I had two encounters today that made me very happy. The first took place after Mass. I was in the sacristy removing my vestments when a smiling lady entered and, with a delicious Irish brogue, introduced herself as Mary Marmion. Yes, Marmion — as in Blessed Columba Marmion, the Irish Benedictine Abbot whose writings have so influenced me for the past forty years . Mary Marmion Corden, a native of County Louth, Ireland, now living in Connecticut, is the great–great–grandniece of Blessed Abbot Marmion. Irish Sister Mary Marcella, O.S.B. joined us for a chat. I had the privilege of blessing Mrs. Corden, invoking the intercession of Blessed Columba Marmion, of course.
The second encounter took place in my favourite neighbourhood bakery, Bread and Chocolate on Whitney Avenue in Hamden, Connecticut. Bread and Chocolate is owned and operated by Jaime and Alejandra Zapata. I was standing at the counter talking with Jaime when a woman sitting in the restaurant heard me mention Rome. She identified herself as Jewish and said that she had visited Rome, seen Saint Peter’s, the Vatican Museums, etc. Susan Berman then introduced me to her mother, an absolutely radiant older lady who immediately said to me, “I am a Holocaust Survivor.”
She related something of her story. Until the Nazis forbade Jewish children to attend non–Jewish schools, her parents sent her to a Catholic Convent School. Later, she was obliged to attend an all–Jewish school at some distance from her home. She remembers seeing a great synagogue destroyed. After the Krystallnacht in 1938, she and her sister were sent to England as part of the famous Kindertransport. Her parents and youngest sister perished near the Polish border. I was astonished at the vivacity and wisdom of this lady: she said that world still had not learned its lesson, even after the Shoah, and spoke to me of the situation in Darfur. “The Lord bless her and keep her: the Lord make His Face to shine upon her, and be gracious to her: The Lord lift up his countenance upon her, and give her peace” (Num 6:24–26).