This book is the wartime story of Gereon Goldmann, a German who eventually became a Franciscan. Fr. Gereon grew up in Fulda, a city renowned for being very Catholic. Although his mother died when he was a young boy, Gereon grew up in a large Catholic family. His father married his mother's younger sister and together they had 5 more children.
Gereon's story is about coming of age in a desperate time, when Nazism gripped Germany. When Adolf Hitler came to power, Gereon had to confront Nazi ideologies head on. His strong Catholic faith was his weapon, along with a deep, intense prayer life. But Gereon was not above physical confrontation with Nazi youth groups and he often debated zealous Nazi teachers. He was also arrested and punished for his opposition to Nazism.
Despite the growing persecution by the Nazi's, Gereon was able to secretly enter the Franciscan novitiate in Gorheim-Sigmarinen in 1936. He finished his studies in philosophy in 1939 at the age of 22 but was then drafted into the German army. Gereon soon found himself one of 200 young student theologians who became part of the Wehrmacht.
His story is one of God's immense providence in protecting Gereon through the grueling training and the intense persecution by Nazi officers. In 1940, Heinrich Himmler, impressed by Gereon's courage granted him and the other theologians permission to carry out their religious duties without further interference from the anti-Christian officers of the SS.
However, when the SS attempted to force Gereon and the other theologians to repudiate their faith, Gereon was expelled from the SS. None of his fellow Catholics signed Gereon's written rejection of Nazism. He was expelled and eventually sent to Russia and to Italy.
Gereon was able to meet Pope Pius XII and was also granted permission to function as a priest despite never having studied theology. Fr. Gereon writes with wit and directness. His deep faith is evident throughout.
The Shadow of His Wings. The true story of Fr. Gereon Goldmann OFM
Translated by Benedict Leutenegger
Ignatius Press 2000