For many, the day after Christmas is one of the saddest days of the year. The thrill of opening presents has evaporated and is perhaps replaced by disappointment in what we did not receive or, even worse, something we did receive but thought would be better. (Take note: material items never completely satisfy.) Trees and decorations are, in some households, already taken down and we are confronted by the sober awareness that it will be another 364 days before we experience a similar excitement.
The day after Christmas was not a day of desolation, however, for Karl Frederick Wilhelm Maria Leisner, prisoner 22356. This twenty-nine year old man celebrated his first and only Mass while in prison in Dachau on December 26, 1944. Leisner was a seminarian—in fact, a transitional deacon, only months from ordination--when he was arrested and sent to the infamous Nazi concentration camp. He would remain in prison for five and a half years. Providentially, towards the end of the seminarist's tenure, a French bishop was arrested and sent to the same prison. Leisner was beloved in the prison camp and his fellow inmates desired Leisner's one desire: to be a priest of Jesus Christ. His fellow prisoners, thus, set to work making the ordination possible. They made vestments for the priest and bishop, forged a bishop's ring and crafted a crozier. Inscribed on the staff were the words, Victor in vinculi (Victor in Chains). Leisner was ordained on December 17, celebrated Mass on December 26, and died shortly thereafter.
Father Karl was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1996 at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, a stadium built by Hitler for the 1936 Olympic Games. The pope held the crozier used by the French Bishop in Dachau.