Blessed Maria Restituta, a Catholic nurse who was decapitated by the Nazis in March of 1943, was remembered for her courageous martyrdom during a recent Mass in Rome.
Cardinal Christoph Shonborn recalled the 70th anniversary of Blessed Maria’s death during a celebration of the Liturgy of the Word.
The Mass was held at the Basilica of St. Bartholomew, which was dedicated by Pope John Paul II to the memory of the martyrs of the 20th and 21st centuries. During the Mass, members of Blessed Maria’s religious order, the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, donated a small cross that she wore on her habit to the Basilica.
According to the March 5 edition of L’Osservatore Romano, Blessed Maria, whose baptismal name was Elena Kafka, was “a courageous and strong woman. As a nurse in a hospital in Austria, she opposed the anti-religious measures of the Nazis and defended the weak and the sick, speaking of peace and democracy.”
Blessed Maria opposed Nazi efforts to remove all crucifixes and replace them with the swastika. She also promoted the “soldier’s song,” which contained a message about peace and democracy in Austria.
After being denounced to the Nazi secret police by a doctor, she was imprisoned, condemned to death and beheaded in Vienna at the age of 49, together with a group of Communist operatives she accompanied during the final moments of her life.
One of her companions in prison remarked, “She was a saint because she encouraged everyone in that situation, she conveyed strengthened and a positive and confident spirit.”
During her beatification on June 21, 1998, Blessed Pope John Paul II said, “Many things can be taken away from Christians. But we can never remove the cross as the sign of salvation. We shall not allow it to be excluded from public life! We shall heed the voice of conscience which says: ‘We must obey God before men!’”
While in prison, Blessed Maria wrote: “It doesn’t matter how far away we are from everyone, it doesn’t matter if they take everything away. Nobody can ever take away the faith we carry in our hearts. This is how we build an altar in our own hearts.”