During Holy Week, we tend to forget the saints that may be on the calendar. This is especially true months such as March, which has very few memorials on the universal calendar to begin with.
Time spent looking through the ranks of saints whose feasts fall on those days, however, reveals not only several inspiring stories, but a fruitful accompaniment as we make our way toward Easter.
To begin with is one of the Church’s greatest solemnities, the Feast of the Annunciation, on March 25th. This is the day when Christians around the world commemorate the Blessed Virgin’s Mary’s visitation by the archangel Gabriel. At that time, Gabriel hailed her as “full of grace,” and announced to her the good news that she would bear the long-awaited Messiah. Our Lady’s fiat, her “yes” – given when she replied, “Be it done unto me according to your word” – is one of history’s most important moments.
This Holy Week we also commemorate two priests and one woman religious martyred by the Nazis, Blesseds Emilian Kovch (March 25), Maria Restituta Kafka (March 30), and Giuseppe Girotti (April 1).
Kovch was a Ukrainian rite priest, husband, and father of six (like their Orthodox counterparts, Byzantine Catholic priests can be married).
In 1922, his bishop made him pastor in the village of Peremyshliany, the vast majority of whose 5,000 residents were Jewish. There he stayed for 20 years until the Nazis invaded in their attempt to defeat the entire Soviet Union.
Upon learning what the Nazis were doing to Jews, Father Kovch began baptizing his fellow villagers (at their request) so that the Germans would not take these new “Christians.” The Gestapo had seen others in Germany and Poland use this trick, so they told him to stop. He continued nonetheless, issuing roughly 600 in all. Thus in December 1942, they arrested him, and sent him the next August to Majdanek, Poland, where the following March, they executed him.
Of Czech extraction, Sister Restituta began the war as one of Austria’s and the world’s foremost surgical nurses. A somewhat gruff and earthy woman, she was also fearless. When Germany annexed Austria just prior to the start of World War II, the Nazis took control of her formerly Catholic hospital. When they built a new wing, they dictated no crucifixes be put on the walls of the new rooms. Sister ignored the dictate.
She might have survived the war except someone found an anti-Hitler leaflet in her typewriter. Sentenced to death by guillotine, she went bravely to her death in 1943.
Father Girotti was a Dominican and teacher in his order’s Turin seminary. After the fall of Mussolini and the takeover of Italy by the Nazis, he came up with several ingenious ways of saving the Jews. However the Gestapo caught him and sent him to Dachau, where he perished.
Read more at Catholic World Report.