Thursday, August 31, 2017

Blessed Ildefonso Schuster of Milan and the Divine Office

I learned from a Facebook friend that yesterday (August 30) is the observed memorial of Blessed Ildefonso Cardinal Schuster, archbishop of Milan during World War II.

I came across Cardinal Schuster several years ago while writing a booklet to go with an Ignatius Press release of an Italian film about Blessed Carlo Gnocchi, Father of Mercy. Not to get too sidetracked from my subject, but Blessed Carlo was an Italian military chaplain who, after the war, founded homes for the many war orphans and in particular those maimed by landmines.  Cardinal Schuster was a mentor of his.

Then, this month, I bought an audiobook of Beneath a Scarlet Sky, a novel centered on the life of a teenage boy who, under the direction of a priest, helped many Jews cross the alps into Switzerland during the war. Cardinal Schuster and other Catholic clergy figured prominently in this book, since he spearheaded an underground railroad to save Jews from death in concentration camps.

So yesterday, as I finished the novel, I found a post on Facebook telling me that it was Cardinal Schuster's memorial on local calendars where he is venerated. (This would be Italy for certain, and also that of the Benedictine order, since he was originally a Benedictine monk.)

Don't ask me why an Italian had a German sounding name. I guess his father had German blood.

Anyhow, the facebook post that alerted me to the memorial also quoted these lovely words from Blessed Schuster about the breviary, which he in turn had found on the New Liturgical Movement website:

I close my eyes, and while my lips murmur the words of the Breviary which I know by heart, I leave behind their literal meaning, and feel that I am in that endless land where the Church, militant and pilgrim, passes, walking towards the promised fatherland. I breathe with the Church in the same light by day, the same darkness by night; I see on every side of me the forces of evil that beset and assail Her; I find myself in the midst of Her battles and victories, Her prayers of anguish and Her songs of triumph, in the midst of the oppression of prisoners, the groans of the dying, the rejoicing of the armies and captains victorious. I find myself in their midst, but not as a passive spectator; nay rather, as one whose vigilance and skill, whose strength and courage can bear a decisive weight on the outcome of the struggle between good and evil, and upon the eternal destinies of individual men and of the multitude. (Blessed Card. Ildefonso Schuster, Archbishop of Milan, 1929-54)