The Shadow of His Wings
by Fr. Gereon Goldmann
Review by John Baronas
“The Shadow of His Wings” tells an incredible story written in the first person by Fr. Gereon Goldmann who was a Franciscan Seminarian in Germany when Hitler was building his army. He was compelled to leave and placed in the Nazi SS which was particularly ferocious and had a charge to purge the Jews and troublesome Catholics, especially priests. He didn’t back down and would not deny his faith and showed incredible integrity which some of his fellow seminarians didn’t (and died). His character was noticed and his Colonel protected him and said we need men like this and gave some allowance for the practice of his faith.
He was like a double agent belonging to the SS most loyal to Hitler and feared but he was involved with a plot to kill Hitler and because of this he met the Pope face to face to deliver a coded message. He was serving as a medic in bloody fighting as the Allies were invading Italy. He was terribly grieved by this, rendered much aid and time and time again was miraculously protected.
He tried through the Franciscans and asking bishops to be ordained but they said no as he had not taken any Theology courses. Though forbidden to ask the Pope about early ordination as their meeting ended Pious XII asked is there anything else. ” Yes, Holy Father. Men are dying without confession or communion. Please may I be ordained early!” Visibly moved the Pope called for stationary and his seal and wrote that this be done.
Then much suffering, near starvation followed as he was captured when trying to rescue a fallen soldier. He was in prison for years but found favor and was able to be released for awhile just for ordination and he began his priesthood in dreadful prisons. What he conveys in this book is his weakness, the power of prayer and accepting that all this was God’s will for him. Especially the suffering which served to make him like Jesus. This is a first person history of WWII in Italy. There are lessons of acceptance, surrendering to God’s will and finding joy and contentment in it. The danger, threats, starvation and depravation never let up for long. If you find Lent difficult “The Shadow of His Wings” will provide perspective and inspiration.
Copies available for purchase on the OLPH bookshelf in the narthex.