After three years of planning, World Youth Day 2016 begins this week in Kraków. Organizers expect the event will draw more than two million people from around the world. Poland’s archdioceses and dioceses have pledged to offer accommodations for over 373,000 foreign visitors. The festive gathering of youth and young adults represents the chance to share in prayer, worship, and a celebration of the Catholic faith. From Pope Francis to dancing nuns, Catholic leaders will welcome everyone in attendance.
“Auschwitz had a wonderful orchestra.” With that line, Henry Zguda introduced me to a lesser known component of all German concentration camps – music. For some lucky prisoners, musical ability saved their lives, because they were selected for the camp orchestra. Henry worked for the director of the Auschwitz orchestra, so was able to describe it in first-hand detail.
I remain blessed by the Angel of Serendipity who sits quietly on my shoulder, invisibly guiding me to the next amazing person or connection. This past week, through a chain of email connections, I made contact with the son of Henryk Kruszewski, Auschwitz prisoner number 4798. His son, who lives in Australia, generously shared his father’s translated account with me, for my personal reading.
A film about the Polish Saint Maximilian Kolbe (1894 – 1941) is in final production by a Mexican film and production company. The company plans to premier the film next summer at the 2016 Catholic World Youth Day in Krakow. On July 31, 1941 the humble Catholic priest volunteered to take another man’s place who was sentenced to die by starvation. Pope John Paul II canonized Father Kolbe as a martyr of charity on October 10, 1982.