“In the testimony and martyrdom of the Ulma family and their children, we rediscover the greatness of the family, a place of life, love and fertility” – Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, said in his homily of the Holy Mass with the beatification rite of the Ulma Family, which took place on September 10 this year in Markowa in Podkarpacie.
At the beginning of the Eucharist, the faithful were welcomed by Archbishop Adam Szal, Metropolitan of Przemyśl. “Holiness in everyday life, the quiet and humble one, gives hope to our world that good will ultimately prevail. May today’s ceremony, celebrated in an atmosphere of faith, ignite love for God and people” – he emphasized.
The beatification formula, on the mandate of Pope Francis, was read by Cardinal. Marcello Semeraro, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints: “…by our Apostolic authority, we authorize that henceforth the Venerable Servants of God, Joseph and Victoria Ulma, spouses and their seven children, lay faithful, martyrs… be endowed with the title of Blessed”.
“It would be a mistake if the day of the beatification of the Ulma family served only to bring to mind the terror and atrocities committed by their executioners, which are already judged by history. However, we want today to be a day of joy, because the words of the Gospel written on paper have become a lived experience for us, a reality that shines in the Christian witness of the Ulma couple and in their martyrdom, in the martyrdom of the new blesseds. In 1942, Józef and Wiktoria Ulma opened the doors of their house and welcomed eight Jews persecuted by the German Nazi regime” – Cardinal Marcello Semeraro said in a solemn homily. He added that “this gesture of Józef and Wiktoria was an expression of obedience to God’s commandment.” “It was a ‘yes’ to God’s will. Their house became an inn where a despised, rejected and mortally wounded man was welcomed and cared for” – he emphasized, referring to the parable of the Good Samaritan.
“Care is a very important part of humanity, because it makes existence human. For this gesture of hospitality and care, in a word, mercy, flowing from sincere faith, the Ulma couple and their children paid the highest price of martyrdom. Their lives were a precious coin that they sealed with the selflessness of their complete the gift of oneself in the name of love” – the hierarch recalled. “To fully understand the heroic decision of Józef and Wiktoria, one must look at the spiritual path they have traveled up to this point, starting with their characters. Józef – honest, hard-working and willing to help people. Wiktoria – warm-hearted, gentle, sensitive to the needs of others, and then their constant growth in love for God and neighbor between their activities in the parish and rural life in Markowa. We too cannot help but feel the endearing power of their Christian testimony, which they passed on to their children: eight-year-old Stanisława, seven-year-old Barbara, six-year-old Władysław, four-year-old Franciszek, three-year-old Antoni and two-year-old Maria, and even the youngest child who was born at the moment of the mother’s martyrdom” – he said.
Cardinal Semeraro explained that “the special meaning of today’s beatification lies in the fact that the entire family is raised to the glory of the altars, connected not only by blood ties, but also by the common witness given to Christ, even to the sacrifice of one’s own life”.
He also introduced the spirituality of the Ulma family: “The new blesseds teach us, above all, to accept the Word of God and strive every day to fulfill God’s will. The Ulmas, as a family, listened to this Word of God in the Sunday liturgy and then continued its meditation at home, which can be seen in the Bible – read and underlined by them”.
“The word ‘yes’ written by hand in the parable of the Good Samaritan is very significant, as well as the underlined sentences in which Jesus calls them to love their own enemies. In this way, the Word of the Lord, heard day by day, shaped their courageous program of life. It worked perfectly in them the sanctifying grace of baptism, the Eucharist and other sacraments, among which the beauty and greatness of the sacrament of marriage clearly appear. Therefore, they lived in holiness, not only in marriage, but also in the family. The ancient definition of St. John Chrysostom, who spoke of the home as ‘Ecclesia micra’, ‘small Church’ may be applicable in them. Similarly to the Second Vatican Council in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, it called it ‘Ecclesia domestica’, ‘domestic Church’ to which God gave all the gifts of his grace to such an extent that He made it a sign and incarnation the entire people of God. The Ulma house has become a place of holiness in the neighborhood, as Pope Francis calls it in the apostolic exhortation Gaudete et exsultate on the call to holiness in the modern world” – he added. He pointed out, following Pope Francis, that “these saints live next to us and are a reflection of God’s presence”.
“In the testimony and martyrdom of the Ulmas and their children, we rediscover the dimension of the greatness of the family, the place of life, love and fertility. We rediscover the greatness of the mission that the Creator entrusted to the spouses and we repeat the words of Saint John Paul II, which he addressed to families in 1994: ‘In the Church and in society, the era of the family has now arrived, and it is called to play a leading role in the work of the new evangelization'” – he noted.
“In the martyrdom of the new blesseds, a particularly evocative role is played by the tiny child that Victoria carried in her womb, born into the world in the painful moments of her mother’s slaughter. Although it did not yet have a name, today we call it blessed. This beatification has a more current message than ever, although never pronounced a single word, today this little innocent child who, together with the angels and saints in paradise, sings the praises of the Triune God, here on earth calls out to the modern world to accept, love and protect life from the moment of conception until natural death, especially the lives of the defenseless and marginalized. His innocent voice wants to shock the conscience of a society in which abortion, euthanasia and contempt for life perceived as a burden and not as a gift are rampant” – the prefect of the Dicastery for Saints said.
Addressing not only the Jewish guests of the beatification ceremony, the hierarch pointed out that “this unity of Jewish families and the Catholic family in the same martyrdom carries a very deep meaning and sheds the most beautiful light on Jewish-Christian friendship, both on the human and religious levels”. “Indeed, the hatred of the persecutors towards the Jews was in its very essence hatred towards the God of the Covenant, the old and the new – in the Blood of Christ. We could say today that with the concreteness of their gesture, the Ulma family, as well as other people of good will who helped the Jews, anticipated the teaching The Second Vatican Council, St. Paul VI and also St. John Paul II adopting in their lives the attitude of someone who breaks down walls and embraces with brotherly love. Moreover, welcoming one’s neighbor has become an urgent task, given the violence and devastation caused by war” – he said.
In this context, he recalled the touching attitude of Poles towards Ukrainian refugees from Ukraine, torn apart by the Russian invasion. “The Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has been ongoing for several months, has forced a large number of refugees to flee. They were knocking on the doors of Poland in search of a safe shelter in this difficult time. Various government and local government institutions and thousands of people from simple families spontaneously opened the doors of their homes to welcome those who who had to flee” – he recalled.