We Walk Together To God
Not too many Americans know about the ancient and miraculous icon of the Holy Family of Kalisz located at the Collegiate Church of Kalisz in Poland. Although the icon is very old, there is an interesting story connected to it from World War II and the concentration camp at Dachau.
Many people do not know that Dachau was the concentration camp that Hitler designed just for priests. Several hundred thousand priests were tortured and murdered there.
In April 1945, as the war was ending, the Nazis, in order to destroy any evidence or witnesses to their crimes, decided to liquidate all the priests left at the death camp in Dachau. One of the priests encouraged the other prisoners to pray to the Holy Family of Kalisz. The camp was miraculously liberated several hours before the Nazis could begin their planned executions. Ever since, the priests from Dachau have made an annual thanksgiving pilgrimage to the Icon of the Holy Family in Kalisz.
If you look closely at the icon, it has an interesting image of the Holy Family and the Holy Trinity. Jesus, Mary and Joseph are shown walking hand in hand together beneath the Holy Spirit and God the Father.
Icons can teach us many lessons because they were created not only as objects to be venerated but as visual books to teach. While there are many things that this icon can teach us, there is one little detail that I should like to call attention to. Notice that the Holy Family is walking together – Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The parents and the child are walking together in harmony and unity. That little detail is a lesson for us. It means that a family, a community, friends, a parish, must walk together towards a particular goal in unity and harmony. Together they are strong and can overcome all obstacles. Together they support each other and direct each other; keeping each other from losing sight of their goal.
To put it simply, here are three lessons this icon can teach us:
- I must never put myself before others. . . we are all equal in God’s love. We walk together as a family… as the Holy Family.
- I must always presume the best of others as I hope they would presume the best of me. In other words, I must learn to take others at their word and not judge them. We walk together as a family… as the Holy Family.
- I must always try to support others, either by a kind word or gesture, or even just a smile. I must hold their hands as we walk together as a family… as the Holy Family.
The more we look at this icon, the more we will learn what it means to be a family, a community, a parish, a Christian!