One Human Family

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As we remember Edith Stein's martyrdom today, we recall the words of Blessed John Paul II from her canonization homily: “We must all stand together: human dignity is at stake. There is only one human family.” Though converted from the faith of her fathers, Edith Stein did not forget the Jewish roots of her human family. She gave her life to “share the lot of her brothers and sisters” suffering under Hitler’s regime. Tertullian's words in the early days of the Church, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church,” ring true precisely because of the unity of the human family, which allows for one man’s life given up to be imparted to another. My own particular place in the one human family and call to martyrdom has recently been highlighted by Pope Francis’ approval of a certain man’s martyrdom, closely connected to my biological family.

My grandfather, Géza Balássy, was a member of the Catholic underground movement in the years following World War II in Soviet-occupied Hungary. Teaching the faith was forbidden by the government, but many of the faithful continued to gather in small pockets to support each other and teach the faith. As a young adult, my grandfather was partially responsible for the communication between these groups, delivering messages and transporting their limited resources.

After a number of years, a co-worker in the movement was arrested, tortured, and leaked names of others involved. My grandfather was arrested with several others, including a thirty-eight year old Salesian brother by the name of István Sándor. Both he and my grandfather were in the same courtroom and both were sentenced to death for conspiracy against the government after a mock trial. However, István Sándor courageously interjected at my grandfather’s trial, downplaying his role in the movement as a nineteen- year-old, who certainly did not have any real authority. My grandfather’s sentence was changed to fifteen years in prison; István Sándor was hanged.

I heard this story often growing up, but admit I often overlooked its importance. Since becoming a Sister of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, I have been praying for the beatification of our mother foundress. Thus we were eagerly awaiting the Holy Father’s approval of the miracle allowing for Mother Maria Theresia Bonzel’s beatification. On March 27, 2013, this approval was formally granted; unexpectedly, in the same declaration, the martyrdom of István Sándor, the man who saved my grandfather’s life, was officially accepted.

The coinciding of these two approvals can only be attributed to Divine Providence. Not only would my grandfather have been a martyr, but the courage of a veritable martyr has allowed me to be alive today. Though I do not know if I will be called upon to give the ultimate sacrifice of my life, I know am called to live the martyrdom of everyday life. This necessitates giving up my understanding, preferences, desires, opinions, i.e., dying to self on a daily and moment-to-moment basis. Specifically for me, martyrdom entails imitation of the Divine Bridegroom as Mother Maria Theresia Bonzel so joyfully exemplified.

Martyrdom is the seed that continues to build up the one human family. Edith Stein understood this and willingly undertook martyrdom as the basis of her Christian existence, both in life and in death. As we ponder her life and the lives of all those surrounding us in the “great cloud of witnesses,” let us pray for the grace to accept our own particular martyrdom in order to stand together as one human family for the sake of the kingdom of God.

Sr. M. Benedicta Duna

About Sr. M. Benedicta Duna

Sister M. Benedicta Duna is a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration whose motherhouse is located in Mishawaka, IN. Sister Benedicta professed her first vows in 2011 and taught middle school religion for the past two years. She will be returning to school in the fall to pursue a Master’s degree in Theology.