Friday 18 March 2022

Marcel Callo Worker For Christ - M.N.L. Couve de Murville - CTS 20th Century Martyrs

Marcel Callo Worker For Christ
M.N.L. Couve de Murville
Catholic Truth Society
CTS Booklet B657

I will start by stating the copy of this booklet that I read lists it as part of the CTS Biographies. The one site I used when tracking down a copy listed it as part of the CTS 20th Century Martyrs Series. I am uncertain which series it belongs to, and have encounter other volumes that originally were a Biography and later moved to the Martyrs series and also the inverse. The version I tracked down was a first edition published in 1999. I believe it is one of only two volumes by Archbishop M.N.L. Couve de Murville, bishop of Birmingham that was published by the Catholic Truth Society, though a few of his other titles have really grabbed my interest. 

Over the last few years, I have read over 275 books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society, and still have almost that many on my wish list. This is a powerful story of a life of faith and service, including the ultimate sacrifice in the Nazi concentration camps.

The description of this volume is:

“Marcel Callo, a young apprentice printer from Rennes was actively involved in the Young Christian Worker’s movement in France. When French workers were forcibly sent to work in Germany for the Third Reich, Marcel was among them. He left his home, his fiancée and his family and courageously began the ministry of bringing the love of Christ to the foreign workers in Germany who had lost hope, a ministry which led him to a martyr’s death in the Mauthausen concentration camp.”

The sections in the volume are:

Young Christian Worker
Adolf Hitler
“The Church”
Concentration Camp
Marcels’ Death
A Healer of Memories
Notes and References

And the volume concludes with a “List of 50 Frenchmen killed in Germany between 1943-1945 because of apostolic work forbidden by the Nazis and whose cause for beatification has been introduced in Rome by the French Bishops’ Conference.” That list includes:

10 Priests
3 Seminarians
4 Franciscan Brothers
14 Scouts
19 Young Christian Workers

Books about this time and these events are often not pleasant reads. And sometimes not easy reads. But they are important reads. This book was moving and inspiring story. I highlighted many passages while reading this volume, some of them are:

“In 1987 Pope John Paul II beatified a young Frenchman, Marcel Callo, and said of him “The whole of his life became a Eucharist”. Marcel had died in a Nazi concentration camp. No greater contrast can be imagined: the great religious ceremony in the marble splendour of St. Peter’s bringing together Bishops from all over the world for the Synod on the Laity, and what we know about Marcel’s miserable end in isolation, degradation and pain.”

“The family were strongly Catholic and had a profound respect for clergy at St. Aubin’s Church, which was only ten minutes walk away: Jean and Marcel served Mass every morning.”

“At this difficult time, Marcel found support in a group which had been started in the parish of St. Aubin by Fr. Jules Martinais. They were the Young Christian Workers (Jeunesse Ouvriere Chretienne of JOC, the members being called Jocistes)."

“For these young apprentices, the JOC was a way of discovering their own worth. It taught them how to think and how to express themselves. It gave them the discipline for marshalling arguments and the self-confidence to address a public meeting. It was a real university of life.”

“When Marcel went down to the print room with the heave chases of newsprint, Roger noticed that people minded their language. That was strange because Marcel was so young. There was something about him that people respected. He wanted workers to respect each other because he believed in their intrinsic worth, and somehow that had an effect.”

“By the time Easter 1943 came round, Marcel had worked on the other eighteen men in his room so that all but one went to Mass. The curate who came from Suhl, Fr. Steinberg, spoke French; Marcel prevailed on him to arrange special Masses for French-Speaking foreign workers and these began in September and were celebrated once or twice a month on Sunday afternoon. The hymns were in French and Marcel said a few words at the end of the celebration. He was so pleased because there were over a hundred workers at the first Mass, some of whom had not been to Church for years.”

“Marcel was part of a network of Catholic groups which was created secretly in Thuringia. Young Christian workers, Scouts and seminarians made contact with one another and did what they could for their fellow workers.”

“About twenty-six priests were therefore sent to Germany in secret by their Bishops, posing as volunteer workers. Other priests were called-up on STO service and went, with their Bishops’ support. In addition there were many priests among the French prisoners of war in Germany, since priests in France were not exempt from military service.”

“For Himmler and his S.S. the Catholic Church was always a prime target. Several hundred German priests had been arrested for their opposition to the Hitler regime. A circular of June 1943 had forbidden German priests to put on special masses for foreign workers.”

“When the full story of the concentration camps was known after the War, there was a reaction of horror and unbelief in the West, as if it were impossible that such things could happen in our century. Then after the fall of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe similar horrors were revealed, and again more recently during the war in the former Yugoslavia. There seems no end to man’s inhumanity to man. That is why it is important that the memory of the world’s victims should not be lost.

“But it is necessary to go beyond commeration. The cult of Marcel Callo is strong in Germany where he is seen as one who intercedes for the land where he suffered martyrdom. As such he is no longer only a memory, but a healer of memories. He can help the German people to come to terms with their past. The innumerable sufferers of the Nazi regime are represented in Marcel and in the other victims who accepted to die in union with Christ, the pure victim. As victims who do not victimise, they are no longer merely a terrible reproach. They can reconcile others to God.”

I hope those quotes will give you a sense of this volume. It is worth tracking down. It is an amazing story and it is well worth the read.  An excellent volume in an important series, no matter which of the two series it belongs to. I highly recommend it, and encourage you to track it down and give it a read.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Oscar Romero: Martyr for Faith - Ashley Beck
Pedro Poveda - Bernadette Lally

Books by M.N.L. Couve de Murville:
The Man Who Founded California: The Life of Saint Junipero Serra
Catholic Cambridge
Slave from Haiti: Saint for New York? - Life of Pierre Toussaint
John Milner: A Study of One of the Most Notable Bishops of the Midlands
The Unsealed Fountain: Essays on the Christian Spiritual Tradition
Christians in China: A.D. 600 to 2000
Niels Stensen: Scientist and Saint

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