I’ve often heard we should develop a “personal relationship” with Jesus Christ. I have tried to understand this, and have grasped at this relationship, seeking to develop and embrace it.
But it doesn’t feel natural to me: He is too great, and demanding, and the word “cross” always shows up.
Still, I’ve come to my own way of getting to know him, and it a simple way: through the saints, who all have one thing in common: they all found their way to Jesus, often after much struggle. They all got it right.
Since that’s my goal too, I look to them. Some might call that “cheating.” I say it’s more efficient to walk in the footsteps of saints than to try to plow new paths which can lead me anywhere.
The saints are my “Catholic Hall of Fame.” They’ve marked the path with examples of unconditional love, humility, patience, joy, kindness and — so many times — unimaginable courage.
Many of these Hall-of-Famers are well-known, of course, but I’m always on the lookout for one of the hidden gems whose stories are not as familiar to us so I can make friends with them; settle down and hang out, so to speak.
Here is one saintly family that met the criteria for Hall of Fame membership. Meet Joe (Jozef) and Vicki (Wiktoria) Ulma.
My new friends, Joe and Vicki, lived in southern Poland in a town called Markowa. Joe was a librarian, a photographer, and a bee-keeper. He was active with the local Catholic Youth Organization. Vicki was 12 years younger than her husband and they had six kids: Stanislaw, age 8, Barbara, age 7, Vladyslaw, age 6, Franciszek, age 4, Antoni, age 3, and Maria, age 2.
Then along came the Nazis.
During the summer of 1942, the Nazi military police began deporting Jewish families from Markow to the death camps. Joe and Vicki, good Catholics who loved their faith and Jesus, knew what they had to do. Toward the end of summer, in the darkness of night, they sneaked their Jewish neighbors, the Szall family — a mom, dad, and four kids — into their home. In addition to the Szalls, there were two young sisters from the Goldman family. Hiding in their attic, these guests remained with the Ulmas for a year and a half.
Then a neighbor who had harbored some ill-will toward the Szall family discovered the secret and informed on the Ulmas.
You'll want to read the rest... trust me.