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SERMON DELIVERED BY BISHOP CLEMENS AUGUST COUNT OF GALEN ON JULY 20, 1941

[The following is from the book, Cardinal von Galen, by Rev. Heinrich Portmann, translated by R.L. Sedgwick, 1957, pp. 235-239.]

The Second Sermon, preached on Sunday, July 20th, 1941, in the Überwasserkirche, Münster. The Bishop returns to his charge against the Gestapo.

In the first part of this sermon the Bishop gives in detail the names of further Church property to be taken over by the Gestapo since his sermon a week before, and he again speaks of the ‘attacks of our enemies within this country’. After speaking of the plight of the exiled inmates of these institutions he continues:

On Monday, July 14th, I called on the Provincial Vice President and demanded that the liberty and property of innocent Germans might be protected. He explained that the Gestapo is an independent organization and that he could do nothing. However, he promised to forward my complaints and petitions to the Gauleiter, Dr. Meyer. There was no result. On the same day I wired to the Führer's Chancellery in Berlin to this effect:

‘After enemy attempts since July 6th to destroy Münster by aerial bombardment, the Gestapo began on July 12th to seize the monasteries and institutions of religious orders in the city and environs of Münster and to expropriate them and their furniture. The inmates, guiltless men and women, members of respectable German families whose relatives are now fighting in the armed forces for the Fatherland, are being deprived of their homes and property, turned into the streets and banished from their home province. I implore the Führer and Reich Chancellor, in the name of justice and in the interests of the solidarity of the home front, to protect the freedom and property of German citizens against the arbitrary measures of the Gestapo and against their sequestration on behalf of the Gauleitung.’

I despatched similar telegrams to Reich Marshal Göring, to the Minister of Home Affairs, and finally to the High Command of the Army as well.

It was my hope that if no consideration of justice, then at least a realization of the bad effect on the home front would in war-time have some influence with the powers that be in halting such deeds against our kinsfolk. I did not imagine they would refuse chivalrous protection to innocent German women. My protests availed nothing: the actions continued. What I had long anticipated and indeed prophesied has now come about. We are now contemplating the ruins of inner national unity, which during these last few days has been foully overthrown.

I pointed out with considerable emphasis to the recipients of the telegrams that these outrages can only spring from a deep-rooted hatred of the Christian religion and the Catholic Church and that suchlike chicanery but serves to sabotage national unity. How can we feel one with men who hound our religious brothers and sisters from the country like outlaws without cause, defence or trial? We can't! I have nothing in common, neither in thought nor sentiment, with these men and all others responsible for these actions. I do not hate them but I wish from the bottom of my heart that they may acknowledge their sins and repent. We must therefore pray for all those who persecute and denigrate us in obedience to Our Blessed Lord's mandate. But as long as they continue to act as they are now doing I withhold any kind of fellowship. . . .

It is true we Christians must not start revolutions. We must continue to do our duty conscientiously in obedience to the Divine Will and out of love for our people and country. Our soldiers will continue to fight and die for their Fatherland but not for those men who, by their hateful deeds against our beloved Religious, break our hearts and bring down shame on the German name before God and man. We shall continue our fight against the external enemy, but we cannot fight with weapons against the enemy within our own gates, who strikes and tortures us. The only way we can hit back is by strong, prolonged and stubborn endurance. Steel yourselves and hold fast! We can perceive clearly enough what lies behind the new credenda which they have imposed upon us for some years now, how they have forbidden religious teaching from our schools, suppressed our societies and are now intending to ban the Catholic kindergartens. Their motive springs from a deep-rooted hatred of Christianity which they intend to deracinate.

I repeat, steel yourselves and hold fast! At this moment we are not the hammer, but the anvil. Others, chiefly intruders and apostates, hammer at us; they are striving violently to wrench us, our nation and our youth from our belief in God. We are the anvil, I say, and not the hammer, but what happens in the forge? Go and ask the blacksmith and see what he says. Whatever is beaten out on the anvil receives its shape from the anvil as well as the hammer. The anvil cannot and need not strike back. It need only be hard and firm. If it is tough enough it invariably outlives the hammer. No matter how vehemently the hammer falls; the anvil remains standing in quiet strength, and for a long time will play its part in helping to shape what is being moulded.

And so it is with the wrongly imprisoned, the blameless who have been driven out, and the exiled. God will strengthen them so that they lose not the shape and bearing of Christian fortitude when the hammer of persecution strikes them sore blows and inflicts upon them unmerited wounds. It is our monks and nuns, our brethren, who are being tried in the fire now. The day before yesterday I paid a visit to some of those so proscribed in their temporary refuge and to converse with them. The brave attitude of these good people both edified and inspired me, roughly and ruthlessly driven as they have been from the conventual roof, and deprived of the Eucharistic Presence in the Tabernacle. Upright in bearing, knowing that they are innocent of any crime, they tread the way of exiles trusting in Him who feeds the birds of the air and clothes the lilies of the field. They rejoice with that joy which Our Blessed Lord commends to His disciples: ‘Blessed are those who suffer persecution in the cause of right, the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Blessed are you, when men revile you, and persecute you, and speak all manner of evil against you falsely, because of Me. Be glad and light-hearted, for a rich reward awaits you in heaven!'

These men and women are nothing less than paragons of the Divine Forge. Our youth is now being pressed between hammer and anvil—a youth still growing up but not yet adult, still malleable. We cannot save them from the hammer blows of scepticism, of hatred of Christianity, of false doctrines and morals. What sort of instruction is forced upon them at their clubs and youth organizations which, we are informed, they have joined voluntarily and with the parental permission? What sort of books do they read? Christian parents! Do but examine these books, especially the history texts used in the secondary schools. You will be appalled at the disregard for historical truth, at the attempt to inculcate simple children with distrust for Christianity and the Church and indeed with hatred of the teaching of Christ. In the privileged State schools, that is the Hitler schools, the new training colleges for future teachers, all Christian influence—in fact every kind of religious activity—is disallowed on principle. And what of our children last spring who were evacuated to distant parts to escape the air raids? What are they being taught about their holy religion? Can they even practise it? Christian parents! You must look to these things, otherwise you are neglecting your religious duties and you will not be able to satisfy the exigencies of your own conscience and of Him Who entrusted you with children that you might set them on the path to Heaven.

We are the anvil, not the hammer. . . . Make your home, make your love and loyalty as parents, make your exemplary Christian life the stalwart, hard, fast and unyielding anvil that will support the pressure of the hostile blows and tempers the strength still frail into a weapon of God's will, at no time departing from His service.

Nearly every one of you is being forged at this time . . . we are the anvil for all the blows that beat down upon us. We must persevere in loyal service to our nation but we must always be prepared to show courage and sacrifice when it comes to obeying God before man. God communicates with us through conscience that is moulded by faith and you must always courageously obey that inner voice. Remember the example of the Prussian Minister of justice in bygone days. Frederick the Great ordered him to annul a lawful verdict of the courts to gratify the King's whim, but the minister returned this splendid answer: ‘My head is at your Majesty's disposal, but not my conscience. I am ready to die for the King and will obey him even unto death, my life is his but my conscience belongs to God.’ Are suchlike chivalrous men extinct? Do Prussian servants of this same metal no longer exist? Are burghers and peasants, craftsmen and labourers no longer possessed of the same outlook and nobility of thought? That I cannot and will not believe. And so I say again: ‘Harden yourselves and yield not an inch. Stand firm like the anvil. Obedience to God and conscience may well cost us life, liberty and home; but let us die rather than commit sin. May God's grace, without which we can do nothing, grant us and sustain in us this adamant resolution.

My dear Catholics of Münster! After the ambulatory of the cathedral had been pierced by a bomb during the night of July 7th, another which struck the outer wall on the following night destroyed the fountain of St. Ludger, the memorial to the late Bishop Johann Bernhard's return from exile in 1844. The effigies of the two bishops Suitger and Erpho on both sides of the memorial are badly damaged; but the stone figure of the first bishop of Münster was left untouched. He raises his right hand in benediction, pointing heavenwards, as though, by means of this almost miraculous preservation of the statue, he wished to urge us, come what may, to hold steadfast to the Catholic Faith, revealed by God and committed to us by our forefathers. Amidst all this annihilation of human works, amidst the storm and stress I exhort you in the words spoken to the persecuted Christians by the first Supreme Pontiff: ‘Bow down, then, before the strong hand of God; He will raise you up, when His time comes to deliver you. Throw back on Him the burden of all your anxiety; He is concerned for you. Be sober, and watch well; the devil, who is your enemy, goes about roaring like a lion, to find his prey, but you, grounded in the faith, must face him boldly; you know well enough that the brotherhood you belong to pays, all the world over, the same tribute of suffering. And God, the giver of all grace, who has called us to enjoy, after a little suffering, His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself give you mastery, and steadiness, and strength. To Him be glory and power through endless ages, Amen.’

Let us pray for our relatives and for our religious Orders, for the innocent who are suffering, for all in trouble, for our soldiers, for Münster and its inhabitants, for our nation and Fatherland and for its leader. Amen. (Here the vast congregation shouted, ‘And for our beloved Bishop!’)

Sermon of Bishop Clemens von Galen (July 13, 1941) against the Gestapo

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