A treasure lost


             and found    


              "With the Lord I can do everything and without Him nothing"

 In the midst of a designer-clad group of young  mothers attending a parent's meeting at my children's school in Dublin, many years ago, Colleen stood out like a sore thumb.   A mid - 70 - year old lavender lady of fading 'stylosity', compelling blue eyes, flashing pince-nez,  a long, black cigarette holder and a raucous laugh, she was the life and soul of the party.

 On discovering she lived alone and its being the festive season, we invited her to Christmas dinner at our nearby home which affectionately was known as The Gluepot and where the family found any excuse to throw a party.  Thereafter, she was to be found at every "hooley" which we threw for charity, where, being the true Irish melomaniac, she entertained an audience to piano recitals and with voluptuous melancholy, sang snatches of Moore's Melodies or rebel songs, in all their customary heart - rending desolation.

How apt the words of the poet: 'Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought'.

The memories of those parties take on a glow of retrospective enchantment which the intervening span of thirty odd years has enhanced.

 We respected the reticence which prevailed with regard to  Colleen's early years, but occasionally, she would sigh like a poet with a dreaming mind and say : "I never loved a sweet gazelle but he was sure to die!" The story of her life was contained in that poignant statement.

 She professed to being an atheist and hadn't graced a church for years but, because of her outlandish generosity, we knew that already she had found God. One cannot  love without giving and God IS love.  When one stops giving , one stops loving, and Colleen never stopped giving.  Was it St Theresa of Avila who declared:  "May the good Lord deliver me from peevish and penny- pinching saints"?

 Every so often, she went to visit her sister in Limerick City and being afraid of her flat being burgled, was wont to pack her jewellery box and her grandmother's silver tea service in an old battered suitcase which she lugged along.

 One morning, I was awakened at the crack of dawn by an insistent phone.  Colleen, perpetually so full of fun, was in a state of hysteria at the other end.  On changing trains at the Limerick Junction, she dropped her luggage and ran to embrace an old school pal.  To her horror, on turning around , she found the battered suitcase was missing.  Consternation ensued on that platform and in a state of bewilderment, she was forced to board the oncoming train, empty handed and desolate.  Today she was inconsolable.  Would she come to O'Laughlin's Prayer meeting I ventured ? " Not within an ass's roar of it" she snapped, with formidable dispatch.

  I tried every angle in order to comfort her, but in vain.  "You have not , because you ask not," I reminded her quoting Jesus Himself. You - ask for me Anita - now - on the phone". I was adamant in my reply, "not unless you end the prayer with a loud Amen" I replied.

 This she agreed to do, loudly and clearly. 

 It was no surprise next day when we got the great news of the return of the missing case.  A travelling mother's extra - helpful son, had been the culprit, and the case was returned unopened. 

 Colleen's life would never be the same again.  She underwent a metamorphosis.  As is His wont, by the power of prayer, this intractable character experienced a volte face and her immediate prayer would be

 "With you Lord I can do everything"


"Without you nothing".

  The following week found her behind the Oxfam stall in the centre of the city as a non-stop voluntary social worker.  With her Irish gift of the gab she told and retold, the story of her lost treasure and its re-discovery. Because of her dynamic and colourful personality and her endearing lisp which enhanced her ebullience, she must have drawn many souls to God. "You will be my witnesses", Jesus told us, and what a jewel He found in Colleen!

Her life was not to be seen again.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen tells us that God prefers a loving sinner to a loveless saint;  the great sinners come closer to Him that the proud intellectuals.    

 God 'had His eye' on Colleen for a long time.  

 Hence the value of hospitality

"How do they know unless we tell them. ( Rom.IO v I4 - I5).

"We evangelize with our lives before we do so with our words."   ( Carlo Carretto). 


"O God, can a man find You 

when he lies with his face downwards

and his nose in the rubble that was his achievement ?

Is the music playing behind the door of despair ?

O God, give us purpose".


Just ask Him...NOW!   To give YOU purpose. 


"Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care".

Tom Peterson.

Every saint had a past and every sinner has a future.


Be what God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.     

   St. Catherine of Sienna.


When men leave Christ, they seek to redeem their reputation by going to extremes. (Blessed.Fulton Sheen ).

I will restore to you the years which the swarming locust has eaten.    ( Joel 2:25 ).  What  a consolation!

How cruel is the tenderness that consigns others to their sins.

(Dietrich Bonhoeffer).


Instruments of the Lord.

'Go preach the Gospel to all nations.'

This was the farewell command of Christ.

He has no body now on earth but ours.

He has no hands but ours to raise up the fallen.

No feet but ours to seek out the lost.

No eyes but ours to see silent suffering tears.

No ears but ours to listen to the lonely.

No tongue but ours to speak comfort to the sad.

No heart but ours to listen to the unloved.

Lord, take pity on us, your timid fearful disciples.

Give us the courage to witness for you,

and so the Gospel will be preached, 

and people will find their way into your kingdom.  


In an introduction to a book on economic growth by W. Arthur Lewis, a Nobel Laureate in Economics, there was a strange definition of happiness.    He wrote :

 'Being content with what you have'. 


 Ni doigh go mbeidh a leithead aris ann.

(I don't think Colleen's like will ever be seen again).


     I  HAD A DREAM.

       "I had a dream that I came to the Lord".

             trembling, ashamed, fearful and sad.

            And  I told Him my tale of betrayels.

            When I had finished, I

            continued to kneel there,

            waiting for the punishment I felt I richly deserved. 

            But what did He do?

            He rose from His chair, took some ointment,

             and  said:

            'Let me dress your wounds.'

           'What wounds?' I asked,puzzled.'I'm the one 

            who has wounded others'.

            But then in a flash I saw He was right.

            I , too, was wounded, for to sin is to suffer.

            Astonished by His mercy, I let Him dress my  


            Afterwards I went away airbourne with joy. 

            His sheer goodness made me feel that

            I too was good.

            And made me want to be like Him."

"Only the actions of the just

Smell sweet, and blossom in their dust".

Death the Leveller by James Shirley.


I got up early one morning  /  and rushed right into the day / I had so much to accomplish / that I didn't have time to pray / Problems just tumbled about me  / and heavier came each task /why doesn't God help? I wondered  / He answered, "Because


I wanted  to see joy and beauty / but the day toiled on grey and bleak / I wondered , "Why didn't God show me? " / He said , "Because


I tried to come into God's presence / I used all my keys at the lock / God gently and lovingly chided  /

"My child, "


I woke up early this morning and paused before entering the day /I  had so much to accomplish / That I had to take time out to pray.

Being concerned for each other also entails being concerned for their spiritual well-being.  Here I would like to mention  an aspect of the Christian life. which I believe has been quite forgotten: fraternal correction in view of eternal salvation.  

To-day in general, we are very sensitive to the idea of charity and caring about physical and material well-being of others, but almost completely silent about out spiritual responsibility towards our brothers and sisters. This was not the case in the early Church or in those communities that are truly mature in faith, those which are concerned not only for the physical health of their brothers and sisters , but also for their spiritual health and ultimate destiny. The Scriptures tell us : "Rebuke the wise and he will love you for it. Be open with the wise, he grows wiser still, teach the upright he will gain yet more" (Prov. 9-8).  Christ himself commands us to admonish a brother who is committing a sin.  The Church's tradition has included ' admonishing sinners ' among the spiritual works of mercy.   WE MUST NOT remain SILENT before evil.  It is a great service, then, to help others and allow them to help us, so that we can be open to the whole truth about ourselves, improve our lives and walk uprightly in the Lord's way.  The apostle Paul encourages us to seek "the ways which lead to peace and the ways in which we can support one another.(Rom. 14-9). for our neighbour's good, "so that  we support one another" (15-2). seeking not personal gain but rather "the advantage of everybody else, so that we may be saved" ( 1 Cor. 1O- 33).  This mutual  correction and encouragement in a spirit of humility and charity must be part of the life of the Christian community.  

Pope Benedict XV1.

From the Catholic Herald - May 2O12.


I have recently been reading various Gospel texts about how many will be lost.   Should we assume that many (or most) people will not go to heaven.  How many will be saved?   

You cited Our Lord's words saying that those who enter by the way of destruction will be many (Mt. 7-13), that "Many are called but few are chosen" (Mt.22-14).and that many will seek to enter by the narrow door and will not be able (Lk.13-24).   Our Lord also answered your specific question: "And someone said to Him; "Lord will those who are saved be few?"  And he said to them : "Strive to enter by the narrow door: for many, I tell you , will seek to enter and will not be able".  (Lk.13:23-24).   As so often, Jesus does not answer a question directly but points us to the underlying call to action in response to the person's concern.   We should not focus on the number of the elect but rather on our own life of Christian charity by which we strive to enter by the narrow door.    The Decree on Justification of the Council of Trent, a beautiful exposition, explains in a balanced way that, although a devout person should not doubt the mercy of God, the merits of Christ, and of the virtue and efficacy of the sacraments, we should all nevertheless have regard to our weakness and a holy fear concerning our own grace because we can never be absolutely certain of having obtained the grace of God.

This way of thinking is unfashionable today, even though it was commonplace among the Fathers of the Church, the great saints and spiritual writers, and can be found unambiguously, for example, in the writings of Blessed John Henry Newman.  The point is not to give us an unhealthy fear but to motivate us to convert.  As St. Alphonsus put it: "To obtain salvation we must tremble at the thought of being lost, and tremble not so much at the thought of hell, as of sin, which alone can send us there.     

What's your view?  And do you have a dilemma of your own?

e-mail editorial@catholicherald.co.uk


The war-time story of the GIRL WITH AN APPLE.

August 1942, Piotrkow, Poland.   The sky was gloomy that morning as we waited anxiously.  All the men, women and children of Piotrkow's Jewish ghetto had been herded into a square.  Word had gotten around that we were being moved. My father had only recently died of typhus, which had run rampant through the crowded ghetto.  My greatest fear was that our family would be separated. 

"Whatever you do", Isidore, my eldest brother whispered to me, "don't tell them your age.  Say you're sixteen". I was tall for a boy of 11 so I could pull it off. That way I might be deemed valuable as a worker.  An SS man approached me , boots clicking against the cobblestones.   He looked me up and down, then asked my age.  "Sixteen", I said so he directed me to the left where my three brothers and other healthy young men already stood. 

My mother was motioned to the right with the other women, children, sick and elderly people.  I whispered to Isidore, "Why?" but he did not answer.  I ran to Mama's side and said I wanted to stay with her.  "No", she said sternly, "Get away. Don't be a nuisance.  Go with your brothers."  She had never spoken so harshly before.  But I understood : She was protecting me.  She loved me so much that this time she pretended not to.  It was THE LAST I ever saw of her.

My brothers and I were transported in a cattle truck to Germany.  We arrived at the Buchenwald concentration camp one night weeks later and were led into a crowded barrack.  The next day we were issued with uniforms and identification numbers.  "Don't call me Herman" anymore", I said to my brothers, "Call me 94983".

I wa  put to work in the camp's crematorium, loading the dead into a hand-cranked elevator.  I,too, felt dead. Hardened, I had become a number.  Soon, my brothers and I were sent to Schlieben, one of Buchenwald's sub-camps near Berlin.

One morning, I thought I heard my mother's voice, "Son", she said softly but clearly, I am going to send you an angel."

Then I woke up.  Just a dream.  A beautiful dream.  But in this place there could be no angels.  There was only work. And hunger.  And fear.

A couple of days later, I was walking the camp, around the barracks, near the barbed-wire fence where the guards could not easily see.  I was alone.  On the other side of the fence I spotted a little girl with light, luminous curls.  She was half hidden behind a birch tree.  I glanced around to make sure no one saw me.  I called her softly in German. "Do you have something to eat?"  She did not understand.  I inched closer to the fence and repeated the question in Polish.  She stepped forward.  I was thin and gaunt, with rags wrapped around my feet, but the girl looked unafraid.  In her eyes I saw life.  She pulled an apple from her pocket and threw it over the fence.  I grabbed the fruit and as I started to run away, I heard her say faintly, "I'll see you to-morrow".

I returned to the same spot by the fence at the same time every day.  She was always there with something for me to eat - a hunk of bread, or, better yet, an apple.  We didn't dare speak or linger.   To be caught would mean death for us both.   I didn't know anything about her, just a kind farm girl, except that she understood Polish.  What was her name?  Why was she risking her life for me?  Hope was in short supply and this girl on the other side of the fence gave me some, as nourishing in its way as the bread and the apples.

Nearly seven months later, my brothers and I were crammed into a coal truck and shipped to Theresienstadt camp in Czechoslovakia.  " Don't return," I told the girl that day, "We're leaving". I turned towards the barracks and didn't look back; didn't even say good-bye to the little girl whose name I'd never learned, the girl with the apples. 

We were in Theresienstadt  for three months.  The war was winding down and Allied forces were closing in, yet my fate seemed sealed.  On May 1O, 1945, I was scheduled to die in the gas chamber at 1O:OO AM.  In the quiet of dawn, I tried to prepare myself.  So many times death seemed ready to claim me, but somehow I'd survived...Now, it was over. I thought of my parents.  At least, I thought, we will be reunited.

But at 8AM, there was a commotion.  I heard shouts, ans saw people running every which way through camp.  I caught up with my brothers.  Russian troops had liberated the camp!  The gates swung open.  Everyone was running, so I did too.

Amazingly, all of my brothers had survived; I'm not sure how.  But I knew that the girl with the apples had been the key to my survival.  In a place where evil seemed triumphant, one person's  goodness had saved my life, had given me hope in a place where there was none.  My mother had promised to send me an angel, and the angel had come.

Eventually I made my way to England where I was sponsored by a Jewish charity, put up in a hostel with other boys who had survived the Holocaust and trained in electronics.  Then I came to America where my brother Sam had already moved.  I served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, and returned to New York City after two years. By August 1957 I'd opened my own electronics repair shop.  I was starting to settle in. 

One day, my friend Sid who I knew from England called me. "I've got a date.  She's got a Polish friend. Let's double date". A blind date? Nah, that wasn't me.  But Sid kept pestering me and a few days later we headed up to the Bronx to pick up his date and her friend Roma.

I had to admit, for a blind date this wasn't so bad.  Roma was a nurse at a Bronx hospital.  She was kind and smart.  Beautiful too, with swirling brown curls and green, almond-shaped  eyes that sparkled with life.   The four of us drove out to Coney Island.  Roma was easy to talk to, easy to be with.  Turned out she was wary of blind dates too !. We were both doing our friends a favour.  We took a stroll on the broadwalk, enjoying the salty Atlantic breeze, and then had dinner by the shore.  I couldn't remember having a better time.  We piled  back into Sid's car, Roma and I sharing the back seat.  As European Jews who had survived the war, we were aware that much had been unsaid between us.  She broached the subject, "where were you" she asked softly, "during the war?"  "The camps"I said, the terrible memories still vivid, the irreparable loss I had tried to forget.  But you can never forget. She told me,  

 " My family was hiding on a farm in Germany, not far from Berlin; my father knew a priest and he got us Aryan papers".

I imagined she must have suffered too, fear, a constant companion.   And yet, here we were, both survivors in a new world.

"There was a camp next to the farm " Roma continued, "I saw a boy there and I would bring him apples every day". 

What an amazing coincidence that she had helped some other boy.  "What did he look like?" I asked. "He was tall,skinny and hungry.  I must have seen him every day for six months".  My heart was racing. I couldn't believe it.  This could not be. "Did he tell you one day not to come back because he was leaving Schlieben?"

Roma looked at me in amazement.  "Yes"That was me". I was ready to burst with joy and awe, flooded with emotions.  I couldn't believe it ! My angel.

"I'm not letting you go". I said to Roma.  And in the back of the car on that blind date, I proposed to her. I didn't want to wait.  "You're crazy !" she said but she invited me to meet her parents for Shabbat dinner the following week.  There was so much I looked forward to learning about Roma, but the most important things I already knew :  her steadfastness, her goodness. 

For many months, in the worst of circumstances, she had come to the fence and given me hope.  Now that I had found her again I could never let her go.

That day she said yes.  And I kept my word.  After 5O years of marriage, two children and three grandchildren, I, Herman, never let her go.


Come let us reason together says the Lord.   Though your sins be like scarlet, they shall become as white as snow...

ISAIAH 1-18.


Anita Kilbride-Jones,

         St. Paul's Bay,Malta.              

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