When we are ready to give up hope, we must persevere. The Saints teach us this. Even the darkest night will not last, and it will—it must—give way to the glory of a new morning. The 20th century was filled with many dark nights, especially the horrors inflicted during the World Wars and thereafter. It is tempting to give up hope. The heart-struggle of the centuries begins to enter in, our heart cries out, “If God is good, then why would He allow such evil?”
Our Faith teaches us that everything God allows and permits is for our salvation and the salvation of the world. The Resurrection is proof that with and through God, beauty arises, even from the monstrousness of sin. We see this reality in many of the lives of the Saints, and in the lives of the men and women the Saints personally impacted.
The 20th century, though filled with atrocities beyond comprehension, was filled with great beauty. “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20).
A Miracle Story
A powerful example of Saint Paul’s words to the Romans is found in a miraculous story that started during the height of the Second World War. Three people—two of them declared Saints and the other, a Polish woman who celebrated her 100th birthday last year—were all united in the hope of Christ.
Survivor Wanda Półtawska
Wanda Półtawska was twenty years old when she was arrested in February 1941 for assisting in the Polish Resistance against the Nazi Regime. She was sent to Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, north of Berlin. During her time in the camp, Wanda was victim to medical experimentation by the Nazis. Doctors cut into the legs of the victims and injected bacteria into the muscles and bones of the prisoners.
Close to death, Wanda barely survived, and was saved by her friend Krysia who pulled her out of a heap of corpses. Wanda was twenty-four years old.
A Holy Friendship
Determined to live the remainder of her life as a healer, Wanda became a doctor of psychiatry and ministered to camp survivors, especially children who had been abused. During that time, as she sought her own healing, Wanda and her husband became close friends with a young bishop of Kraków, Karol Wojtyła—the future Pope Saint John Paul II.
The Półtawskas’ friendship with Bishop Wojtyła deepened and they would be a source of inspiration for many of his teachings, especially those on marriage and love, including Theology of the Body. Wanda was among the founders of the Institute of Theology of the Family at the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Krakow (Pontifical University of John Paul II) as well as a lecturer in pastoral medicine at the John Paul II Institute of Rome.
Where Two or Three are Gathered
Their friendship culminated in a miraculous story of healing and involved another friendship: the friendship between Bishop Wojtyła and Saint Padre Pio. We see here the power and necessity of holy friendships and of intercession, the reality of the Communion of Saints.
Mother to four young children, Wanda was diagnosed with cancer in 1962. The doctors told her that though her prognosis was terminal, they would try their best to remove the cancer. Heartbroken and struggling to persevere, Wanda told her dear friend Karol about her disease.
“Resignation is contrary to God’s will,” replied Karol. Immediately upon hearing the news, Bishop Karol wrote to a priest who had touched his own life, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. Karol had met Padre Pio in the summer of 1947 when he traveled to San Giovanni Rotondo, attending Mass and going to confession with him.
The Power of Intercession
“Venerable Father,” wrote Karol, “I ask for your prayers for a certain mother of four young girls, who lives in Krakow, Poland (during the last war she spent five years in a German concentration camp), and now her health and even her life are in great danger due to cancer. Pray that God, through the intercession of the Most Blessed Virgin, has mercy on her and her family. Most obligated in Christ, Karol Wojtyla.”
“To this one it is not possible to say no!" was Padre Pio’s response.
The holy priest began to pray. The answer to his intercession was discovered as the surgeons went to remove the cancer from Wanda: nothing was there. The cancer was gone. Miraculously.
Encounter of Grace
Five years later, Wanda traveled to San Giovanni Rotondo and attended Padre Pio’s Mass. After Mass she, along with other pilgrims, went into the sacristy to meet the man who had interceded for her. She had never met him before. He walked up to her, looked deeply into her eyes, and said, “Now are you all right?”
Wanda’s is one of the miracles that led to Saint Padre Pio’s canonization.
Women of Beauty, Women of Healing
These three lives, intertwined in friendship, holiness, and intercession by God’s grace teach us that within the horrors of suffering and pain, beauty can rise. Through God’s Merciful Love, there is hope, there is healing.
We are called, dear sisters, to cultivate strong, holy friendships that are centered on Christ. We are called to intercede for one another.
Lord, give us the grace to be holy in the face of evil and suffering. Let us be women of beauty and healing.