Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 

United States

benjaminspring2015 (4 of 15).jpg


Filtering by Tag: History Lessons

History of the Cherry Trees

alec vanderboom

For the last few weeks, we Washingtonians have taken delight in the National Cherry Blossom Festival. As a gesture of friendship, Japan donated 3,200 cherry trees to plant along the Potomac River. Each Spring, the trees explode in pink fireworks.

Imagine my surprise to find that all of this natural beauty and international goodwill is due to two American women, Mrs. Eliza Schidmore and First Lady Helen Taft. Mrs. Schidmore came up with the idea of planting cherry trees along the streets of Washington D.C. after a visit to Japan in 1885. It took Mrs. Schidmore 24 years of persistent letter writing before she found a sympathic heart for in her project, in none other than the First Lady of the United States of America! Mrs. Taft had once lived in Japan and was familiar with the beauty of flowering cherry trees.

In 1909, the First Lady and Mrs. Schidmore asked the nation of Japan to donate a few trees to their joint "cherry tree" project. Japan eventually gave over three thousand as a gesture of goodwill. The cherry trees have survied the hostilities of two World Wars (vandals chopped down four cherry trees in WWII, so the trees had to be renamed "Oriental" Trees for the rest of the conflict) and now stand once again, as a lasting tribute to beauty & international-friendship.

Now when I look at the cherry trees, I'll also be contemplating the virtue of patience. Could I develop a smidgen of Mrs. Schidmore's patience and keep sending polite, persistent letters for 24 years until my words reach the ears of the right person? Or am I going to remain the girl who gives up after two notes go unanswered?

Read the whole story here.

Slavery & President's Day

alec vanderboom

Gilbert Stewart (1755-1828), "Athenaeum Portrait",
Oil on canvas, 1796
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Slave Cabin, Mount Vernon, Virginia
(President George Washington's Estate)
"The cabin is located at the George Washington Pioneer Farmer site, which includes a barn, stables, and corn houses modeled after the ones that existed at Washington’s Dogue Run Farm. Given the connection with Dogue Run Farm, we have elected to interpret the cabin as if it were occupied by one of the families that lived at that farm. Priscilla, also known as “Silla,” lived and worked at Dogue Run, while her husband, “Slamin” Joe, worked as a ditcher at the Mansion House Farm; they had at least six children in 1799, aged from one to 14 years. Joe would have walked the roughly three miles to spend time with his family during his off hours, from Saturday night to Monday morning.""Slave Cabin,"(Mount Vernon Visitor Website)

As a little girl, I visited my maternal grandparents in Alexandria, Virginia (a suburb of Washington D.C.) every President’s Day. Each trip included an annual pilgrimage to Mount Vernon. (On February 18, Mount Vernon waves it’s visitor fee in honor of our Nation’s First President. )

I have many memories of treading up the sandy paths holding my Grandpa George’s hand, listening to my Father rattle on about interesting stories from Colonial America. I scribbled with slate pencils in the little schoolhouse. I gazed at the Bastille prison key, a gift from Marquis de Lafayette. I learned that a young George didn’t really chop down a cherry tree (that “fact” is mere political campaign propaganda). My American History degree started as a small spark at age six, rocking on the great porch over looking the soothing Potomac River, imaging “what would I have felt if I lived back then?”

When we moved back to Washington D.C. in 2006, one of my first bold acts was to reestablish the tradition of visiting Mount Vernon on President’s Day. I had a husband now, a 2 1/2 year old and a 1 year old. The house tour proved a dangerous temptation for a squirmy boy. The barnyard was the central focus of our visit now. We petted sheep and admired handsome carriages. Jon and I marveled over innovative farming methods while the kids were happy to race around childproof fields.

This year, we won’t be making our regular trip. I had every intention of going this year. There is a new museum open at Mount Vernon. The smallest town parade starts at 1:30 PM. A fife and drum corps will play and there will be free cherry cake for all guests. The party is still the same, only I’ve changed this year.

During an intense reading of "Slaves in the Family,", I ran across a passage that chilled my former reverence to our founding father. Unfortunately, I didn’t save the author's glorious prose. His basic thought was beneath all of the celebrated Southern Belle Culture lies a “work camp” of slavery that rivaled the brutality and harshness of Auschwitz.

Once I read that sentence, I became unnerved by the connection. How can I take my kids to cheerfully celebrate a Southern plantation that relied on slave labor? Every glorious carriage, every whitewashed hen house, every pretty garden path, bears the handprint of a fellow human being who was made to suffer.

Am I being neurotic?

I’m not a sissy in regards to uncomfortable historical facts. I shelter my kids from violent cartoons on Saturday morning. Yet, I take them the Children’s Exhibit in the Holocaust museum. We are Catholics with a Jewish family name. It is doubly incumbent upon us to not shrink from evil.

My discomfort with Mount Vernon is that its exhibits don't clearly confront the “evil” of racism in the same way that the Holocaust museum clearly confronts the evil of the Nazi’s religious bigotry.

It’s horrid to reflect that one of our beloved National heroes happened to become rich by enslaving other people. How do you square that fact? The danger is that you slide into “moral relativism.” President Washington becomes just another “product of his time.” He was helpless to change the course of an entire slave-owning society.

Here is what I found on the official Mount Vernon website: “George Washington was born into a world in which slavery was accepted. He became a slave owner when his father died in 1743. At the age of eleven, he inherited ten slaves and 500 acres of land. When he began farming Mount Vernon eleven years later, at the age of 22, he had a work force of about 36 slaves. With his marriage to Martha Custis in 1759, 20 of her slaves came to Mount Vernon. After their marriage, Washington purchased even more slaves. The slave population also increased because the slaves were marrying and raising their own families. By 1799, when George Washington died, there were 316 slaves living on the estate.”"Slavery & Washington,"(Mount Vernon Visitor Website).

There are a few difficulties with this paragraph. First, it is clear that George Washington was not a passive recipient of a slave-owning family. A young George inherits ten slaves. At his death, he owns 316 human beings. Second, Washington's active participating in buying more and more human souls remains unquestioned by historians. Instead, this act is just brushed over and excused. Poor George was just a man born into flawed times.

God’s truth, and hence human morality, is never tied to mere social conventions. God’s truth is timeless. Thousands of years before George Washington's birth, Moses had led his people out of slavery. Ancient Rome, with its slave system, had already fallen. In the 1790s, England outlawed the slave trade. (Check out the recent movie, “Amazing Grace” for more information on this topic). Each one of us is born into a flawed society stepped in human sin. Yet we are all called upon to more fully embrace’s the true values of Christ and show them to the world.

The second paragraph of the website article appears to applaud President Washington’s progress in this regard. “Although George Washington was born into a world where slavery was accepted, his attitude toward slavery changed as he grew older. During the Revolution, as he and fellow patriots strove for liberty, Washington became increasingly conscious of the contradiction between this struggle and the system of slavery. By the time of his presidency, he seems to have believed that slavery was wrong and against the principles of the new nation. As President, Washington did not lead a public fight against slavery, however, because he believed it would tear the new nation apart. Abolition had many opponents, especially in the South. Washington seems to have feared that if he took such a public stand, the southern states would withdraw from the Union (something they would do seventy years later, leading to the Civil War). He had worked too hard to build the country to risk tearing it apart.” (Mount Vernon, George Washington & Slavery).

Thus, the official position is that President Washington’s hands were tied. He couldn’t do anything politically on the issue of abolition, so he did what he could privately. Yet, what did President Washington really do? How did his personal treatment of his own slaves reflect his new belief that "All Men are Created Equal Under God?"

Here is a diary excerpt from a Polish visitor to Mount Vernon in 1798, one year before Washington’s death and many years after his supposed conversion of the heart:

“We entered one of the huts of the Blacks, for one can not call them by the name of houses. They are more miserable than the most miserable of the cottages of our peasants. The husband and wife sleep on a mean pallet, the children on the ground; a very bad fireplace, some utensils for cooking, but in the middle of this poverty some cups and a teapot. A boy of 15 was lying on the ground, sick, and in terrible convulsions. The G[enera]l had sent to Alexandria to fetch a doctor. A very small garden planted with vegetables was close by, with 5 or 6 hens, each one leading ten to fifteen chickens. It is the only comfort that is permitted them; for they may not keep either ducks, geese, or pigs. They sell the poultry in Alexandria and procure for themselves a few amenities. They allot them each …one gallon maize per week; this makes one quart a day, and half as much for the children, with 20 herrings each per month. At harvest time those who work in the fields have salt meat; in addition, a jacket and a pair of homespun breeches per year.” (Slave Cabin, Mount Vernon Website.)

The living conditions of George Washington's field slaves were beyond terrible. It shocks the Polish visitor as being "more miserable" then the poorest Polish peasant. One of the richest farms in America can not "afford" to give more than the barest essentials of food, clothing, and shelter to its 316 workers. Washington might soothe his conscience with the expensive gifts of a teapot and doctor from Alexandria. These few gifts do little to lift his workers out of their miserable poverty. In further contrast to the European peasants, the Mount Vernon slaves do not even "own" themselves or their children.

The facts reveal a fundamental contraction on President Washington’s life. He led an army to fight for liberty from the British Crown. Yet he was unable to give liberty to slaves on his own farm. What the men of the American Revolution wanted for themselves, they were unwilling to grant to others, particularly men of a different skin color. As we Catholics would say, “the measure they sought to obtain from God did not match the measure they granted to others.”

I cannot sit in judgment of President Washington, nor should you. Life is hard. We live in a fallen world where the struggle to love Christ and remain faithful to the Gospel appears to be impossible.

We Americans have a truly “unfinished portrait of George Washington.” We want the clean, easy answers that lead us to “hero worship” and not towards the messy, historical answers of the man behind the myth. It’s a shame, because an accurate reflection on the beliefs and actions of President Washington will teach us much about ourselves.

I’m sure I’ll get this squared away someday. Maybe next year, we'll head back to Mount Vernon. My family can pray first at the slave cemetery and then eat cherry cake on the grand lawn. Just not this year. Not during Lent. I’m wandering around with ashes on my forehead, still trying to fill in the gaps of my knowledge of American History that were left deliberately unpainted in my youth.

Prayer: Father, protect America. Continue to remake us into the home of the free and the brave.

Catholic Heros: Mirabel Sisters

alec vanderboom

I've become griped by the story of the Mirabel Sisters. Four close, Catholic sisters grew up under a brutal dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. Three of the sisters and their husband's become active in a secrete resistance movement. All six and the sister's parents are repeatedly jailed and tortured. After intervention by the Catholic Church, the sisters are released. Two of the sister's husbands are transfered to a remote jail. Their wives undertake the dangerous journey to visit their spouses in prison. Their oldest sister elects to travel with them. On November 25, 1960, the three sisters are murdered on the way home on the orders of the dictator. (A fourth sister is unharmed and becomes the adopted mother of six of her nieces and nephews.) The fact that defenseless women are murdered on their way home from visiting their imprisioned husband's outrages a nation, and the dictator is finally assistnated six months later.

There's a facinating interview with the surviving Mirabel sister. She struggled to raise the children of her murdered sisters "without hatred in their hearts." To qualify as an "official" Catholic martyr, I think you need to die for one of the truths of the faith. Still, I'm facinated by how the bonds of family and Catholic faith nourished their heroic actions. Minerva, who was the ring leader, is also a modern day symbol of chastity. Her refusal to submit to the romantic advances of the married dictator, were unprecidented and resulted in her family coming under intense scrutiny by the secrete police.

If you are interested in learning more, there is a fictional account of the sisters called "In the Time of Butterflies" by Julia Alvarez. It's also been made into a TV movie, with the same title, staring Salma Hayek.

Martha Washington Tea

alec vanderboom

Hannie & I had a thrilling time at the Martha Washington Tea at Gadsby's Tavern Museumon Sunday. An expert guide, dressed as the first, first lady herself, instructed us on fashion, deportment, tea ceremonies, and dancing. Our favorite was learning how to dance the steps George Washington himself designed to the tune "Yankee Doodle Dandy." If your in Alexandria anytime, check out this amazing bit of colonial history.

(Gadsby's tarvern is a preserved historical tavern which hosted George Washington, John Adams, & Thomas Jefferson. There is a ballroom upstairs which hosts 18th dance classes and an annual Jane Austen ball. The downstairs tavern is also a restaurant with 18th food. There are "toddlers at the tavern" family time for $15 per family each month. The Martha teas are repeated every three months.)

"The War" Episode 6

alec vanderboom

Tonight is the last night of the latest Ken Burn's saga "The War."If you've missed any episode, check out the survivor's accounts here

One of my favorite eyewitnesses in this series is Sascha Weinzheimer (pictured above with her brother, Buddy). At age 10, she was living in the Philippines on a huge plantation with her mother, father, an older sister and a brother age 3 months. Her paternal grandfather lived in California. When Sascha's mother wrote to ask if she and the grandchildren could move in with them, the grandfather wrote back that the rumors of World War were over-rated. Within a few months, the Japanese captured the Philippines. Her family spent the entire war in a POW camp called Camp Santo Tomas. Her diary excerpts get me a little teary. I'm reminded how terribly vulnerable I am as a mother, but also encouraged by how much her mother's attitude was able to shield her children during this desperate time.

Sascha Weinzheimer: Diary excerpts "We got our chow from the lines in tin cans, then we would eat in our shanty, and Mother said that no matter what happened we would eat off our bridge table with a table cloth with our colored dishes and small bowl of flowers so long as we could."

"Thanksgiving: We had half a can of Spam, cooked one extra cup of rice and got enough talinum from our garden for a salad with three whole garlics chopped up in it. We thank God we are all together and not really sick like so many people in here are. As usual, we talked about our next Thanksgiving. Buddy wouldn't know what a turkey was anyway, but I still remember what good food we always had."

"Christmas: Mother said it was best to forget Christmas this year but we can't on account of the little kids. She told them because of the anti-aircraft guns in Manila, Uncle Sam told Santa to keep away this year and leave his gifts for the kids in San Francisco."

Finally, Ken Burn's has been able to find the actual columns from this amazing
small town newspaper reporterAl McIntosh. Here's his description of a war time4th of Julyin Laverne, MN. Watch and be reminded of how kind words can uplift the morale of a tired solider.

"The War"- Episode Four

alec vanderboom

I've really got to hand it to Ken Burns. The interweave of the stories of soldiers from four US towns seemed clumsy at first. It took me a while to get the hang of making the dramatic transitions between people and places in the massive theater of this war. Now that we're in the fourth episode, I find myself really appreciating the brilliance of this structure on its own terms. WWII is such a huge war to get you head around. Knowing how things interrelate, and returning again and again to individual families, helps the viewer gain perspective on the full scope of the war AND emotionally feel the human sacrifice involved. I really encourage anyone who missed this series to check it out on Netflix once it become available.

To wet your appetite, here are a few highlights from this episode:

A paper boy talks about the shock of seeing the blue service stars hung in the front windows of the houses in his home town suddenly turn to gold stars whenever a death in the family occurred.

The combat pilots over Germany faced such terrible odds, it makes Heller's Catch-22 seem rather Pollyannaish. One fighter pilot described how one mission was so awful that on his way back to the airstrip he suddenly lost control of his right hand. The right hand started involuntarily shaking so hard that he had to land his airplane using his left hand on the control stick. He continued to have terrible nightmares of this mission after the war, for over 50 years. Whenever he dreamed of this mission, when he woke up his right hand would be shaking and virtually useless. Those mornings he would go downstairs for breakfast, and his wife Jackie would see his right hand shaking. Without a word being said, she would always hand him a cup of coffee in his left hand. I can't quite explain it, but that silent communication of handing a cup of coffee sensitively to your husband's left hand seemed sort of the essence of a good marriage.

One more story, which actually comes from episode three. An American family with three children (the youngest being only 3 months old) is swept up in an internment camp after the Japanese invade their home on the Philippines. The parents do their best to provide a stable home life in the midst of this chaos. The mom said "for as long as possible, we are going to eat our dinner (a simple meal of rice & fish) at our good wooden table, with a table cloth and on our colored plates." Something to think about as we go about our common tasks of preparing & eating our daily bread with our families.

"The War" #2

alec vanderboom

Some soul scorching footage tonight:

1944, Battle of Anzio (Italy)

During fighting so fierce that soldiers received additional shrapnel wounds while getting their initial wounds stitched up on the operating table, an American Mess Officer falls to his knees and offers the following prayer "God Help Us. Come down yourself. Don't send Jesus. This is no place for children."

Just after the four month battle of Anzio ends, Babe Ciarlo, from Waterbury, CT is killed. He's 20 years old and the second son of a large Italian American family. In his pockets are found the following: 2 rosaries, 1 letter, 16 photographs of family members and $1.61.

During the battle of Anzio the documentary should this awful footage of the Allies bombing Mounte Cassio. That would be THE monastery where Saint Benedict wrote the Benedictine Rule in 529 A.D. which became the founding principle for all western monasticism. To read more about the two German officers who saved the priceless library of over 70,000 ancient books, go to this site

Made from Scratch: Martha Washington’s Shortbread Recipe

alec vanderboom

This original colonial shortbread recipe comes from my four year old’s “Lady Washington’s Bake Set” purchased at Mount Vernon gift shop by a generous grandmother. I made it one day when we were bored. Now it’s my favorite cookie recipe. The dough is super thick and easy for preschool kids to handle. Without any raw eggs, impatient kids can munch on the dough. The end result is so yummy that only a few lucky cookies make it until Dad returns from work. These cookies are perfect for tea time, especially topped with whipped cream & fresh strawberries.

4 cups flour
1 cup light brown sugar
1 pound of butter

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Mix flour and sugar; add butter. Place on a floured surface and pat to a 1/2 inch thickness. Cut in desired shapes with cookie cutters. Bake 20-25 minutes.

Christian Hero: Magdalene Scholl

alec vanderboom

Scholl monument

Magdalene Scholl was an extraordinary mother of five who lived in Munich, Germany during WWII. Two of her children, Sophie Scholl (age 21) and Hans Scholl (age 23), were executed by the Nazis on the same day, February 22, 1943, for leading a non-violent student resistance group. “The White Rose” passed out six illegal leaflets that urged University of Munich students (most of the them on study breaks from their obligation to serve as officers in the German army) to withdraw from the Nazi party and oppose Hitler. The Nazi’s restrictions on free speech were so great during this time period that this tiny collection of leaflets is one of the only examples of internal dissent ever voice against Hitler during the entire war.

A medical student, Hans Scholl, founded the White Rose after becoming disillusioned during his service as a German army medic. Hans saw first hand the horror of the Jewish Ghetto in Poland. He was certain that once the German people knew the truth about the Nazi party that they would rise up in revolt against it.

Full of angst in 1943, Hans wrote a passionate appeal for German citizens to stand up against Hitler. He wrote the first four leaflets (or essays) with the help of his friend, Alexander Schmorell (a devoted Russian Orthodox). The two printed and passed out the leaflets in secrete. Han and Alex’s essays are wonderfully earnest and sensitive appeals to conscious, filled with quotes by Goethe, Aristotle, Ecclesiastes, and Lao-Tzu. Here is a brief quote:

“I ask you, you as a Christian wrestling for the preservation of your greatest treasure, whether you hesitate, whether you incline toward intrigue, calculation, or procrastination in the hope that someone else will raise his arm in your defense? Has God not given you the strength, the will to fight? We must attack evil where it is strongest, and it is strongest in the power of Hitler.” From Leaflet IV.

To read all six leaflets in their entirety go to to

As a responsible older brother, Hans kept his sister, Sophie, in the dark about the White Rose, not wishing to expose her to danger. Sophie sensed something was up and demanded that Hans tell her everything. Once she learned of their secrete mission she insisted on joining the group. As the only female member, she was incredibly useful because she was the least likely to arise suspicion. Sophie even helped get a contraband copying machine to expand the printing process.

On February 18, 1943, Hans and Sophie skipped class to stock the hallways with the sixth leaflet written by their beloved philosophy professor, Professor Huber. When the lectures were finished, some students paused to pick up the illegal leaflets on their way to lunch. After the storm of students passed, however, Hans and Sophie saw that many leaflets remained. Not wanting their hard work to be in vain, they decided to throw the remaining leaflets onto the floor of the main hallway. The two siblings carried the leaflets up to the third floor and Sophie flung them off the railing. A janitor saw the students and reported the incident to the Gestapo. Hans and Sophie were immediately arrested

On February 22, at 8 AM, the siblings were brought to trial for treason and faced the death penalty. (These events are faithfully captured on the film “Sophie Scholl: Final Days” available on Netflix.) Both siblings were incredibly brave and levelheaded. They insisted on taking the full blame of the group’s activities on themselves. The only time Sophie cried was in her cell when she realized that through hand-writing analysis the Gestapo traced and arrested a third member of the group. Christoph Probst was a beloved friend and a father of three children.

Sophie and Hans parents, Magdalene and Robert Scholl, reached the trial in Munich at 12:00 PM. The guards at the courtroom tried to bar their entrance. “But I’m the mother of two of the accused”, Magdalene cried. “Then you should have raised your children better!” was the Nazi guards reply.

Robert broke into the courtroom but was immediately tossed out after trying to intercede as a defense witness for his children. At 12:40, the Judge, who was infuriated that these children from “good German families and schools” had dared to oppose the Nazi Party sentence them to death. Robert and Magdalene then raced to various administrations trying to get a stay of execution. By 2:00 PM a friend in official office warned that it was hopeless and urged them to make a final visit immediately with their children.

This excerpt is from a first-hand account of Magdalene’s last visit with her daughter

“Then a woman prison guard brought in Sophie. . . . Her mother tentatively offered her some candy, which Hans had declined. “Gladly,” said Sophie, taking it. “After all, I haven't had any lunch!” She, too, looked somehow smaller, as if drawn together, but her face was clear and her smile was fresh and unforced, with something in it that her parents read as triumph. “Sophie, Sophie,” her mother murmured, as if to herself. “To think you'll never be coming through the door again!” Sophie's smile was gentle. “Ah, Mother,” she said. “Those few little years. . . .” Sophie Scholl looked at her parents and was strong in her pride and certainty. “We took everything upon ourselves,” she said. “What we did will cause waves.” Her mother spoke again: “Sophie,” she said softly, “Remember Jesus.” “Yes,” replied Sophie earnestly, almost commandingly, “but you, too.” She left them, her parents, Robert and Magdalene Scholl, with her face still lit by the smile they loved so well and would never see again. She was perfectly composed as she was led away. Robert Mohr [a Gestapo official], who had come out to the prison on business of his own, saw her in her cell immediately afterwards, and she was crying. It was the first time Robert Mohr had seen her in tears, and she apologized. “I have just said good-bye to my parents,” she said. “You understand . . .,” She had not cried before her parents. For them she had smiled.”
-taken from Jewish Holocaust archives at

This passage has caused a lump in my throat all week. “Remember Jesus.” “Yes, but you, too.” The last words between a mother and beloved daughter. Sophie would be executed by guillotine in front of her brother at 6:00 PM that night. The Gestapo guards were shocked at her calm demeanor. “Not a hair on her head turned” as she faced the gullitonine. Her final words were “God, you are my refuge into eternity.” Her friend, the father of three little children, Christoph was baptized as a Catholic just before his death by the priest that offered Sophie and Hans their last confession. He told the priest “now I can die with joy.” Hans had to watch a sister and friend die. His last words were “Long live freedom!”

We know so much about the type of mother Magdalene was from her actions. “Remember Jesus.” And her daughter offers her the same consolation. She raised her children to love each other and to be so connected to the Holy Spirit, that they alone, seemed to figure out that opposing Hitler- in this peaceful, non-violent way, was worth the risk. Times had changed so radically for Magdalene. When her son Hans was born, her husband was a celebrated mayor and the town they lived in fired a 21 gun salute in honor of his birth. Now the German state had just murdered her two children after a fake trial. How did she survive after that loss?

She survived using the same sacraments that I use as a mother. The Eucharist. The Stations of the Cross. Her children were united with the unfair condemnation of Jesus himself and suffered the same penalty.

Did their sacrifice seem worth it to her? When I first heard of this story in the National Holocaust museum I was a college student and felt thrilled about the siblings bravery. Rereading their words as a writer, I’m touched. As a mother, I’m also baffled. Suddenly the pain is so much more real. If I were visiting Alexei in the prison cell it would probably be less “Remember Jesus,” and more anxiety: “Why are you here? Why did you drag your little sister into this? Was a few words thrown from a school railing, worth it?’

At the time, Sophie was convinced that her death would cause the students to rise up and end the war. That didn’t happen. The war dragged on for two more years. Sophie and Hans’ younger brother died in Russia while serving the German army. The rest of the family was imprisoned until the Allies freed them in 1945. (Including older sister Ingrid, who heard about the White Rose and refused to join her siblings because that was such a dangerous idea!)

When we make the conscious effort to pass on the faith to our children all we can know for certain is that a strong Catholic faith insures “a good death.” We can hope this means a peaceful death at age 95 while holding the hands of loving children and grandchildren. But a “good death” can mean dying at age 21 at the hands of an evil tyrant. Sophie died in front of her brother and newly baptized friend. She had the graces of the sacrament of the sick imparted heroic virtue. I’m sure that her mother, Magdalene, played a large part of her children’s strong Catholic faith.

The Mass Reading from August 27, which we celebrated in the Columbus Cathedral, is a fitting conclusion.

The Reading is about the beheading of John the Baptist. Mark 6:17-29

“Since St. John the Baptist’s martyrdom to the present times, the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence and persecution at the hands of violent people. The blood of martyrs throughout the age’s bare witness to this fact. Their testimony to the truth, teachings and challenges of the gospel and their willingness to suffer and die for their faith prove victory rather than defeat for the kingdom of God. Through Christ’s victory on the cross they obtain the glorious crown of victory and everlasting life with Jesus Christ. What give us the power, boldness, and courage to witness to Jesus Christ and to the truth of the gospel? The Holy Spirit fills us with courage, love, and boldness to make Jesus Christ known and loved, She should never be fearful of those who oppose the gospel, those who challenge the teachings of Jesus Christ, because the love of Jesus Christ is stronger than fear and death itself. His love conquers all, even our fears and timidity in the face of opposition and persecution. We can trust in his grace and help at all times. Are you ready to make Christ known and loved, to stand up against the fad and trends of our society for what is right, true, and good according to Jesus Christ, and if necessary to suffer for his sake and the sake of the gospel? “

Handout from the Columbus Cathedral, Adapted form Irish Jesuits’ Sacred space

*In an ironic "vengence in mine, sayth the Lord", the Judge who treated Sophie and Hans so cruelly was killed on the bench by an Allied bomb attack. Eventually the air-raid sirens were heard. Everyone made it out of the courtroom. However, the Judge remembered that he had left out an important file and returned to his bench. He was killed while sitting at the bench by a Allied bomb.

Update: 9/22/07

My apologies for being a poor historian. Turns out that calling Sophie a Catholic, is a bit of a stretch. Her sister, Inge Scholl, described her siblings as being on the brink of becoming Catholic. Since Inge is a Catholic convert herself, that report could be a bit biased. Their mother was certainly not Catholic. I couldn't get a firm read on whether the priest that heard their final confession was a Catholic. Some sources said yes. However, the Scholl movie, which was otherwise extremely accurate showed the last priest as being Lutheran.

The real find during my "is she a Catholic or not?" web search, is this amazing find. A potential Catholic Saint was the person who most likely the one who inspired Sophie Scholl's actions. Sophie attended a service of Bishop Von Galen, nicknamed "the Lion of Munster." He directly challenged the Natzi's on their program of exterminating the mentally ill. Sophie had worked with mentally ill children during her work in "kinder care." She quotes Von Galen during her fiery defiance speech in the midst of her interragation.