To Suffer and to Save

by Garrett Petruskie, grade 12

Jesus Christ died on the cross to save us from our sins and to open the gates of heaven. He carried His cross to Golgotha to complete an agonizing death so that He could give the entire world salvation. Every day we must do things that we struggle with. Sometimes we must help others, even though it is not seen as the popular thing to do. In history, there have always been people who have taken Jesus’ teachings and put them to use in their own lives—people who “take up their cross” and help the Lord’s people spread a pro-life mentality and help give value to human life.

Jesus came to Earth as a divine human to spread the will of God and to give us teachings on how to live amongst each other. In Luke 9:23, Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” During Jesus’ time it was unpopular to follow the teachings of certain prophets. Jesus was not popular due to the scrutiny by Jewish leaders of the time. When Jesus told people to follow Him, there was a risk to people who did. Knowing that they could be killed for following Jesus but doing so anyway is an act of taking up their cross. Some people, after the days of Jesus, have continued His works and helped protect and serve their fellow man. By “taking up their cross,” many people have risen above others, showing courage, charity, and passion for helping their fellow man. One of these people is Hugh O’Flaherty.

Hugh O’Flaherty was born on February 28, 1898, in Ireland. As a young boy, he lived on a golf course and was a steward there. He became very good at golf and in his later teen years he had a scratch handicap and a scholarship to a teacher training college. Instead of taking the scholarship, O’Flaherty enrolled at Mungret College. This was a Jesuit school that was meant to help prepare young men for the adventures of life as a priest. Most of the student body at the school was aged 14 to 18. Eventually he was posted in Rome to finish his studies. He earned doctorates in divinity, canon law, and philosophy. He was ordained in 1925. He was never posted in a diocese. Instead, he began to work for the Holy See. He then went on to be a Vatican diplomat for countries such as Egypt, Haiti, Santo Domingo, and Czechoslovakia. In 1934, he was made a papal chamberlain and was given the title of monsignor. This allowed him to work in the Holy Office. 

While he was working in the Holy Office of Rome, World War II began. As the war continued, O’Flaherty visited multiple prisoner of war camps in the then-fascist country of Italy. He did this to try to find missing soldiers so he could announce on Radio Vatican that the missing soldiers had been found. This would help the families immensely and give them peace of mind. In 1943, Benito Mussolini was removed from power by the Italian king, Victor Emanuel III. When this occurred, thousands of Allied prisoners of war were released from their prison camps. As the Germans began to recover and reoccupy Italy, the Allied men began to be in danger of recapture. Those who had met O’Flaherty during his visits to the camps headed for Rome and begged him for his help. Without permission from his superiors, O’Flaherty went straight to work helping the freed Allied prisoners of war. He didn’t stop there. He also began to help Italian Jews as well. To be able to organize an operation of this size, he had many different people of different backgrounds help him. Priests, POWs, and countrymen all stood together to help protect the innocent human beings who could’ve been smashed by the Nazi Regime. O’ Flaherty and his colleges saved over 4,000 Jews and escaped POWs. They hid all these people in flats, farms, and even convents. The Germans became furious with his actions and tried to assassinate him multiple times. Even in the face of danger, Hugh O’Flaherty still helped protect the lives of the innocent. 

Hugh O’Flaherty used his life to help protect the lives of others. He helped save thousands of Jews and escaped allied prisoners. Despite the attempts on his life, he continued to do his work and save the lives of the innocent. He even continued his work in disguise, so he wouldn’t be killed when he had business to attend to outside of the Vatican. The amount of bravery and courage that he had is certainly something for modern Catholics and people of the pro-life movement to look up to. Hugh O’Flaherty is someone whom everyone should strive to be like. He stuck his neck out for those who were in trouble. If he had not acted, a lot of these men and women would have died. O’Flaherty chose to “take up his cross,” and, because of his actions, he made the world a better place.     

Hugh O’Flaherty was an example of a man who took up his cross and made a difference in the world by putting his life on the line to save the innocent lives of others. Without his selfless actions, the thousands of people whom he saved probably would not have survived the second world war. Jesus suffered and sacrificed His life to save the lives of the entire world. O’Flaherty put his life on the line to save thousands of innocent lives. He followed the teachings of Jesus nearly without flaw. He is a perfect example of how we should give up our normal lives to help those in need. Even taking small amounts of time from our lives to help the less fortunate is denying ourselves and taking up our cross. Even though this may seem like a small act of charity, in the long run it will benefit the community in more ways than you can imagine. 

© 2018 Garrett Petruskie. Published with permission.