In the second part of his blog as he reflects on the Orlando killings Michael draws inspiration from a story from the Nazi concentration camps (the first part of this blog is here)
One thing that has particularly struck me after the Orlando massacre is the story I read of the members of an Orthodox Jewish congregation in Washington DC who went with their rabbi to a gay bar to show solidarity with the LGBT community. The story is quite beautiful, and may be read here.
It reminds me of a story from the life of St Dimitri Klepinin. St Dimitri was an Orthodox priest based in Paris during the Nazi occupation and, along with the nun St Maria (Skobtsova), was arrested for issuing false baptism certificates to Jews (they were treated more favourably if they could pass as Christians) and smuggling them to safety.
In one of the concentration camps where Fr Dimitri was taken, he could see the Jewish section of the camp through a barbed-wire fence, and witnessed a frail elderly man, broken from the labour of the camp, struggling to collect his daily ration of bread. On the way back, he was stopped by a young boy who was too weak to collect his own bread, and who begged from the old man. Without hesitation, the man bent over, broke his own bread in two, and gave half to the starving little boy. On seeing this, Fr Dimitri wrote in his diary, ‘Finally, I understood what it says in the Gospel: “They knew him in the breaking of the bread”‘. There, in the actions of a man who was not a Christian was to be found a perfect example of the love of the Christ.
We may never know the name of the man who inspired St Dimitri on that day in the concentration camp, but if there is any good that has come from this awful business in Orlando perhaps it is that we can learn to look beyond the walls that divide us from our fellow human beings and look for love, and light, and good in unexpected places, in the hearts of those who are different from us, of those who do not share our struggles, our cultures, and our identities. For if we look, we may be pleasantly surprised at what we find.