God would someday be able to use all of "this" to somehow help and minister to other people.
In place of great pain and suffering, it was like God was helping me detach emotionally and spiritually from the last several years of my life. In this place of death, it helped me accept a particular chapter of my life in a new, peaceful way.
Visiting Auschwitz helped me detach, accept, and show mercy. It was such a radical reminder of what happens when hate and unforgiveness lingers in the hearts of humanity...but yet, it also showed me that the only answer to pain, evil, and suffering is mercy. Divine Mercy.
Mercy doesn't erase evil and suffering, but it is a soothing balm that helps heal shattered hearts of anger, bitterness, and resentment.
I am so grateful to have been able to visit this place and for all it is teaching me right where God has me right now.