Introducing the Ulma Clan
Father Richard Kunst
Every once in a while something happens in our Catholic Faith that makes me think, “Dang, that is really cool.” That happened this past December, when Pope Francis announced the approval of the beatification of Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma and their children. Beatification is the last major step before someone is proclaimed a saint (canonization). When someone has been beatified, they are then known as “Blessed,” such as Blessed Solanus Casey.
First the back story on the Ulma family, and then the explanation why this is all so dang amazing. During World War II, the Ulma family from Poland secretly sheltered eight Jewish people, protecting them from being sent to extermination camps. For about two years (1942-1944) the Jews were living in the Ulmas’ attic until someone tipped off the authorities as to what was happening. According to an eyewitness account, the police surrounded the Ulma home until they captured all eight Jews, shooting them one at a time execution style. To make an example of them, the police then killed Jozef and Wiktoria in the same manner and in the sight of their screaming children.
After this, again one at a time, the police killed the children: Stanislawa (age 8), Barbara (age 7), Wladyslaw (age 4), Antoni (age 3), and Maria (age 2). This devout Catholic family, who were absolutely heroic in their protection of their Jewish neighbors, showed their love of God and neighbor in a manner that cost them their lives in a most brutal fashion.
But this is not the full story. All throughout history we have seen Christians heroically going to their deaths for the sake of the faith or a tenet of the faith, from ancient Roman times to our modern age. But what makes the Ulma family beatification totally and completely unique is that there was one other child martyred that day, and that was the child still in Wiktoria’s womb, as she was nearly nine months pregnant. Again, according to an eye witness, Wiktoria went into labor at the moment of the executions, and the unnamed baby was partially through the birth canal when they went to bury the family. This unnamed child, along with all the others in the Ulma family, will be formally beatified by the church this coming Sept. 10.
Never has there been an unborn child beatified or canonized. Pope Francis, in a stroke of genius, is making a statement that is needed now more than at any other time.
Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade last year, there has been a demonic nature in how some people have been promoting abortion as a great good and something to be celebrated, by big business, big tech, social media, and state governments, including our own in Minnesota, where you can now have an abortion for any reason you want, right up to the moment of birth. Long gone are the days when people and politicians have said abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. If a minor is pregnant, no matter what their age, they can now get an abortion without having their parents know about it, while at the same time these kids cannot get their ears pierced without parental consent. It has been shocking to me to see the ravenous support that has been shown for killing children in so many sectors of our society since the reversal of Roe. Thank you, Pope Francis, for approving the beatification of the Ulma family.
There has long been a movement among some Catholic groups calling for the church to declare aborted children martyrs, which I think would be a good idea. But until that happens, this is the next best thing. There have been many young children declared martyrs by the church, most famously the Holy Innocents, who were the boys in the vicinity of Bethlehem two years and under in Herod’s attempt to kill the Christ Child, and now the Ulma children ages 2 to 8, but never a child yet to be born.
The Holy Innocents never knew why they were being killed, but they are still recognized by the church as martyrs giving their life for Christ, and Baby Ulma had no idea why he or she was killed, but the infant was a witness to the value of human life. With this beatification, we can pray to Baby Ulma and all the Ulma family for intercession. The beatification is an exclamation mark that the unborn, like the born, have an immortal soul, and that they are fully human, created in the image and likeness of God.
The story of the Ulma family is a compelling one. This brief summary of them does not do them complete justice, so hopefully their story will become better known as the church prepares for their beatification in the fall.
The Ulma family, pray for us!
–With thanks to the Northern Cross in Duluth, MN