Tracing The Steps Of My Jewish Ancestors In Uggs: A Weeklong Journey Through Poland, Day 4

Tracing The Steps Of My Jewish Ancestors In Uggs: A Weeklong Journey Through Poland, Day 4

With the butterflies.

Real talk: when my alarm rang at 6:45 AM this morning, I was in no way prepared to wake up after the weight of the previous 3 days. Yet I was even more unprepared for what I would see today.

Our first stop was a Catholic memorial for a family who hid and saved Jews. They lived near Krakow and had been hiding and bringing food to over a dozen Jews whom they stored nearby.

One day, it was the 4 year old son’s turn to bring the Jews their provisions. He carried the basket over to them in the morning and returned to find a sheer horror: his whole family had been mercilessly slaughtered and their bodies were lying near their burning house.

One of the family’s neighbors had turned them in for hiding Jews and the Nazis had come to kill them. They had possessed tremendous strength and courage to hide Jews, and they suffered for it. They suffered for being genuinely good people, righteous among the nations.

So often, I think of the Jews as the victims of the Holocaust. Yet I forget how vital the Poles were to the survival of so many Jews and how they risked everything for the Jews. I do not know if I would have had the courage to do the same had I been in the Poles’ shoes and I am so utterly grateful. I do not know how we can ever repay these good people.

Before leaving the memorial, I unearthed and placed a stone onto the memorial. My mind whispered thank you, but I knew it wasn’t enough.

After going to the memorial, my group was bussed to the main square in Tarnow. There, we walked to the remnants of a once giant and beautiful synagogue, for it was destroyed brutally by the Nazis.

Though devastated by the destruction, my group was determined to return joy and freedom and happiness to the square. We joined our voices and hands with another group, singing and dancing in the square to “Am Yisrael Chai” (a Jewish song meaning “the nation of Israel lives”). It gave me hope and strength that Israel and the Jewish people will continue to live regardless of the tragedies that may befall us in the future.

Our final stop of the day (it was a short day because of Shabbos!—the Sabbath—) was in a forest. My group snaked down a rocky path to come across 2 large rectangles marked in blue, the first adorned with butterflies and candles and both with Jewish stars. These rectangles were mass graves.

Inside the blue, you could see some lumps in the earth. I couldn’t help but think that they were caused by the people who were unevenly dumped into the ground.

Our tour guide Rabbi Yitzhak told us two stories. One was a personal story - many of his own family members were killed in the Holocaust: stripped naked, put to death, and mercilessly tossed into mass graves. I can't imagine not knowing my grandparents because they were killed in the Holocaust or having a job that caused me to relive the pain every time I came to Poland. Yet this is our reality.

The other was a story of the children.

Usually, when people die, it’s the children who bury their parents. Not the other way around. In the Holocaust, parents often had to give up their children to prevent their children from having early deaths. One mother wrote an incredibly emotional letter to the daughter she was sending away and sewed it into the child’s clothing so that she could keep it and read it when she got older. She expressed her eternal love for her daughter and her hope that her daughter would be able to live and to experience joy even though she would likely not be able to be physically there with her. This mother sacrificed time with her daughter to selflessly save her life. And this story is just one of millions of painful stories.

There's another reason why we save the children: they are the hope for our future and they carry on our traditions. The Nazis were so determined to kill children because it sent a powerful message to the Jews: don't reproduce and don't try to save yourselves or your children; there is no future for your people.

But they were wrong.

Decorating one of the mass graves were colored butterflies. The butterflies, affixed to the blue, wore an assortment of colors, the scribbled designs they bore perfectly simple and beautiful.

Wing in wing, these clusters of butterflies signified beauty and freedom, happiness and joy, and hope for the future.

Hand in hand, children give this same hope and light to the future. They continue the legacy of the Jewish people and add color and brightness to the darkness of the Holocaust.

I put a rock next to one butterfly. I didn’t want to leave the pain of the past without recognizing the beauty of the future.
Cover Image Credit: Personal

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48 Of The Best Catholic Mass Songs

Check out this list of some of my favorites!

I love to sing.

But, I am very bad at singing. One thing I love about Mass is that I get to sing as loud and as terrible as I want, and that is a beautiful thing. I've compiled a list of what was originally going to be 10 of my favorite songs to sing at Mass, but as you can see, my list quickly became 5 times longer. Enjoy!

1. "All are Welcome"

A great reminder that we are to love our neighbors, no matter how different we are.

2. "All is Well With My Soul"

A refreshing reminder that God forgives our sins, and we are in good hands.

3."Amazing Grace"

A classic, powerful song that shows just how much grace means to us.

4. "Ave Maria"

A beautiful song honoring the Virgin Mary, a role model for all women.

5. "Be Not Afraid"

A reminder that no matter what we're going through, God is with us through it all.

6. "Blest Are They"

A guide on how to live out the Beatitudes.

7. "Canticle of the Sun"

A joyful tribute to God's Creation.

8. "Center of My Life"

A reminder to put God first, a reminder which is always necessary in this materialistic and egocentric world.

9. "Change Our Hearts"

An uplifting song reminding us that God saves even the most disobedient of his people if they give their hearts to Him.

10. "Christ Be Our Light"

A classic song that reminds us even in our darkest of days, Christ will light the path.

11. "City of God"

A song inspiring the building of God's Kingdom- something we should strive to do as Christians.

12. "Come Back to Me"

A song all about repentance and forgiveness- God is waiting for us with open arms every time we fail him.

13. "Companions on the Journey"

A reminder that we are not alone in our journey to spread the Good News, and we can work together to spread His Word.

14. "Eye Has Not Seen"

A reminder of the joy and happiness that awaits us in Heaven.

15. "Fly Like a Bird"

A comforting song reminding us that we will always be in God's care.

16. "For the Beauty of the Earth"

A song that captures the essence of how wondrous Creation is.

17. "Glory and Praise to Our God"

A song full of thanksgiving and praise to God who showers us with blessings every day.

18. "Go Out Go Out"

One of the favorites at my school- essentially a "pump up" song to go spread the Gospel.

19. "Here I am Lord"

A encouraging song, inspiring us to serve the Lord with all the talents we have.

20. "Here I am to Worship"

One of my all time favorite gathering songs that inspire me to give all the glory to God.

21. "How Can I Keep From Singing"

A reminder that God's works are wondrous and He is deserving of all our praise.

22. "How Great Thou Art"

A classic song inspiring us to look around and see God in everything and everyone.

23. "I Am the Bread of Life"

A comforting song telling us that if we live our lives in Christ, we will be reunited with God when death comes.

24. "I Know That My Redeemer Lives"

A song that tells us Jesus is alive, and He has redeemed us by his death.

25. "I Will Choose Christ"

A song inspiring us to recommit ourselves to Christ each and every day.

26. "In Every Age"

A reminder of the timelessness of God- He has always been there, and He will always be there for us.

27. "Jesus Christ Is Risen Today"

An Easter song which joyfully celebrates the Resurrection and the defeat of death.

28. "Lead Me Lord"

A reminder that if we seek God, He will lead us.

29. "Let There Be Peace On Earth"

Always a song that inspires us to act for justice and peace among all people.

30. "Like a Shepherd"

A reminder that God cares for us as his own because we are his own.

31. "Litany of Saints"

A beautiful song, often sang on Easter, in which we ask the Saints to intercede for us.

32. "Lord of All Hopefulness"

A prayer asking God for the strength to get through the day.

33. "Loving and Forgiving"

A reminder that God is always wanting to forgive us of our wrongdoing and heal our pain.

34. "Only a Shadow"

A reminder that we have seen just a glimpse of the love God has for us, and there is much more in store for us.

35. "On Eagle's Wings"

One of the saddest, yet happiest songs of all time- although we die, we will be raised up and be with Him forever.

36. "Our God is Here"

A reminder of the true presence of God in all things.

37. "Prayer of St. Francis"

A beautiful song that makes the prayer feel even more powerful.

38. "Rain Down"

A reminder of the endless love of God.

39. "Roll Away the Stone"

My favorite Easter song of all time. HE IS RISEN!

40. "Shepherd Me O God"

A popular song serving as a reminder to put our wants aside and follow God's will.

41. "Sing to the Mountains"

A song of thanksgiving to God for the abounding gifts he has bestowed on us.

42. "The Summons"

A great song for those who are discerning their calling.

43. "Ubi Caritas"

A song all about the love of Christ.

44. "Unless a Grain of Wheat"

A reminder that without God we have no life.

44. "We Are Called"

A call to service and justice.

45. "We Are Many Parts"

A reminder that although we are many people, we are all part of the Body of Christ, and we all need to work toward peace together.

46. "You Alone"

A reminder of how although we are undeserving, God still loves us and should be praised.

47. "You Are Mine"

God has called us each by name- He knows YOUR name, and you belong to Him.

48. "Your Grace Is Enough"

A necessary reminder that God IS more than enough for us! We don't need to be consumed with this world because we have HIM, and an eternity of happiness awaits.

Singing, although I am terrible at it, has really improved my prayer life. It could do the same for you!

Cover Image Credit: Allie Daniel

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You Ain’t Waiting For God To Bring You Your Dinner, You Get Up And Go Cook It

My words often get jumbled and don't make sense, so I figured writing it would help me come across clearly.


Dear guy friends of mine,

I want you to know how grateful I am for your friendship. Having close guy friends has helped me better understand men and learn how the male species operates. I've been able to ask you so many questions and you've responded with thoughtfulness, kindness, grace, and honesty. I appreciate your willingness to talk to me.

I want to encourage you in something, and with some of you I have tried, but I think I came across as a little crazy. From what I've been told by married women, guys are very afraid of actual crazy. You want your girl to have some crazy (because all women have at least a little bit of crazy), but you don't want her to be, like, crazy. I get that and respect that.

I want to encourage you to ask girls out. It's scary. You're afraid of rejection. I know this because several of you have told me so. I recently spoke with a guy who's been married for a few years and has a baby daughter. He told me that you guys are scared, you don't want to put your heart on the line and have it crushed. That's a good reason not to pursue girls: you'll remain safe and free from hurt if you don't put your feelings out there.

But here's the other side of it: You'll never find that girl if you never search for her. Now, I know that all things happen in God's timing and as imperfect humans, we can't force things to happen outside of God's timeline. However, Pastor Matt Chandler of The Village Church in Dallas, Texas said this in a sermon several years ago:

"But something's happened in evangelical circles where if you're single you're supposed to not want to be married, but be content in a spot and that's somehow more glorifying than following God's wiring of you to want a mate. And so in the end what happens is that you walk around like a liar. I mean, poor young ladies! Almost all of them have been told, "As soon as you're content, God will send you a man." So you've got hundreds of thousands of women running around acting content! "I'm content, where is he?" You've got other guys going, "You know, I'm just gonna wait for God to bring me the right one." Well, you ain't waiting for God to bring you your dinner, alright? You get up and go cook it."

Pastor Chandler goes on to say that he's not telling the guys to go on the hunt and prowl. No! He's telling guys that they have a role to play in pursuing a woman to marry. Girls have a role to play, too. Girls can't just hang out with their girlfriends in hopes that they'll lock eyes with Prince Charming while in the grocery store or walking their dog in the park. No, girls need to build up the guys in their lives and respect them by letting the guys be guys and giving them opportunities to be gentlemen. That's what I appreciate about you guys, my guy friends. You are such gentlemen and I love that. Don't be afraid to ask out the girl that you think is sweet, cute, pretty, funny, kind, silly, honest, loyal, and the right amount of crazy. You've got this!

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