Monday, November 28, 2011

The Advent Saint

Alfred Delp, S.J.

Fr. Delp was a German priest and an important figure in the Resistance movement against Nazism.  Born in 1907 in Mannheim, Delp was ordained to the priesthood thirty years later in 1937.  In 1944 he was arrested and accused of conspiring against the Nazi regime.  Fr. Delp was tortured and  imprisoned, and finally executed in February of 1945.  While in prison Fr. Delp made his final vows as a Jesuit on December 8, 1944.  His sermons and meditations on Advent are striking and quite relevant to our own times of unrest and uncertainty.  
The One Who Cries in the Wilderness.  
Woe to an age when the voices of those who cry in the wilderness have fallen silent, outshouted by the noise of the day or outlawed or swallowed up in the intoxication of progress, or growing smothered and fainter for fear and cowardice. The devastation will soon be so terrifying and universal that the word "wilderness" will again strike our hearts and minds. I think we know that.

But still there are no crying voices to raise their plaint and accusation. Not for an hour can life dispense with these John-the-Baptist characters, these original individuals, struck by the lightning of mission and vocation. Their heart goes before them, and that is why their eye is so clear-sighted, their judgment so incorruptible. They do not cry for the sake of crying or for the sake of the voice. Or because they begrudge earth's pleasant hours, exiled as they themselves are from the small warm companionships of the foreground. Theirs is the great comfort known only to those who have paced out the inmost and furthermost boundaries of existence.

They cry for blessing and salvation. They summon us to our last chance, while already they feel the ground quaking and the rafters creaking and see the firmest of mountains tottering inwardly and see the very stars in heaven hanging in peril. They summon us to the opportunity of warding off, by the greater power of a converted heart, the shifting desert that will pounce upon us and bury us.

O Lord, today we know once more, and in quite practical terms, what it means to clear away the rubble and make paths smooth again. We will have to know it and do it for years to come. Let the crying voices ring out, pointing out the wilderness and overcoming the devastation from within. May the Advent figure of John, the relentless envoy and prophet in God's name, be no stranger in our wilderness of ruins. For how shall we hear unless someone cries out above the tumult and destruction and delusion? - Alfred Delp


  1. I never heard of Alfred Delp before, but after reading him in your post, I know I'll be searching him out. Is there anything on the web that you would particularly recommend?

    And while I realize that Delp references John the Baptist here, what came to my mind was hobbits: "they begrudge earth's pleasant hours, exiled . . . from the small warm companionships," bravely plodding on against seemingly insurmountable odds to face down evil.

    Those of us "growing smothered and fainter for fear and cowardice" feel small like hobbits. I for one would love to live a cozy little life. But that just doesn't seem to be what God has in mind for any us. We could stand to take a clue from Tolkien, and be hobbits until we gain enough moxie to be prophets.

  2. Thanks Ronnie! Just Google him and some sights will pop up - otherwise I just linked to the Wiki bio with his name.

  3. <>

    As for prophets...

    • “They will not leave one stone standing on another within you – and all because you did not recognise the opportunity when God offered it.” Luke 19 : 44

    • Bethlehem lacked an Elizabeth. It lacked a prophet – someone to recognise who it was who was seeking shelter, and so Jesus was born in a stable. It is horrendous to live in a parish where there is no prophet. It is terrible to live in a diocese or a home where there is no prophet. When the light is extinguished, one does not see because of the darkness. The Rosary is the lantern. Each Hail Mary is a new drop of oil that flows and fills our lantern and our lives. (Fr Jozo Zovko OFM)

  4. Thanks, Terry: Definately Wiki . . . a standby whenever I need info. (Have you noticed that they have a huge banner lately that leads to a personal appeal for funds to support the-most-important-project-that-has-ever-existed-in-time-or-space-for-the-benefit-of-humanity? Who needs a lil' ol' button when you can splash a banner across a third of the screen!)

    Pilgrim: "Bethlehem lacked an Elizabeth." All righty then . . . you just added a WHOLE new dimension to meditating on the Joyful Mysteries for Advent. I am astonished at direction this new train of thought is already leading.

  5. Thank you very much, Terry, for sharing this. It is even more poignant on the heels of Cardinal Burke's prophecy of coming persecution.

  6. Ronnie... in a similar vein...

    If you meet the Virgin on the road, invite her into your house. She bears the Word of God.
    (St John of the Cross)

  7. Daniel - you are welcome - I will have to post on Burke's statement.

  8. Just at the beginning of my web expedition on Alfred Delp (and yes, Wikipedia was my first stop).

    From Wiki: "In half an hour, I'll know more than you do."--Last words of Alfred Delp

    I would say he was a prophetic pundit, but his words were not to an audience--they were a little aside spoken in jest to the prison chaplain who went with him to his execution. Reminds me of Saint Lawrence quipping to his roasters that he needed turning because he was done on one side.


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