+Aloysius Cardinal Ambrozic
Catechesis at World Youth Day in Cologne
August 19, 2005
(1) Examples; dated, if you wish, but valid.
(A) Franz Jägerstetter: a “young” Austrian farmer (died in 1942 at the age of 34). He was convinced that Hitler was wrong and that Nazism was wrong. There was heavy propaganda for the approval of the annexation of Austria to Germany in 1938. His neighbours were unhappy when his sole vote against the annexation robbed them of the honour to be a “Führergemeinde”. He came to the conclusion that he could not fight in the German army, not because he was a pacifist, but because to fight for Hitler was wrong. Two ways out were offered to him: (a) you fight for Germany, not for Hitler – a distinction made by many. His reply: now, to fight for Germany means to fight for Hitler; (b) his court-martial officers suggested a non-combatant job. His reply: I will simply free someone else to do the fighting. Condemned to death, executed in 1943; father of two small daughters. His native town is still uneasy about him – because he refused to enter the compromise with them.
One application: the vote in favour of the homosexual marriage, either to look broadminded, to toe the party-lines or to keep a government post.
(B) Luigi Barzini in Italians: Mussolini’s downfall began the moment he ceased to distinguish between the reality and the image of himself presented by the fascist propaganda.
An application: how genuine are we, with ourselves and with others? Do I really love my neighbour as myself? Have I ever done a deed in pure disinterest? Don’t I always look over my shoulder to see the impression I make? The person who boasts about being independent is worse off than most. How much thought goes into “big” decisions on politics and economy? If you are dishonest in personal life you will tend to be dishonest in political life, in economic life. With politicians, I cannot help but look at whether the man is a one-woman man.
Small things are important. Bidault: If you want to become a Napoleon or Joan of Arc, start with your homework.
(C) C. S. Lewis' address to high school graduates: Well, you must go through it: a middle-aged man telling you how to behave, go through life, etc. But let me say this: 10 years from now some of you will be good men, and some of you will be scoundrels. Reason for being scoundrels: your instinctive wish to be “in”. In every situation you have an “in” group, and you have others. If you wish to be “in” for no other reason than to be “in”, you will be ready to disregard, forget, betray your friends. A friend of mine, remarking about a mutual acquaintance: He only spoke to me until he found someone more important. When you are “in” you will find there is a further “in” group, etc.
What you should do, instead, is to be good at what you do. And then others who are good at what they do will notice it. And then, without trying, you will be in the only “in” group it is worth being “in”.