Once in a while you come across a book that you just cannot put down. The Shadow of His Wings by Fr. Gereon K. Goldman is such a book. It is more than just a gripping war story. Though full of action it also contains great spiritual lessons.
The story begins with a description of the childhood of Gereon Karl Goldmann, a typical and edifying Catholic family in pre-World-War-II Germany.
Gereon’s mother died while he was still a boy. This triggered a series of graces and trials that led eventually to his ordination to the priesthood. His mother’s death also moved to compassion a nun named Sister Solana May. She told young Goldmann that she would take the place of his mother and prayed daily for 20 years that young Goldmann would someday become a Franciscan priest.
In the fall of 1936, Geroen entered the Franciscan Order and began his studies for the priesthood. Just as Friar Goldmann was completing his philosophy studies in the summer of 1939, World War II exploded. The 22-year-old Friar Goldmann was drafted into the army of the Third Reich, together with his seminary classmates.
They entered as raw recruits like everyone else. Their Nazi superiors, like many evil-doers, underestimated their strength and courage. The misconception that virtue is weakness and vice is strength, then as now, was widespread. Much to their chagrin, the Nazi instructors learned that the opposite is true.
After completing his training, Friar Goldmann was thrown into the thick of the war. The chronicle of his feats is long: membership in the SS; expulsion from the SS; smuggling food and provisions to impoverished civilians; warning German anti-Nazis of impending arrests and raids allowing them to escape; completing of officer’s candidate school; losing his commission over a matter of principle; aiding thousands of wounded and dying soldiers and civilians; involvement in a plot to assassinate Hitler; converting a Nazi leader; being tried for treason by the Germans and trial as a war criminal by France.
Throughout his military service, Friar Goldmann never feared standing up for his beliefs as a Catholic. His convictions gave strength and encouragement to those who disagreed with the Nazis but were afraid to practice the Faith openly.
Friar Goldmann was later ordained thanks to the prayers of Sister Solana May and others she enlisted to pray for his vocation.
Although I have certain reservations about some passages supporting false ecumenism, I recommend The Shadow of His Wings, the story of Father Goldman, OFM. Its lessons are timeless reminders of the eternal truths that we believe as Catholics.
These lessons are even more important today. I welcome the recent reprint of this book because we live in times of great instability and daily face the uncertainty of terror and war. Worse yet, we live in a society that has turned its back on the values of Christian civilization.
The Shadow of His Wings reminds us of the importance of unfailing confidence in Divine Providence regardless of circumstances. Like Father Goldmann we must always stand up for what is right no matter what the cost. Thus, we will gain the blessings of Almighty God even when the world ridicules us. Finally, like Sister Solana May, we must believe in the importance of perseverance in prayer.
The Shadow of His Wings
by Fr. Gereon Karl Goldmann, OFM
Originally published 1964 by Franciscan Herald Press
Republished 2000 by Ignatius Press