The story of a future saint we all should know, a priest who died when he was only 28:
A Catholic priest guillotined by the Nazis in 1942 was declared blessed on Saturday.
Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, presided at the beatification of Father Jan Macha at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Katowice, southwest Poland, on Nov. 20.
Preaching at the live-streamed Mass, the Italian cardinal said: “The witness of Jan Franciszek Macha, now blessed, to the Lord Jesus is a truly heroic page of faith and charity in the history of this Church in Upper Silesia.”
Jan Franciszek (John Francis) Macha, known as Hanik, was born on Jan. 18, 1914, in Chorzów Stary, a village in the southern Polish province of Silesia. He had two sisters and a brother.
In 1934, he entered the Silesian Theological Seminary. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Katowice on June 25, 1939, just three months before Nazi Germany invaded Poland.
After a two-month substitution in his home parish, he was appointed to the parish church of St. Joseph in Ruda Śląska.
During the occupation, he offered aid to families who lost members in the fighting and was a member of an underground group, codenamed Konwalia (Lily of the Valley), that helped those in need. He also published the underground newspaper Świt (Dawn).
In his homily, which was read out in Polish, Cardinal Semeraro said: “While the violence and abuses of war raged in Poland and throughout the world, he understood that only faith and charity make it possible to recognize the inalienable dignity of each person, created in the image and likeness of God.”
“He is either a saint or an idiot.”
“From the earliest days of his priesthood, he placed himself at the service of his neighbor, setting out on the road of heroic realization of love, the road that would later lead him to the sacrifice of his life.”
“He took care of many families touched by the nightmare of war. No suffering left him indifferent: wherever someone was arrested, deported, or shot, he brought comfort and material support. And he paid no attention to differences of nationality, religious denomination, or social level.”
The Gestapo, the secret police of Nazi Germany, arrested Father Macha on Sept. 5, 1941, at a train station in Katowice. They found a list of people that he and his associates had helped, as well as other documents showing that they had collected money and given it to people in need.
After humiliating interrogations, Father Macha was sentenced to death by beheading at a short hearing in Katowice on July 17, 1942.
He was 28 years old when he died and had served only 1,257 days as a priest. His body was never recovered and is believed to have been incinerated at Auschwitz concentration camp.
From Catholic World Report, there are these details:
Apart from some initiatives carefully overseen by the Germans, charitable work was strictly forbidden in occupied Poland. Furthermore, Father Macha cooperated with the Polish boy scouts, who had been incorporated into the illegal armed resistance. Thus, beginning in early 1941, the Gestapo kept an eye on the young priest.
Father Macha was arrested on September 5, 1941. First, he was sent to the police prison in Mysłowice, a place so infamous for its cruelty that it was dubbed “Auschwitz’s hell-like antechamber” (przedpiekło Oświęcimia), where he was the victim of brutal beatings. After one such beating, Macha wrote a prayer in which he asked God that he may stand by the gates of heaven along with his persecutor. “He’s either a saint or an idiot,” an SS-man who intercepted the prayer allegedly remarked.
After more than a year of interrogations and sadistic beatings, Father Jan Macha was guillotined in a prison in Katowice on December 3, 1942. In his last letter to his family, he wrote: “My life was brief, but I am convinced that I have achieved my aim.”
Blessed Jan Macha, pray for us!