Delivered in Budapest, on the 17th of September, 2006, prior to the Mass of beatifiaction
Quotations are taken from the diary and other writings of Sister Sára unless otherwise indicated.
Our life is the life of Christ,
Our life is the love of God the Father,
Our life is the Spirit of the Church,
Our life, our life is Christ. Our life is Christ, alleluia,
Our life is hidden in Him,
Our life is Christ, alleluia,
Our life is Christ.
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them saying: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Praised be Jesus Christ!
It is with honour and joy that we greet everyone who is celebrating with us today the beatification of a Hungarian religious woman, Sára Salkaházi. By the mercy of God, she reached the fullness of love during the short 45 years of her life, and martyrdom as the peak of her life in 1944. Now she can see the living God! She is blessed, because the Kingdom of Heaven is hers. She left the light and the example of her life with us, her contemporaries, bearing witness that here and now, in modern times, it is possible to live a holy life. It has been nearly a thousand years since the last beatification event in Hungarian territory was celebrated. Today we can be united in a special way not only with the universal Church, but also with the history of our nation, and to the community of Hungarian saints beginning with those of the house of Árpád.
During this hour we have before the Mass, we will be commemorating Sára Salkaházi. We will awaken memories of her life consecrated to the love of God and human beings. In doing so, we will use for resources the Bible; parts of her personal diary that was preserved; quotations from Margaret Slachta, the foundress of the Sisters of Social Service, and other documents of the Church. Let us pray, let us celebrate and prepare ourselves together.
This is a feast of the Church, a feast of God and a feast-day for us all! It is the feast of the fulfilment of the Beatitudes.
Our life is Christ, alleluia,
Our life is hidden in Him,
Our life is Christ, alleluia, Our life is Christ.
II. UP TO ENTRANCE
"Consecrated Life - deeply rooted in the example and teaching of Christ the Lord -, is a gift of God the Father to his Church through the Holy Spirit. By the profession of the evangelical counsels the characteristic features of Jesus - the chaste, poor and obedient one - are made constantly "visible" in the midst of the world and the eyes of the faithful are directed towards the mystery of the Kingdom of God already at work in history, even as it awaits its full realization in heaven.
In every age there have been men and women who, obedient to the Father's call and to the prompting of the Spirit, have chosen this special way of following Christ, in order to devote themselves to him with an "undivided" heart. Like the Apostles, they too have left everything behind in order to be with Christ and to put themselves, as he did, at the service of God and their brothers and sisters."
/John Paul II: Vita Consecrata 1§/
When Israel was a child I loved him,...
I drew them with human cords, with bands of love;
I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks; ...
I stooped to feed my child.
/Hos 11. 1. 4./
My grandfather, a last century citizen of Kosice, and originally a settler here built a hotel! Next to it however, he built a hall that has been a home for art ever since that time. It is not brilliant balls or big banquets that are important in the life of this dance hall, but nights of art and concerts... This building too, has become a church, a church of art where artists pay homage to their Muses - and the audience to their artist!
When I was a teacher, I was teaching little boys from a gypsy settlement in the second grade of the elementary school. During a break, one of them, a ragged and shabby-looking little boy produced a long stocking. From it, he poured out a great number of buttons to the floor. The others surrounded him admiring his treasures. I went there too, to admire the little shoddy, worthless buttons, which for him were more valuable than anything else. When I returned to the teacher's desk, he came up to me saying with proud joy. "I want to give these two buttons to the little Miss"; and he stretched out his dirty little palm towards me with two buttons. Another boy could not help crying out: "But Gyuri, these are your two smartest buttons!"
I have kept this episode as one of the most beautiful memories of my life! Little Gyuri Kovály gave me his two smartest and most valuable buttons as a gift!...
III. Entrance into community.
Be blessed, oh my Lord, be blessed,
Be blessed, oh my Lord, be blessed,
May the earth bless you and may heaven bless you,
Be blessed, oh my Lord, be blessed.
In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, Then I said, "Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!" Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember... He touched my mouth with it. "See," he said, "now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged."
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?" "Here I am," I said; "send me!"
/Is 6. 1. 5-8/
"You accompany someone you know to some kind of a meeting without having any specific purpose, only out of friendship. You do not intend to sit there until the meeting ends, because you have something else on your schedule. Still, when the two of you arrive, you find yourself sitting down even though you don't know what is going on. You can see a lot of young girls around you. You realize that you have become part of some movement. But you do not have time to find this out, because immediately one of the girls comes up to the front and begins to speak. You are not aware of what is happening to you. Under similar circumstances, you are usually quite conscious and observing. You have the habit of listening to what is being said. But now only snatches of the conversation reach you: "social issues...social responsibility... social work movements... public opinion has to be formed, ... we need to influence the population... we have to fight for human rights and for the modification of laws... there should be less people in need of nursing, less people who have morally lost their way, and less people living in extreme poverty... There exists a society, the Society of Sisters of Social Service with the task of training skilled workers who have vocation, and who are consecrated in spirit, to perform the many kinds of social work..." You are not hearing the rest, you are only watching the Sister who is speaking as if she was speaking only to you. It seems you had known her for ages, you feel she is one of your family... Perhaps you do not yet understand clearly what she is saying. You don't even know what it is that draws you here; to this society that was founded only recently... but something is drawing you, that much is certain. It is not something, it is rather Someone. It is the good God himself, who intended this environment for your consecrated life. And suddenly you become perfectly calm, calm as someone who found what she was looking for. You are still sitting at the meeting. A girl is talking to the group about an event that went very well. All are interested in it very much, but you are lost in thought...
"The Society of Sisters of Social Service was called into existence by the most recent times. In it the ancient monastic idea is combined with the latest modern progress. The Society realizes and proclaims in its fullness the essence of religious vocation: the absolute self-giving of self to God in Divine espousal. However, a freedom of activity unknown so far is granted to its members..."
/Margaret Slachta: From the Hermitage of the Desert to the Centre of Life 1928/
Am I worthy of taking vows? Am I worthy of a religious vocation? No, no, a hundred times no! Two years ago I was still a smoker, a light-hearted person and a reveller. And behold, yesterday I was kneeling down nonetheless, feeling moved, and saying the words a little stammering: My dear Redeemer, Lord Jesus!
IV. YEARS OF PROFESSED LIFE
Create a clean heart in me, oh, my Lord.
Renew the strong spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from before your face,
Do not take your Holy Spirit away from me,
Support me with the spirit of obedience,
Grant me the joy of your salvation.
I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh... the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control... If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.
Oh, my Lord, my God, how have I become worthy of your goodness? How have I deserved that you have granted me such a beautiful, a deep, a blissful and a meaningful life? That you have led me to such a beautiful world? I want to value highly, with all my energies, my consecrated life; to awaken in myself a deep sense of gratitude for having a part in it. To recognize together with all its difficulties, of how beautiful and how good it is!... Alleluia! Today I can say nothing else, only, may God be blessed. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
I am short-tempered, vehement, nervous and passionate but still I love you!
I am disobedient, stubborn and defiant yet I love you!
I am restless, hasty and confused but I love you!
I am dark, envious and making comparison although I love you!
How many more weaknesses would I have within me if you did not love me!
I want to be faithful and remain faithful till my death! Faithful through everything!
It is very difficult to be faithful in small things. One is always more willing to do heroic acts. And this is understandable. In great things, in performing great acts their greatness gives impetus and strength; while we pass by the little things overlooking and not valuing them. How many opportunities we are wasting in this way! How many opportunities there are to be faithful in small things, and how many I am wasting of these opportunities!
For me it is easy to love. It was the Lord who granted me this ability. How much harder it is for those to love who find it to be difficult! I must make good use of my gift to love!... What kind of leaven am I in our community? A Sister is saying that I am good leaven. But in this I have no merit. However, when I make a sour atmosphere in the community, I am to be blamed! It is a double fault for me, because, with my talents, I should leaven it... I want to be present when someone is casting a shadow, I want to spread sunlight among my Sisters. My dear God, it was you who granted me these talents; they have to be made useful in this way, too!
My Christ, please reign within me! Please destroy the narrow walls of my pettiness. Make me to be generous, big-hearted, so that I may be able to love everyone and overlook everything! Amen.
Faith demands one's whole being! Have a desire for martyrdom! Even if it is not granted to you - because it is God's special grace - live at least the martyrdom of love!
Set up and go and spread my word,
To my people I am sending you.
Thorn and weeds, blood and complaints –
Till when should I be listening to them?
I am sending you and blessing you,
Go only and spread my word.
Fiery I will make your lips,
And you forehead I will make of diamond,
I will give you to my people as a guard,
And I will grant my Spirit to walk with you.
I am sending you...
This... is the fasting that I wish:
Releasing those bound unjustly,
Untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
Breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
Sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn...
And you shall be like a watered garden, Like a spring whose water never fails.
/Is. 58: 6, 7, 8a-11.b./
I arrived in Komárom on the 17th. It was a tiring and hard journey. The rain was pouring down. The next day I was teaching already. I teach 26 lessons a week in 13 classes. I would be doing it with joy and I would love it, if it were not such a hard job! My accommodation is very bad. I don't even have a dresser. It is cold and there is no heating! The piano is being played the whole day next to me, and only a glass door is separating us. Besides, I am so very alone.
Today we had the carnival tea evening for the housemaids. 30 girls turned up. We set three big tables. There was plenty of food. After tea, there was music form the gramophone and the girls were dancing. There was a good atmosphere and they were pretty happy. For me it was exhausting, but I was very glad. God permitting, next year we will invite boys too. It lasted until seven.
I made 16 visits to families, studying their living conditions, and working until 5 o'clock in the afternoon. I went to terrible places! I have never seen such extreme poverty in my life! Yes, poverty in itself can be endured, it does not alienate from God. However, when it becomes so extreme, it kills body and spirit. Poor, poor people!...A Sister of Social Service is to be a torch. She needs to shed light on the way of the people; on the way on which they can reach God. I need to be a burning light!!
I have made a resolution that in advent I will make a double effort to be patient. I want to be good. Good, good with all my heart! Whatever is good is holy! I believe one of the firmest foundations of holiness is goodness!
...Today a strange thing happened with me. I took out the novel I had completed and re-read it. It made a strange impact on me. I liked it very much! Suddenly I wrapped it up and mailed it.
May God be with you, beautiful, dear Komárom! I have suffered a lot in you and I love you very much perhaps exactly because of this! Good-bye my dear little children, bare-footed boys, dirty little girls, you poor, beloved companions, good-bye Benedictines, and winding streets! Beautiful, sweet Komárom, God be with you! It is unspeakably hard to leave.
I reached Losonc around three in the afternoon. Everything is lovely and friendly here. I want to serve here God with all my might!
My dear Sister,
I was going to write you a longer letter to thank you for your gentle words you sent for the celebration of my final vows. Instead of the original (motto) "Alleluia" I chose a new motto: Ecce ego, mitte me! - Behold, here I am, send me!
The Máramaros Alps shed cold down on us. We keep reading 20-25 C degrees below zero. The flat is also quite cold; a finger-wide ice layer covers my window, and it cannot be opened. Sometimes I wrap myself up like a polar bear. Even so there are frostbites on my hands and feet... When I am cold in the church, I offer it up for the priest; I offer especially the cold in my hands for his hands. On the whole, I would like to consecrate my feeling cold, and offer it for those who have no fuel and no warm clothing.
I visited all the district-notaries of the Rahó district. I paid my respects to them and negotiated with them. You can't imagine what a job it was! One was indifferent, I had to make him enthusiastic; the other was too enthusiastic, I had to slow him down; the third was depressed; the fourth distrustful, the fifth did not even want to see me because he had a lot to do, etc!…Still, I had to win over each one, and thank God, I was successful!
I have been given a new assignment, and soon I will have to leave Técsõ. I am glad, because I will be staying again in the Mother House. But my heart is aching because I have enjoyed it here; I have enjoyed my work, the people and the place... Now I have to acquaint my successor with the job lovingly and with patience. Accept it, oh God! What else do I want after all? Ecce ego, mitte me!
I am not working for myself. Not even for the Society. I work through an assignment by the superiors of the Society, for God himself. Untiringly! I want to love everything I work with: the machinery, the sheets and paints!
Whenever I get some work to do during the day, I want to remember, it is the Lord who wants me to do it! I want to work in the light of this reality! I realize my responsibility. I have been granted with many talents, I have to do whatever I can in order to multiply them! One needs to love very much; one needs to work very hard!
VI. THE TIME OF RESCUING THE PERSECUTED
My light you are, oh Christ,
Oh, come and illuminate my night,
Oh, come, oh, come,
And illuminate my night.
...Rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
"I believe in God the Father.
The Creator of all things,
The Father of all human beings,
The owner of all that exists
The fountainhead of all power,
The source of all rights,
The author of all legality,
Who bestows rewards and punishment on every human being,
Who governs the entire universe,
Who reigns over all,
In the Lord, who calls everyone to counts.
I believe in our God the Creator
I proclaim that:
A human being, an organization, a State does not own another human being,
A human being is not the property of other human beings, of an organization, or of the State.
Against God’s laws there is no valid legislation.
To deprive human beings of their rights contrary to God's will, is a sin!
Human beings may not allow what God does not want,
Worldly power may not prohibit what God allows,
It may not order that which God has prohibited!
I believe in God the Creator, the Lord of All!"
(Excerpts written by Margaret Slachta in 1943 to resist Nazi ideology)
What did Elisha do? First he prayed, than he warmed the dead boy's body with the warmth of his own. (I too, am called) to pray and work, to impact others "with the warmth of my own body", that is, with my life and my example! To realize this, I need constantly to awaken the love of Christ in my heart. It is only this love that makes me warm and makes an impact on the outside world.
"1st January 1943
I am writing to you all, who are standing in the doorway of the New Year. To you, who are concerned, thinking unceasingly with tears in your eyes, on your father, your husband or your sons... Oh, how much you would be willing to do, in order to assure protection from Providence for them out in the trenches, against the cold, the rain, the wind, the swamp; against the hardships, the bullets and the cruelty of the enemy ... Would you like to receive double help from God for your beloved in their perils? Allow to enter the fate of others into your own heart... Embrace an inmate of a forced labour camp into your heart; one who is excluded from the human community by prevalent common thinking. Take the courage in these deadly serious days to drive out indifference, lovelessness and hatred from your heart! - Have the courage to acknowledge in your innermost being, - in the depth of your heart - that mother and son who are excluded (by society), as a sister and brother! Have courage to receive their pain, and help them to carry their cross. And be courageous to act!..."
(From a letter for the New Year by Margaret Slachta)
Self-surrender to God. I think that is the secret of everything! A complete and wholly-made self-surrender!... To seek the will of God always and in everything! Today as well... What would you like my Lord, my God? Ecce adsum, ecce ego, mitte me! Ecce ego, suscipe me! Here I am, send me, here I am, accept me!
In the Lord I'll be ever thankful,
In the Lord I will rejoice!
Look to God, do not be afraid,
Lift up your voices, the Lord is near;
Lift up your voices, the Lord is near.
"I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect."
/Rom 12.1-2. /
My heart is filled with jubilant enthusiasm! I am allowed to follow the inspiration to offer my life, or rather my death for my Sisters! I submitted the request to my superior and to my confessor and I have been granted the permission! In the first intoxication of happiness all the natural fear and uneasiness I experienced, has left me. I have already written the text of the offering. Now I only have to wait for Sister Margaret's arrival, and then I may offer myself...
"See, my servant shall prosper...
The Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity...
My servant shall justify many,
And their guilt he shall bear...
He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors."
/Is 52:13., 53:10a.,11b.,12c./
As we were sitting in the air-raid shelter, in the dark, and heard a subdued boom, to be honest, our hearts were trembling ...we were praying for the city; for the soldiers who protected it, and I felt that I had to pray for the attackers, too! They also have immortal souls, and Christ died for them too. They were not only bombing us, they too, may also crash, or get shot. Perhaps the attacker and the victims will appear before God at the same moment... Perhaps my brief petition will earn them mercy!
"Yes, I hear the whispers of many: "Terror on every side! Denounce! Let us denounce him!" All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine... But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion..."
It is not dynamite, chemical acids or bombs that destroy and kill, but the spirit of hatred directing them. Hatred causes bereavement and pain. Love wipes tears and comforts. We want love. We want to create structures based on justice! Let us take a look at the terrible effects of injustice in the life of the world! It erases frontiers; it attacks countries by fire and the sword; it exterminates peoples; it draws up new frontiers; it sets up barriers... It instigates races to rebel against one another! On the other hand, justice acknowledges the right to life of other countries and demolishes the barriers that separate people. It identifies the characteristics of various races as God's different ideas. Justice says: we are all children of the same Father; we all have alike the right to life! Therefore, joining forces, we must support one another! In the life of a nation, injustice sets nationalities against one another, but justice leads them to stand side-by-side.
From the testimony of a person, rescued by the Sisters of Social Service
I was a girl of twelve and I was living in the ghetto of Budapest with my family. My grandparents had already been dragged away to die, and my father had been carried off to a forced labour camp in Bor. I was left with my mother. I saw horrors all around me, and I was so dreadfully scared, that I wanted to throw my life away. I was taken to the hospital and from there we were rescued to the Mother House of the Sisters of Social Service on Thököly Street. Here we found an island of peace, due to the unreserved and unconditional love of the Sisters. Margaret Slachta was their superior and Sára Salkaházi among them. Once again I was treated as a child, and all my fears disappeared. I sensed even as a child that Sister Margaret had to cope with troubles and responsibilities on a nationwide scale, yet, when she was dealing with me, she was gentleness itself. She gave me the feeling that in that moment it was only me who counted for her. Sister Margaret set up a teaching staff of the harboured professors, and they were teaching us children. In this way, time passed by as a continuation of a normal life, instead of being overwhelmed with bitterness. I was an unbelieving little Jewish girl, yet I was constantly sitting in the chapel, because the presence of God captivated me, and the Sisters lovingly accepted this. It was an unspeakable joy for me when later, in an emergency, Sister Margaret baptized me and my mother. I asked for the name Margaret. Later we left the sisters, but my mother was also dragged away by the arrow-cross soldiers. I returned to the Mother House as an orphan. The Sisters of Social Service promised that they would undertake my upbringing and schooling. My father returned from the forced labour camp and later he also asked for baptism! Today, even my grandchildren live in Catholic marriages and they are raising my great-grandchildren as Catholics. When I am walking past the old Mother House, I can recognize even now, where exactly the old chapel and our room was situated.
From the testimony of a Jewish woman living in Israel.
Sister Sára saved my grandmother and my father during the time of the holocaust. She took my father and my grandmother with herself from Kassa to Lake Balaton, to the house of the Sisters at Jankovich-telep. My father was four at the time. Later he told me how gently Sister Sára treated him. One needs to mature to understand the happenings one grew up with, and what has been recounted of those and earlier times. That is why I am visiting Hungary now. It is overwhelming to know that someone personally gave her life for members of my family. Sára Salkaházi and Margaret Slachta saved the lives of about a thousand Jewish people. It was in my childhood, - as my earliest remembrance - that I got to know the name of Sister Sára as "Sára testvér". For a long time I thought that "testvér" was her surname. It was only recently that I realized that it means the sister of someone...
"I know your works... You have limited strength, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those... and they will realize that I love you. The victor I will make into a pillar in the temple of my God... On him I will inscribe the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God, as well as my new name."
It is not with violence or power
But with the Spirit of God that we live...
Testimonies of eye-witnesses of the events of the 27th of December 1944
Rumbling steps of soldiers' boots were to be heard... Suddenly the door sprang open and Sára was standing there with arrow-cross soldiers behind her. When they told her that they were going to carry her away, she reached for a rosary and all she said was "yes". - Let me go in here for a moment! - and she entered the chapel, went to the front, to the tabernacle. The two arrow-cross soldiers followed her. She knelt down on one knee, and the light of the vigil light shone into her face... I distinctly remember that I was thinking "Oh, my God! Sára is a saint!" The scene startled even the two men. However, hardly a few seconds later, one of the grim-looking arrow-cross men seized her and shouted: "Come on! During the night you will have enough time to pray!" She stood up, but her face radiated such peace, that it seemed like a kind of miracle...
Prior to the ring of shots, at the bank of the Danube, a low-built woman with short black hair turned towards her executioners with some kind of inexplicable tranquillity... then she knelt down, lifting her eyes to the sky, made a big sign of the Cross...
"After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb... These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. "For this reason they stand before God's throne and worship him day and night in his temple... They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike them. For the Lamb, who is in the centre of the throne, will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving waters and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
/Rev 7: 9-10.,14b.,15a.,16-17./
They shall see his face, and his name shall be on their foreheads. Night will be no more, nor will they need light from lamp or sun, for the Lord God shall give them light, and they shall reign forever and ever.
THE /E DAY OF PEACE IS DRAWING CLOSE,
LOOK, THE SIGN IS ALREADY SHINING,
THE HEART OF CHRIST EMBRACES TOGETHER
EVERYTHING THAT EXISTS IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH.