The Catholic Association
Ep. 260 Mary Ann Glendon on Being a 'Voice for the Voiceless' & Sneak Peek of 'Irena's Vow'

Episode Description

Former ambassador to the Holy See, Mary Ann Glendon, shares insights from her vast experience at the Vatican. Her new book, In the Courts of Three Popes, explores her time serving under three pontificates beginning with Pope Saint John Paul II. She looks at the evolving role of women within the Church, the task of being “a voice for the voiceless,” and how are we, the laity, living up to the vocation to be a transformative presence where we live and work?

Jeannie Smith, daughter of WWII heroine Irene Gut Opdyke, gives us an inside look at the riveting new film, Irena’s Vow. The movie traces the true story of her mother, an 18 year-old Catholic girl working for a Nazi businessman in German occupied Poland, who risked her life to save Jews from the terrors of the Gestapo. Jeannie shares her special insights on the film’s enduring message – the importance of free will to choose good over evil despite the cost. Irena’s Vow is coming to select theaters next week.

Father Roger Landry shares an inspiring homily to ready our hearts for this Sunday’s Gospel message. He is also currently the only priest who has pledged to walk the entire 1,500 mile distance in one of the Eucharist pilgrimage routes this summer. He calls the two-month journey a perfect way to celebrate his 25th anniversary as a priest, which he marks in June.


Mary Ann Glendon is a renowned international attorney, a professor of law emerita from Harvard University, and a former US Ambassador to the Holy See. In 1995, she led the Vatican delegation to the UN’s World Conference on Women in Beijing, becoming the first woman ever to lead a Vatican delegation. She has taught and written on bioethics, constitutional law, and human rights in international law, and served under Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as the chairwoman of the Commission on Unalienable Rights. She is a best selling author and has shared an upfront role in key developments of the Catholic Church’s modern history.

Jeannie Opdyke Smith is the daughter of Irene Gut Opdyke, a World War II hero heralded for her bravery in risking her life to save Jews from the Nazis in German occupied Poland. Her mother’s story was developed into a Broadway play, and mostly recently as a screenplay in the upcoming new movie, Irena’s Vow. Jeannie spends much of her time traveling nationally and internationally to share her mother’s compelling story and its timeless lessons for today. She is also a wife, mother, and author of the novel, The Other Side of Thirst.

Father Roger Landry is a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts, and serves as Catholic Chaplain to Columbia University and the Thomas Merton Institute for Catholic Life. A graduate of Harvard and the Pontifical North American College in Rome, Father Landry served as Attaché to the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations in New York, and has been a pastor, newspaper editor, and high school chaplain. He writes for numerous publications and regularly speaks on radio and TV. Father Landry is the author of the book, Plan of Life: Habits to Help You Grow Closer to God.

Episode 260 Transcript

GrazieHello friends, and welcome to Conversations with Consequences. And we are the radio show and podcast of the Catholic Association where we aim to change the culture one conversation at a time. You can listen to conversations with consequences on the EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network Saturday mornings at 7 a.m. Eastern, or catch the encore at 5 p.m.. We are also on Sirius XM Channel 130.
Of course, our radio show is always a podcast. Go to the Catholic Association, Dawgs podcasts, or directly to wherever you listen to your podcast. We have a great show for you today looking at a new movie called Irenaeus Vow. It features the amazing devotion of a Catholic woman as she worked to save Polish Jews during the Holocaust. We talk with her daughter, Jeanie Smith, about her mother's amazing life.
But first, we have Mary Ann Glendon with us to discuss her new book in the Course of Three Popes, an American Lawyer and Diplomat in the Last Monarchy of the West. She currently serves as Learned Han, professor of law emerita at Harvard University. She also was former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See under the George Bush administration. With such a rich history and understanding of the Vatican and Holy See.
Welcome to the show, Marianne.
Mary AnnIt's a pleasure to be here.
GrazieIt's a fascinating book because, well, first of all, every single page is is so full of information and detail about your long, rather illustrious career and all the ways that you've interacted over these decades with the Vatican, with the different popes and and all the different things that you've been involved in. I feel like your finger has been in every pie.
And and how I just needed to ask you, did you keep a very detailed journal during all this time?
Mary AnnNot exactly a journal, but I had tons of written material and records, especially in periods where I was required to keep notes.
GrazieThe title of your book, an American subtitle, The American American Lawyer and Diplomat in the Last Monarchy of the West. When I saw that, it caught my attention. But reading your book, I did get that that feeling that that you're I think you're trying to transmit in your book is that the Vatican or the Holy See? It's it's a monarchy.
It's it's not it's it's a very different place and system from regular, you know, every other kind of diplomacy experience. Right. That an American lawyer might have abroad. You were in a in a timeless environment and you were there as a woman and as an American and as an American woman lawyer. You were rather the the the odd woman out.
And that's I got that sense from reading your book. Is that how it felt over the decades?
Mary AnnWell, I felt something like Mark Twain's hero in a Connecticut Yankee and King Arthur's court. Yes. Ever. If anybody reads that anymore. This is an American, thinks he knows everything and can fix everything. And he gets hit over the head in the 19th century and wakes up in King Arthur's court. And I must say, there was that certain sense of both of this.
It's really a different place. And I see things that I could fix and not sell them. Then there's the encounter with reality.
AshleyProfessor Glendon, you you wrote about Pope Saint John Paul, the second letter to women. I love the way you you wrote about how authentic and kind of different it was. And you've had the unique experience of of being a woman, you know, ahead of her time in service of the church, as well as in a legal profession. You know, And when women were somewhat more rare in the legal world and having both worked inside and for the church for three different popes while seeing the church's teaching that change on on women, but grow and become more rich.
And tell us a little bit more about that and how far have we come and where where further can we go?
Mary AnnThank you for that question. I think Pope John Paul, the second, has received far too little credit for. I'm so glad you mentioned the letter to women, because I think one of his great achievements was that he personally modeled a new way of thinking about women and about laypeople in general in the church. And he thought about that in a new way, I think, because he was of a coming generation.
He was one of the first of the generations that have followed of church leaders who had grown up with women, had been friends with women and laypeople, and who was very comfortable with laypeople. And he personally modeled that he not only wrote that wonderful letter, but he lived it. And he lived it not only by appointing women to positions in the Vatican, and there were many besides me.
Mary AnnHe not only appointed women, but he consulted them as lay experts in regular meetings at Castel Gandolfo and then inspired what we now have, which is generations of priests and bishops who have adopted that attitude. And so I think that we are we are benefiting and will continue to benefit from those new attitudes, priests and bishops who know they need way assistance are comfortable with.
Speaker 4That's great to hear, because I was thinking I was going to ask you, and so I'll just ask you to expand on that idea that you see, you know, a lot of priests, you've been around them for however long. Had you seen in the flesh that Jp tu's influence on priests being comfortable with women? Because, you know, it's such an unappreciated gift, I think when you have priests like that, because you certainly still do encounter some that don't know how to talk to women.
And it's a gift in the confessional. It's a gift when they're coming to see your family. Have you seen it bear fruit that sort of like ushering in after the letter comfort levels with women?
Mary AnnAbsolutely. And at every level, I think that most priests and bishops, you know, we're talking about around the world so many different situations. But I think most of them will. Vocations declining are more and more intensely aware that they need lay assistants, that laypeople can help priests do things or can. Let me put it this way They can enable priests to do the things that they were called to do, to do the things too.
They were trained to do and to do the things that they're best at. And so great examples of that. I think inspiring examples were Archbishop Sharp who who had a layman as his chief assistant speechwriter, all kinds of roles that used to be filled by priests, but that this is a extremely talented lay person. And similarly in Australia, the late Cardinal Pell had a wonderful social scientist who performed the same roles for him.
So, you know, I don't think we know we give a lot of credit to those innovators, but it's also it's just changing in generations. John The 23rd St we all love, but Charlie, 2030, wrote in his journal that he was so grateful that he had been taught to keep far away from women. And, you know, it's just a different world.
GrazieAnd yet, Professor Glendon, at the same time that we talk about women being more and more accepted as as participating members of the church, there's also like this there's also this push not to to see women only properly integrated into the church when they're deacons and priestesses. Right. And of course, there's that whole section of of thought. No, we don't I don't think here that conversations with consequences we subscribe to.
What's the difference was the difference between seeing women close closely engaged in the church and but not being put into positions that they don't belong in.
Mary AnnI think those discussions concentrate far too much on clerical roles, discussions of women in the laity and with the church. And I'm coming to think more and more that those discussions are letting the laity let us off the hook, because we think we hear so much about what church leaders should be doing, this and that with respect to women in the laity.
And what I never hear is what is the laity doing lately to live up to the vocation that we all have that primary responsibility that Vatican two told us that we all have to be a transformative presence in the secular sphere where we live and work. So how are we? We are great. And that and relatedly, we don't hear much about the kind of formation that we lay people should have in order to fulfill our fund's abilities in the private sphere and where spheres of the secular societies we live in.
And to be an effective assistant to the clergy in the church, which nobody is obliged to do, but when we do it, we should have a certain kind of formation, if we're honest with ourselves. How much have we done to keep up with our spiritual formation, which is a lifetime job? Don't ask me to take your Ph.D. level test on any of that.
How much are we done compared to what we do to keep up with information tech technology? So I think that we should be open to all kinds of discussions. But I think a lot of those discussions, and especially what the press likes to pick up on, is not really at the heart of the matter which how are we doing with our baptismal vocations.
First and foremost.
AshleyIs this rings so true to me because I go to a parish that's thriving. There's just a steady stream of people going in and out the door all day long from morning to evening, whether it's the mornings where it's the Walking with Purpose group for moms and young women or the evenings, or it's Catholic and recovery, Catholics and recovery.
And 99% of that is run by laypeople and probably 99% of that by women. And it's largely because we have a parish priest who's, you know, like what you describe, someone who is very comfortable with the laity, and he basically just gives the keys to the church and the laity have a lot of space to to put on wonderful programing that's enriching the lives of people in so many ways.
My question, you know, pivoting a little bit, you devote an entire chapter of your book to the Beijing conference. And that is such a kind of fascinating moment in time because women's rights was coming, you know, reaching this sort of stand off with the issue of abortion. And increasingly, as you talk about, you know, women's rights and feminism was becoming more and more intertwined with with abortion.
And I love the the vignette you give us about talking with the panel at Harvard that was getting ready to hire you and and, you know, basically calling their bluff on the fact that these were people who were critics of Roe v Wade and basically just slid into accepting it. So could you tell our listeners about your experience at the Beijing conference and and trying to thread the needle of a truly pro-woman ethic that does not rely on abortion?
Mary AnnWell, it's funny you mention my conversations with my colleagues at Harvard when I came back from Beijing. The first question my colleagues asked me was, what was your brief? Because, of course, anybody who in ordinary diplomatic circles, you get a job and you get briefed. And our brief was simply be a voice for the voiceless. And that's really what sets the Holy See apart in the diplomatic world and on the international stage.
It is like unlike any other participant in the U.N., they don't just speak for the entity, the political entity that they represent. They try to speak for the poorest, the most, the most disadvantaged, the people with the least voice. And that was our job. And that was what we tried to do, I think, successfully at Beijing.
Speaker 4If I could just get back a little bit, Miriam, to your talk about the laity falling down on the job. But we see people, some lady like the lay movement, communion, the liberation, you know, their whole thing is bringing it out there, being the best Catholic lawyer, you know, cook whatever, you know, you're bringing your vocation to the streets.
That's a very simplified thing, sorry to say, but is there you think that that's because I feel like I love hearing about Ashley's parish. I worry that those people, it still stops at the door of the church, almost analogous to, you know, that Catholic thing. Talk about how the Catholics tolerate such things. When Ed said that about the crosses being removed from Boston College classrooms and we are content, maybe it's too much, but used to just sort of taking off our Catholic hats as we enter the workplace as macho, the grocery store, whatever.
But I feel like there is there's got to be there's got to be something that encourages laypeople to not be afraid to sort of shout your Catholicism. But I don't know what that is without and I don't know which it comes from, I presume other other laypeople. What's your take on that?
Mary AnnWell, you're singing my tune. I think that the more Catholics became integrated into American society and the more that we were upwardly mobile, the more we forgot about what Saint Paul said to the Corinthians. Do not conform yourselves to the spirit of the age. And we we developed what I call the way of the turtle and the way of the the chameleon.
The Catholic turtles are the ones who hide their religion under their shell, and the chameleons are the ones who adapt to the surrounding culture. We've just got to get over that. And I think the great lay organizations and so glad that you mentioned them because they do encourage us to be more assertively Catholic. I learned that took my Jewish husband to teach me that.
And when the crucifixes came down at B.C., he said, Why do you can't stand for that? And I said, Well, why do we? And I think it has a lot to do with the attraction of upward mobility for that. The thing that made the Catholic sons and daughters of Catholic immigrants so different from their parents who built up.
Well, to talk about the power of the laity. They built up a great network of schools, universities, hospitals, labor organizations that were their own and probably their own. That was the heart of the laity.
GrazieProfessor Glendon, you have this unique viewpoint and this because of your unique experiences in and as you call them, three different courts. You call the Court of Saint John Paul. The second the court of Pope Benedict and the court of Pope Francis. What's that like? And I know this is a huge question and probably we need to read your everyone needs to read your book to really understand the answer.
What's it like when the court shifts?
Mary AnnWell, the first big shift that I experienced was when Pope Benedict became pope. And at that particular moment, that was when I was really looking at the Holy See from the outside as the, US ambassador always representing my own country there. The main thing that I experienced was the shift in the discussions about the war in Iraq, because under John Paul, the second relations were not good between the Holy See and the United States.
But by the time Benedict became the Pope, the concerns of the Holy See were much more focused on what would be the consequences of an abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops for religious minorities. So I was there in halcyon period when relations between the governments were good. And to the surprise of, I think, nearly everyone, relations between President Bush and Pope Benedict, an odd couple, if there ever was one.
They were good friends. They really liked each other. They had an unprecedented three visits with each other in the space of a single year.
Speaker 4Do you ever think we'll see something like that again? I loved reminiscing about those George W Bush years. And, you know, the is the council that, you know, and Catholic D.C. was sort of waking up and there was this sort of, you know, this Protestant president who spoke Catholic, like you say you. And. Yes, I mean, can you imagine I mean, I guess we can always hope.
But can you see a path where we have I mean, this bizarre political landscape we're in right now to have a U.S. president and a pope, but that sort of special friendship.
Mary AnnSure. I think that's very likely. And, you know, one thing that we haven't talked about much yet or at all really are the big changes that are coming in the Holy See, because there are will be a conclave for one of these days. And here's what we haven't mentioned, what is going to loom large in that conclave. I don't hear the press on to this yet, except for the pillar, which is a wonderful magazine.
But the fact is that the Holy See is in dire financial straits, and that is going to loom over the discussions in the conclave. And it is also going to affect it's going to be one of the principal challenges to any new pope. The the financial situation in the Holy See is this, that donations are down, income from other sources is down.
And there is a huge deficit of about €77 million and no feasible no no plan in sight for remedying that deficit. So I think the new pope and I think what the conclave is going to be looking for is somebody who is going to be much more focused on internal affairs. I think they're going to realize that, you know, they say the church was my parent, my very strong mother and teacher.
This time they not only need the magistrate and they need somebody who is going to take care of the household. No, no, go ahead.
Speaker 4Ask you know, are they going to call you back to Rome, Marion, to help? Are they're going to call you back into service, you think, to help them?
Mary AnnI don't well, I don't know, I, I spent I you might say I gave you this. I spent 23 years and right now I am very focused on international human rights. And I think that's and I've got great grandchildren. You know, I have a lot of other things to be thinking about then then church service. So I think my priorities are going to be elsewhere.
AshleyIn one of your or your most recent capacity, you you helped to oversee the attempted reform of the of the Vatican Bank. And I guess what is your sort of postmortem on that? And and and what is your message to Catholics who I think are a little bit scandal weary? Can we ever pull ourselves out of this? And if so, how?
Mary AnnWell, I'm glad you asked that question, because I've given a lot of thought. And the last services that I did through the Holy See were with the reform of financial institutions. And I came to understand things which caused me to change my mind about many features of the government of the Holy See. There has been some progress in the sense that thanks to Cardinal Pell and others, there is now a central administration of finances and the Holy See.
Imagine that what we had in the past was such an outdated system. Each department had no oversight, no central oversight. That was a recipe for scandal and disaster. So centralization is about a positive feature. The Holy See has now been brought into compliance with international standards on anti terrorism and anti money laundering. But there is there are aspects of the internal culture.
Let me just name one. How many priests have the training and experience to equip them to run the finances of a sovereign state? And if they just don't and they're also not very good at picking laypeople to do it for them. Most of the problems have come from laypeople who are boxes in the chicken coop. So the conclusion I have come to is that many or most of the financial operations of the Holy See would best be outsourced to responsible, reliable, outside more than one, you know, take do it.
Notre Dame does go to seven or eight. And at the end of the fiscal year, the one who performed worse gets fired. That keeps everybody else on their toes. The Holy See would be much, much better with a system like that than with continuing to run its own finances. I come to that very reluctantly because I started out thinking it's a sovereign entity, and the sovereign entity should have its own central bank, but it's just not working.
GrazieWhen Pope Francis began his pontificate that the I think we all thought that that was going to be that these kinds of reforms are going to to happen. And there was there were going to be big changes. And as you say, it hasn't it hasn't happened. Why do you think that it will in the next pontificate just simply because something that can't go on will stop?
Mary AnnWell, first of all, there has been some progress. But what Pope Francis's reforms came up against was what Paul, the six had encountered when he tried a similar thing in 1967. And he said very sadly, after trying to reform Vatican finances, he said, you can change rules and you can change phases, but it's not to do any good if you don't change hearts.
And so I think that the next conclave, conclave is going to make that a priority. I expect the next pope will realize that the basic problem in the financial area is a problem with an internal culture that is partly medieval. It's partly incompetence in many ways. there's certain certain attitude that's very prevalent in Italian legal circles where I have a certain wealth of conversation that, well, a good rule is one that has many exceptions to the rule of law and isn't taken quite as seriously as it is in some other place.
And so I do think that's going to be a discussion in the conclave and it will affect the outcome.
GrazieNow, the four of us are Americans and Catholics. There has been, sadly, under Pope Francis, I think, a lot of distance between American Catholics and the Vatican growing with each year of his pontificate. And that's how I sense it. I mean, I be happy to take a contradiction from you, but do you think in the next after the next conclave that that might that might be something that could be ameliorated or should be ameliorated?
Mary AnnI think that can be, yeah. Rather, I don't want to use the word easily, but I'm hopeful about that because we are, after all, a universal church and it for a long time, many of us have thought of the universal church, mainly in terms of Western traditions, and we needed to be reminded as John Paul. The second did remind us when he had the Synod for America and he made in, say, America, referring to the North and South.
I think some of us needed to be reminded that over a billion Catholics, there's a lot of people of many different cultures that was good and I think maybe that there was a party process that maybe turned a little bit against or included a bit of Rousseau de about the wealthier and and the more Western and westernized. And I think, you know, just as the balance was once a little bit too much in favor of where Western ideas, some of which have been really bad, I think it also maybe is tipped a little bit against Western ideas, forgetting that we have this rich inheritance of Roman law and biblical religion and enlightenment philosophy, as Benedict
was always careful to remind us. So I think all is all of those things. It's a constant challenge for the church.
GrazieWell, but that's but that's how.
Mary AnnThe whole thing I loved when I was a child, I loved the Latin Mass because it meant that in my little town in Massachusetts, I was hearing the same words and seeing the same gestures as Catholics all over the world in places that I dreamed about. And I think it would be nice. Don't I don't see that we're ever going to return to a universal Latin mass, although I wouldn't bite my tongue, I realistically, I think it'd be nice to get back to this wonderful thing that we every single one of us, here comes everybody hasn't come.
GrazieWell, those are hopeful words to end on. Thank you so much, Professor Mary Ann Glendon. Your new book is In the Courts of Three Popes. An American lawyer and Diplomat in the Last Monarchy of the West. It's a fabulous book, and I hope all our listeners will pick up a copy and learn from your fast and beautiful experience serving the church in so many capacities.
And our country, of course, and the United States as ambassador.
Mary AnnThank you and thank all of you for your great questions.
GrazieNext up, we are joined by Jeannie Smith. She's the daughter of the heroine highlighted in a new film opening in theaters April 15th and April 16th. And the film is called Rubina's Vow. I was able to watch it with the screener link just last night. And I have to tell you, I kept waking up thinking about what I just seen.
It moved me tremendously. It's it's the story of a young Polish woman, very young, a 19 year old woman. This is a true story. And she harbored several Jews. She saved them during the Nazi occupation. Amazing courage of a 19 year old. The movie tells the story of how she hid them in the house of a high Nazi official.
And she was his housekeeper. Well, anyway, the movie's tremendous. And I can't believe that we have Irina's own daughter on the show. Her name is Jeannie Smith. Welcome to the show, Jeannie.
JeannieThank you. It is a pleasure to be here.
GrazieYou know, I knew that last night when I was watching the movie. I knew that I'd be speaking to you. And I kept thinking, I'm amazing to have the daughter of someone so spectacular to talk to. So what's it like to be the daughter of a woman of such heroic virtue?
JeannieBig shoes to fill. You know, I didn't, of course. Growing up, she was just mom. She was always very different than my friend's moms because, you know, she just was always well-dressed and very poised and very hard working. And it just, you know, I'm not one to sit around and gossip or to hang out with other ladies. She she was a hard worker.
She really single handedly, financially took care of our family with grace and and skills. So she just was somebody that she could always count on. Honestly.
GrazieDid she share her stories of her her time during the war with you? She did.
JeannieNot. When she came to America in 1949 and came into Ellis Island, she said at the same time she was looking at the Statue of Liberty. She put a Do not Disturb sign over her memories. She was going to be in this new country and start fresh and leave all that behind. And she pretty much kept to that.
It wasn't until I was 14 and we were having dinner, the three of us, and the phone rang and Mom got up to answer because it was usually a customer for her. She was an interior decorator. But this time it was a college student who was doing a survey for a report in school, and his topic was The Holocaust never happened.
It's just propaganda drummed up by the Jews who we feel sorry for them. And he was literally calling random people to find out what they thought. It shocked her so much that a young person who wasn't even alive during World War Two had somehow been brainwashed to think that it hadn't happened. And all I know is, as I was eating dinner, I heard my mom saying some crazy things and I looked at my dad and said, What is she talking about?
He was the only person in this country who knew her story because he was the one who brought her. It's another story. But he just said she's talking about her past and the young man hung up. At some point. He didn't want to hear what she had to say, but she stood there holding the phone receiver and just like staring into space, saying all these years that I've kept silent, I have allowed evil and I've allowed the enemy to win.
And she said, From now on, I will go anywhere. I will talk to anyone. So that these kinds of things never happen again. And slowly that's exactly what she started to do.
GrazieSo in the movie, we see Irina's vow. We see her actual vow. I imagine this is how it happened in real life. She saw a terrible Nazi official kill a little newborn baby right in front of her and then shoot the mother. She vowed to herself that wherever she could stop death, that that's what she would do. And what the movie makes so, so glaringly obvious, so vivid, is the terrible cruelty of that, the Nazi, the Nazi totalitarian regime.
And that terrible cruelty, their ability to inflict pain on on defenseless people, people who are not aggressing them in any way. This is this is not defensive. This is this is a threat to it is sadistic infliction of pain and suffering. Yes. And how dangerous it was for everybody. You imagine yourself sometimes you say, if I lived in that time, I also would have sheltered a Jew or I would have been heroic.
And then you watch this movie and other movies like this, but this one. So it made it so vivid for me how terrifying that time was for every single person in how to go against the regime to. To even express horror. You know, when a child is being killed in front of you was to lay your own life on the line, to be exposed to this very same sadistic cruelty and to certain death.
Absolutely. How did your mother where do you think your mother found that kind of strength?
JeannieShe had a real strong faith, not so much in an institution or a religion, but in just God generally a connection with women. And I think she honestly believed that if he opened up a path for her to walk in, he would be with her. My mom said had she not done what she did, she would have had no life at all knowing that there was something she could have done and didn't that would have fronted her.
And, you know, in Poland, unlike all the other countries in Europe, when this was going on, it was a death sentence not just for you, but your whole family, your parents, your children. So it was a it was a big thing.
GrazieBut there's one scene and there's one terrible scene in the movie where one of those sadistic Nazi commanders hangs an entire family of Polish Catholics, states that had been harboring Jews. And when I say the whole family, I mean the mother and the little children, the father, the mother and the little children. And this was not an uncommon occurrence during those times in Poland.
There were many good people that hid Jews and otherwise help them and then pay the terrible consequences.
JeannieAnd it was sadistic. Mom, it's not in the movie. But Mom said when that happened, they hung the children first and made the parents watch before they were home. So, you know, the unimaginable cruelty, it just goes beyond it. It goes beyond being human for sure.
GrazieI know that your mother was honored at the Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem and the Holocaust Museum, and I've been there a couple of times. It's very moving. And they have an area for the the righteous, righteous Gentiles who who, who, who helped to save Jews. In a sense, you can put all all of America right and the righteous Gentiles out all the non-Jewish Americans because of the way that we went to the rescue.
Right. And fought World War Two and all that. But it's wonderful that there's a place where when people are individually honored, people like Schindler and your mother. Have you visited? Have you visited Yad Vashem?
JeannieI have. And my granddaughter just went there not too long ago. And she has a picture of my mom has a permanent exhibit kind of etched into a wall. And so what a great picture that was to have her. You know, another generation standing there. So, yes, I have been there. And when we were on Broadway, Tovah Feldshuh, who played my mom, took my husband and I there to see it.
GrazieWhat was it? What's it like watching for you? What's it like watching the movie? What does it what does it inspire in you?
JeannieWell, it's surreal. You know, since my mom's passing, I've been telling her story several sometimes hundred times a year. So it's a story now that so immersed in my mind, but able to see it played out and to see Sophie, the young woman who plays my mom, who had just imagined my mom looking like that at that age, you know, she was 40 when I was born, so I didn't know her as a teenager early 20.
But it's just amazing. And I've seen quite a few of the previews. I've gone across the country with the movie, and I always get the option of sitting in the green room while the movie's coming out and coming out at the end. And it's like, absolutely not. You know, I have an opportunity again to see a man that I lost, you know, 22, three years ago, and I'm not going to miss it.
So, you know what?
GrazieWhat do you what do you hope that the story inspires and what yours?
JeannieI have that really clear. And it was my mom's hope, too, that people will lead, realizing that regardless of their age, regardless whether they have a family, to back them or money or anything, that every day we have an opportunity to make a difference in someone's life. You know, I get all the time my mom people say, you know, your mom was a hero.
She did not like that. Because if you put a label on somebody that they're a hero or they're something special, they're a saint. You know, it gives us all an excuse to go, they could do it because they're a hero, but I'm just an average person. And the truth is, we all have that potential every single day, you know, And it doesn't have to be in these big, big ways sometimes the smallest move.
I've had kids in high schools tell me that they were so desperate and so lonely that they had planned on taking their life over the weekend. And that Friday leaving school, someone smiled at them or someone sat with the method at the lunch table. There was somebody who noticed them and that was all it took for them to not do that, you know, And so help me in my mind is desire is for people to realize that every day we have multiple ways, tiny, small ways to make a difference, you know, and to look for those.
It's it's crucial.
GrazieWatching watching a movie like this, like Irene as well. And I think most people who watch it start to question how would they react in this in this circumstance? And it and it might be and it might be very valuable not to say to ourselves, well, am I preparing my heart and my will and my character to do them to do the right thing when the right thing is called from me?
JeannieYes, absolutely.
GrazieHow did your mother.
JeannieOften think go ahead.
GrazieHow did how do you think your mother's character and will was prepared? I mean, she was 19, so she'd had only 19 years to start out to build that sterling character and that nobility that she had on board.
JeannieWell, two things that her family was very much oriented in the community. It was known if people were traveling their house at along a thoroughfare, main thoroughfare. And so people were traveling and it was mealtime. It was everyone was welcome to come in and find extra food or stay overnight in their barn. They had a room set up for families if they needed a place to sleep.
So she grew up with that mindset that people are important and that, you know, helping people, being part of people's lives, being open, you know, is very important. And they also took in wounded animals and healed them. And so the value of life was put into her at a very early, early age. And, you know, so that I think in that in her faith, you know, she honestly believed that if God opened a door for her, he would see her through.
He would be with her whether she died or not. The ultimate would be that he would see her through.
GrazieSo she had real integrity, real unity of life.
JeannieShe did. Absolutely. Yeah.
GrazieAnd then after the war, your mother met your father, I think, in a displaced persons camp. Perhaps I have that right. And they came to the United States. Was she able to able to to reunite or even find out what happened to the two, the group of people that she helped?
JeannieNot for a very long time. When my mom came to America, she was a wanted person, both with the Germans and the Russians, the Soviets. So she had very limited ability to find out about her sisters or anybody. So it it wasn't until, first of all, finding her sisters, which was an amazing story. I don't know how much time we have, but a random couple went to Poland and actually a miracle found one of the sisters and gave the sister my mom's address.
And my mom was reunited after 40 years. 40 years, not yet without knowing that they were even alive. So that was incredible. And then Roman Hollywood got a hold of her when his son was about ready to be bar mitzvahed so that she could go to Israel and be a part of that ceremony. And that was an honor for her.
And when she was there, she was able to meet his parents, Ida and Lazar Haller and Hare Schultz and his wife and daughter. So she got to meet them. And then later on, on a television show, she was introduced to Volker Zilberman, who is one of the young women in that that she sheltered in the Majors films. So, yeah, So she did get to meet some of them.
And then when we were on Broadway with the play, we had grandchildren and family members of the other Jews that she said that had grown up hearing about the story. And they came to Manhattan to see the play and let us know who they were. So pretty incredible to see the generations that have gone on because of all this.
GrazieEspecially with that backdrop of 6 million dead, right, Like the backdrop of how these were these were little these were like people picked up like tweezers right out of a out of a pile of sand that they were actually able to to to survive the atrocities. What did you think when when Hamas invaded Israel? I married my husband was a Jew.
Now he's he's a Catholic, He's a convert. But Judaism is very close in our family. And as Catholics of course, there are older brothers and we feel very close to them. I'm very united.
Jeannieit break my heart, honestly. You know, I love Israel as a Christian. You know, they are root the Jews. The Jewish faith is our root and we promise them never again. And so, you know, I it it breaks my heart. I have a lot of Jewish friends that have people that they know that still have not been returned.
They don't know whether they're alive or dead. And it's heartbreaking. You know, and Dan Gordon is an IDF soldier, actually. And so he has so much intel about what's happening.
GrazieHe's the writer, Dan Gordon. I'll tell our listeners. He's the writer. He wrote also Wyatt Earp, passenger 57, and the Hurricane, those films, he's he's amazing. He's an amazing man.
JeannieHe is very articulate, very articulate.
GrazieAnd, you know, the the pace of the movie, the writing of the movie is is wonderful, too, because, again, I don't want to give too much away. But there's there are these scenes there. This group of Jews is living in a house with a high Nazi official German sage.
GrazieAnd he's having parties at night full of Nazi officials and their wives. I mean, it's and they're and they're helping the Jews are helping prepare the food so that your mother can run up and down the steps and bring the food. Right.
JeannieSo they don't bring in German help. And she couldn't afford that. And they couldn't even cough or sneeze during these times. They had to be so quiet during all these. There's so many last minute almost. If you read her book, there's so much more. And so, you know, it's an incredible, incredible time.
GrazieWell, I'm so glad that you took the time to be with us today, Jenny. Absolutely. And I'm so I'm so proud for you. I'm so proud that that that Iryna was your mother and that she that she sets an example of bravery and nobility and and just the highest kind of character and generosity right in the face of horrible danger and laying her own life on the line.
GrazieBecause we know that many people who helped and harbored Jews paid the ultimate price, like, as you say, of watching their own children die because of that decision. So the movie is Irina's role. It opens are all over in theaters April 15th and April 16th. I highly recommend it. And I think our our listeners will be, if they go and watch it, which I hope they will, will be there, too, will be very uplifted by the story of human courage.
JeannieThank you.
GrazieAnd now, Father Roger Landry offers a short and inspiring homily for this Sunday's gospel.
Fr. LandryThis is Father Roger Landry and is a joy for me to be with you as we enter into the consequential conversation. The reason why Jesus wants to have with each of us as we look forward to the third Sunday of Easter. If ever there were a day for a party, it was the day Jesus rose from the dead.
It was the happiest day in all of human history. Made more jubilant by ending the terrible despair and dejection of the disciples over the previous two days. And once the immense shock of seeing Jesus risen from the dead, walk through the closed doors of the upper room to greet them had worn off. Saint Luke tells us that the disciples were incredulous for joy and amazed, but they didn't run out for gallons of wine or ask Jesus to convert water into champagne.
Cheese didn't call for cakes and fruit and other Middle Eastern celebratory fare. Instead, in the midst of the joy of his resurrection, Jesus turned the upper room into a vocational training school and begin to finish the training of the disciples and apostles to complete his saving mission. There was a certain urgency involved in this that Jesus didn't want to put off until later.
The fields were white and ready for the harvest. And Jesus wanted the apostles and the disciples with them to get ready to go out to take in that harvest. He wants his conversation with us in this Sunday's Gospel to be as formative and as consequential. There were three steps to Jesus finalizing the apostles and our preparation so that they and we might become His witnesses to all nations.
First, Jesus allowed himself to be seen and counted and embraced. The apostles were troubled. And Jesus came to give them His piece. Jesus wants to have a similar encounter with us in prayer so that He may give us his peace. Jesus showed them his body and invited them to touch him. This is to communicate that he wasn't a ghost, he wasn't imaginary.
He was real. This points to the need for us to recognize that Jesus presence with us isn't Fantasma either, but real. He's not a ghost. He's got real flesh and blood. We can see him. We can touch him. And not just on the outside, but on the inside. This obviously points to the importance of the Eucharist. She's meant to amaze us and make us like the first apostles.
Incredulous for sheer joy, this truth that seems too good to be true actually is true. God is with us in His risen body and blood. And He comes to give himself to us. And he apostle today needs to live a Eucharistic life to be amazed at God's gift of himself to such a degree that that joy overflows to others.
The Eucharist, I repeat, isn't a ghost. Is it an imaginary presence? Is it a thing but the same Jesus who appeared to his first followers in the upper room? He just looks different under sacramental form. This is something that the ongoing Eucharistic revival in the United States is meant to help us to grasp and to respond with faith, gratitude, amazement and love.
The second stage in the finalizing of their vocational training is that Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, just like he had done a couple of hours before with the disciples on the road to a mass whose hearts he had made burn as he interpreted to them the things about himself in the Scriptures. So Jesus filled His apostles with similar fire, showing them to how everything foretold about him in the Scriptures had been accomplished.
He was the fulfillment of the innocent Abel killed by his brother Cain of Isaac, who carried the word of the sacrifice on his shoulder to be sacrificed on Mount Moriah of Joseph's being betrayed by his brothers of the Passover lamb, who needed to be slain and eaten for the Jews to be set free of the suffering servant whom Isaiah prophesied would be wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities of the just man beset by the envy of others.
In the book of wisdom, of all the prophecies of the trades and sufferings of the Messiah in the Psalms and more as Moses, the Prophets. St Luke's Gospel summarizes, Jesus helped them to see how everything written about me in the law and the prophets in the salt must be fulfilled, especially that the Messiah was to suffer and rise from the dead in the third day.
Likewise, for us, we need to allow Jesus to open our minds, to understand the Scriptures, to see how every part of Scripture is revealed in Him. We have to show up for the Master's Masterclass in the Liturgy. The word at Mass in prayerful meditation lecture to on sacred Scripture in Bible studies at our parishes, or, for example, with Father Mike Schmidt's Bible and your podcast, which has helped so many.
Saint Jerome said that ignorance in Scripture is ignorance of Christ. And the corollary is that the better we know sacred Scripture, the better we will be able to know Jesus Christ and the better we will know not only how to understand His sufferings but our own in him. The final step in their post Resurrection vocational finishing school was to be commissioned by Jesus as His witnesses.
He told them, You are witnesses of these things. Witnesses of all that had happened to him as life, death and resurrection. Witnesses to repentance and the forgiveness of sins because they themselves had been reconciled through the mercy they were commissioned to proclaim. Jesus likewise calls each of us to be witnesses of his life, of the metamorphosis his life has had in ours, of the reality that he is alive.
As Pope Francis loves to say, living at our side every day to strengthen and free us. So the three step path begins with our encountering Jesus, something that can't be taken for granted. There are many Catholics who keep the Ten Commandments who are engaged in good charitable works, but really only know about Jesus rather than know him personally.
They say their prayers rather than enter into true, prayerful dialog with the risen Lord. They go to confession and forensically audit their soul, but they do so as if they were engaging in a good spiritual exercise rather than meeting the Lord Jesus. Heart of Mercy died to take their sins away. They come to mass as if they were attending a commemoration or a sacred ceremony, rather than truly meeting Jesus Christ.
The same Jesus who was wrapped in swaddling clothes walked the dusty streets of Palestine and hurdled the waves of the Galilee and Sea. As the university chaplain, I interact with many young people who perhaps lived by the good Catholic values and habits they've inherited from their parents, grandparents and godparents, but who haven't yet made those values personal. Many of them, despite years of practice of the faith, begin to drift away because despite all the prayer, mass confessions, service opportunities and more, the light bulb never went off that in all of these activities they were really meeting the real Jesus.
We and they need a real encounter. And that's what we witness to when Jesus sends us out. But to become a witness, we need to do more than merely encounter Jesus. There are many people in Jesus time who met him, heard his words, could even repeat them, but who chose not to follow him or to help bring others to encounter and follow him too.
We were all called to be Jesus witnesses, not as Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston likes to say, members of a witness protection program. Jesus meets us not only to change our lives, but to make us his instrument, to change others lives in the same radical way. Once Android met Jesus, he went brought his brother Simon to meet him.
Jesus changed Simon's name to Peter and promised to build his church on him. Once the Samaritan woman met Jesus at the well. She ran to her townspeople, encouraged all of them to come to meet Jesus too, and discover that he was indeed the savior of the world. Once various people had been cured by Jesus, they couldn't help but spread the word of Jesus to others.
Even when he asked them to tell no one, they couldn't help from sharing what Jesus had done for them. If we have really encountered Jesus, we can't help but share him either. Everyone we meet should be able to spot in us someone who has encountered the Lord Jesus, who remembers Him in his words, who's had his life totally changed by Jesus and recognizes that the greatest gift we could ever give someone else is the gift of the Lord.
As Christians, we always witness to what we believe, whether we want to or not. The disciple who really believes in the risen Lord Jesus is meant to become a compelling witness to Christ in His resurrection and to His unbelievable gift of salvation, his teaching, his love, his presence, his mystical body. The Church. This Easter season, Jesus wants to raise us all from the dead with Him to help us to experience the power of his resurrection so that we will no longer be troubled with questions arising in our heart, but instead incredulous for joy and amazed.
So on Easter Sunday evening, Jesus didn't throw a big party, but instead formed us for the urgent task of going out and inviting everyone to a banquet. God is indeed planning such a celebration of His resurrection, a feast that will know no end in heaven. We hopes we and others will fully share in the triumph of his risen life.
He's sending us out into the world to extend to others that invitation and to strengthen us for that mission and to prepare us all for that banquet. He comes to meet us this Sunday in the upper room where Jesus Weekly, even daily encounters us, gives us his peace, opens our minds to understand the scriptures, feeds us with his very body and blood, and sends us out, changed to help him change the world.
We are indeed witnesses of all these things. God bless you.
GrazieWith that, I leave you and thank you again for being our listeners and we continue to pray for you on this.