Small efforts, unknown consequences

Where I regularly say Mass on Sundays I will add as part of announcements before the sermon that people should be inviting.  Invite people to come to Mass or confession.  Offer to drive, etc.  You never know what such a small gesture will result in.  Never underestimate the power of an invitation: a small gesture that can have momentous results, even if you don’t know what they are.

Here is a connected tangent in an email I received.

This story is confirmed in Elmer Bendiner’s book, The Fall of Fortresses.

Sometimes, it’s not really just luck.

Elmer Bendiner was a navigator in a B-17 during WW II. He tells this story of a World War II bombing run over Kassel , Germany , and the unexpected result of a direct hit on their gas tanks. “Our B-17, the Tondelayo, was barraged by flak from Nazi antiaircraft guns. That was not unusual, but on this particular occasion our gas tanks were hit.

Later, as I reflected on the miracle of a 20 millimeter shell piercing the fuel tank without touching off an explosion, our pilot, Bohn Fawkes, told me it was not quite that simple. “On the morning following the raid, Bohn had gone down to ask our crew chief for that shell as a souvenir of unbelievable luck.

The crew chief told Bohn that not just one shell but 11 had been found in the gas tanks. 11 unexploded shells where only one was sufficient to blast us out of the sky. It was as if the sea had been parted for us. A near-miracle, I thought.

Even after 35 years, so awesome an event leaves me shaken, especially after I heard the rest of the story from Bohn.

“He was told that the shells had been sent to the armorers to be defused. The armorers told him that Intelligence had picked them up. They could not say why at the time, but Bohn eventually sought out the answer. “Apparently when the armorers opened each of those shells, they found no explosive charge. They were as clean as a whistle and just as harmless.

Empty? Not all of them!

One contained a carefully rolled piece of paper. On it was a scrawl in Czech. The Intelligence people scoured our base for a man who could read Czech. Eventually they found one to decipher the note. It set us marveling.

Translated, the note read: “This is all we can do for you now…”

Using Jewish slave labor is never a good idea.

Small gestures can have unforeseen, unknown consequences.  You might not learn of the effects of your invitations and small gestures until you are before the Lord in the General Judgment.

Imagine the joy of meeting up in heaven with those whose lives intertwined with yours even in a tangent, but efficacious, way.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Sandy says:

    A story such as this brings tears to my eyes! Not only the miracle, but think of the “ripples” spreading out over the generations, all the people who have existed that would not have been on earth if those lives on the plane had ended. What a beautiful act by that Jewish prisoner!

  2. memoryman says:

    I have heard stories like this before,particularly in relation to the Spanish Civil War and think that they may be dismissed as urban myths/apocryphal tales.Just consider:why would the saboteur have gone to the trouble of enclosing a message in his dud shell and why would he have supposed that anyone on the receiving end would have taken the risk of dismantling it out of mere curiosity instead of simply removing it to a safe place and detonating it there?

  3. lana says:

    Speaking of inviting people to Mass, I yesterday sadly heard of a disinvitation. I talked to a woman in a veil who told me she used to attend daily NO Mass but then stopped after reading some book about how the new Mass came about. She now only attends on Sunday because she has to. I am very sad and perturbed about this. Daily Mass (mostly NO) is the joy and center of my life and no wild horses (or books) will drag me away. Father, what should I say to this woman?

  4. Woody79 says:

    lana: Before you speak with the “veiled woman,” perhaps you should ask her for the title of the book and read it. You will then have a better conversation with her to discuss why she chose to only go on Sundays. It would also do you good to know how the NO Mass came about, not that you will stop going to the NO Mass on a daily basis. But then again, you never know!

  5. lana says:

    @woody79 – I would not want to read a book that makes me unhappy and critical during what is the only thing that makes me happy.

  6. lana says:

    @woody – in fact, I would consider such a book as ‘dangerous to my faith’.

  7. Woody79 says:

    lana: Yes, I can understand your point of view. However, perhaps the “veiled woman” considers the NO Mass dangerous to her faith because of how it came about. It is valid and yet, it is a pity how it was put into effect. If you are a person of strong faith, and I believe you are, look into it sometime. It won’t make you leave the Catholic Church; it may even make your faith stronger.

  8. lana says:

    @Woody, I have heard a few glimmers of such arguments, and I do not see what good can come of it. I am now over it, but after I first heard a few things I spent many Masses in utter turmoil and lost my peace. It was not good. It was a total waste of time that diverted me from God. I like the OF and I go as often as possible, which is not that often. I have asked several priests in my area for OF but it is rural and I have no hope of rounding enough people up for a daily Mass. The NO is not as beautiful, but it has a lot of other good points. I will leave well enough alone.

    I belong to a small prayer group in my NO parish, and their piety is solid, with a great love for Our Lord and souls, fed by daily (NO) Mass.

    OTOH, the ‘fruits’ of this overanalysis of how the NO came about was to lead this woman away from the source and summit of the Christian life. No thank you.

    Thank you for trying to teach me something, but I know enough about it that I can only see it as leading to discontent and grumbling with what is God’s will for me right now.

  9. lana says:

    I meant to say, I like and go to the EF as often as I can, which is not often.

    And this veiled lady lives next to a very orthodox priest who says the NO Mass very reverently, including no EM’s, only male lectors, uses the paten, etc.

  10. AttiaDS says:

    I’ve read and re-read this and I don’t understand. I get the shells weren’t loaded with explosives, but what’s the significance of the last two paragraphs (the quote and the Jewish slave labor)?

  11. kimberley jean says:

    Lana, perhaps you should leave the woman alone. We are not required to go to daily Mass, either NO or TLM or any of the other rites.

  12. Elizabeth D says:

    The attack on attending NO daily Mass is very sad. Jesus is there in the Eucharist, His Holy Sacrifice is offered.

    The shells were made by (presumably Jewish) forced labor, but the workers intentionally mis-manufactured them and even put in a note inside one shell expressing this was all they could do (to help the Allies). They couldn’t stop the shells getting fired at airplanes but they prevented them from exploding.

  13. Reconverted Idiot says:

    Lovely article.

    Having been moved to have mass said for my deceased (and previously lapsed) father and mother, as soon as I know the dates/times I plan to contact my brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins and whoever else I can, and invite them to join me.

    In all cases this will also be the first time any members of my family will have been made aware of my reconversion. The rest I’ll leave to prayer and the Holy Spirit. I also invite your prayers on their behalf, those of you who feel moved to, and thank you in advance for any intercessions.

    PS: @AtilaDS: On your re-reads did you skip the line “It was as if the sea had been parted for us”? Fwiw there are numerous stories of these small acts of resistance, I have no doubt as to the truth of this. As for why didn’t they just ‘dispose’ of these rounds by normal means and instead dismantle them: Number of possibilities come to mind, including none-standard (physical) mass i.e. they weighed wrongly, but most likely to my mind is that someone had the brains to wonder “is there a manufacturing/design fault, and if so can we learn from/take advantage in any way?” Military intel people can be funny that way.

  14. Reconverted Idiot says:

    Also, daily communicant here! The thought of missing daily mass, or worse, somehow coming to believe that it isn’t ‘valid’ when said ‘imperfectly’ in some way just… ugh no, shuddup.

    I have EF on Sundays because I’m blessed to be able to attend one, OF on Fridays because likewise, but NO for the rest of the week because that’s what there is. Thank God there is something, and that the Blessed Sacrament is available whatever language or form provides the symbolic backdrop to the consecration.

    What matters to me is my participation, my conscientiousness, my love of God, and most of all his boundless grace and endless love for me. I pray that I will always maintain such an approach, and that future circumstance never prevent me from doing what my present circumstances so providentially enable.

  15. lana says:

    @Reconverted … what a great name you picked for yourself. I could use the same one. My reversion was 20 years ago. I will pray for your intentions. And I copy your last sentence fervently.

  16. lana says:

    @Reverted – Actually – I was dittoing more the last clause… as far as ‘my’ participation etc… I know what you are trying to say and I agree up to a point. I think it does matter what the celebrant is thinking. Fortunately, I only have good priests all around me so it’s not something I worry about. (and likely you are the same)

  17. Reconverted Idiot says:

    @lana – yes, I think you read me correctly. As with yourself I have some wonderful priests (and brothers) around me. In fact, I found this blog through googling “Missa Cantata” iirc, that being because it was listed for one Friday evening and… well, I think you can see where this is headed.

    Many thanks, for your warm comments and especially for your intentions.

  18. cl00bie says:

    As my dad got older, he began talking about his WWII exploits. He spoke about the time he and his buddies were being shelled, and one of the shells landed in his foxhole and did not explode. This appears to be one of the ones that were made by Polish slave labor who sabotaged 1 out of 10 shells (so there was a less chance of quality control discovering the treason). My dad figures his life was saved by an unknown Polish prisoner.

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