A SAINT IN A SUIT
Konrad Adenauer Said about him: ‘A saint in a suit’. He used to get up at 5 a.m. He used to go to the Holy Mass with a basket for milk and a baguette. Later, he used to go to Metz by bus. He was the prime minister of France twice. As a minister and the prime minister he prayed in the chapel of the Miraculous Medallion in Rue du Bac in Paris. He initiated the process of the unification of Europe. He prayed for the world without war. He looked for an answer in God to questions about the shape of united Europe. He saw the sense of building democracy only on the fundament of Christianity. As a leading politician he was not embarrassed to admit to being a follower of Jesus Christ. Who was the God’s servant, Robert Schuman?
After the end of the Second World War and the division of Europe into the western one – supported in rebuilding and development by the United States and the eastern one – exploited and isolated from the rest of the world by the USSR - societies and politicians were in a new situation. Concepts of building the world and agreements among countries mixed with one another.
Building on wounds
After the Second World War not only did the borders of countries change. A big blow was done against the human sense of dignity and safety. International cooperation had to start reappearing – on wounds and ruins – despite prejudices and fears. One issue immediately appeared in the foreground and everyone agreed about it – it was necessary to do everything so that there would not be any war. Among those who were building the order in Europe after the year 1945, a politician of special merits was Robert Schuman. Today we must look at his achievements and the vision of united Europe on the fundament of Christianity because for many months informative services have been inflecting the word ‘war’ by all grammatical cases. And although in the world there are about 50 military conflicts, the Russian-Ukrainian one raises most fear. Experts’ conclusions are right: from the end of the Second World War, none of countries in Europe dared to conquer another sovereign country. Since the USSR collapsed, in this part of the world there have not been any pretexts for bringing brotherly help. Now the large giant woke up and hungry set off to feed himself. Robert Schuman, one of the three fathers of united Europe, was doing everything from the year 1945 in order not to allow for such a scenario.
Who was this man?
I am a Luxembourger by birth, educated in Germany, a Roman Catholic of belief and a French man from heart’ – Robert Schuman used to say. Schuman’s father came from Lotaryngia but Robert was born in 1886 in Clausen, a district of Luxembourg from where his mother came from. It was her who, from his early years, inoculated the need for care about inner life in him and deepening his relationship with God. Every day they read the Holy Scripture and said the Rosary prayer, made pilgrimages to Lourdes and La Salette. As a seventeen-year-old boy, kneeling before the altar of Our Lady with his mother in Scy-Chazelles, he said an act of complete entrustment to God. Robert studied law in Bonn, Munich, Berlin and Strasburg. In 1912 he opened a law firm in Metz. He was known as a great attorney. At work he combined his competences with great engagement in problems of another man. He never got married but lived like a celibate. For a long time he wanted to join a religious order, later a seminary, however, Rene Lejeune – a friend, and father of ten children, was trying to convince him: ‘I feel that you have got something more to do; that you will able to do it in a suit and a tie, not in a clerical collar’.
A humble visionary on duty
He started from the Folk Union of Catholic Germany, he was also a member of the board management of the Diocesan Federation of Youth Organizations, he acted in Caritas. After the end of the First World War he participated in the National Assembly in Paris, representing the Catholic Lorraine party. After the outbreak of the Second World War he had a function of a sub-secretary of the state in the government of Paul Reynaud and was responsible for issues of the refugees. Having taken over the authority by the marshal Philippe Petain, he resigned. In 1940 he was arrested by the Nazis and embedded in prison in Metz. He was on a list of the ones sentences to deportation to a concentration camp. He had hidden in monasteries in France till the year 1944. In 1945 he joined a party of Christian Democrats – the Folk Republican Movement. His decision was made under the influence of his deep Catholicism, the most important impulse of his actions. A French socialist, protestant Andre Philip wrote about him: ‘What was striking about him was his radiating inner life; his life was directed to being the man of faith, without any desires or personal ambitions, a man of total sincerity and total intellectual modesty, a man enlivened with a desire to serve where he would be appointed to’. He quickly became the key person of the French politics. In 1947 he stood on the helm of the government. As the prime minister he made France the biggest beneficiary of American help within Marsall’s plan. Cooperators said that he was an extremely honest man. He did not care about his own business. His attitudes in personal life were all the same, as in the public life. Homogeneous and coherent, very concrete. He did not like illusion in politics but he was brave in discussions with those who had different opinions. He was appreciated for respect which he showed to others.
Europe can be united
As a politician, Schuman became famous on cards of history thanks to the initiative of French-German reconciliation which became the beginning of united Europe. On 9 May 1950 he presented a concept, later called by his name which became the basis for creating the European Community of Coal and Steel and the European Economic Community and Euratom – fundaments of the European Union. In March 1958 Schuman was also elected the first chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the EEC. He had this function till March 1960. When he was retiring, he was given the title of the Father of Europe. Schuman did not want to build new United States consisting of European countries. He was an opponent of blurring national identities. ‘Democracy – he wrote in his only book entitled ‘For Europe’- owes its existence to Christianity. It appeared when the man was called to realize rules of human dignity in his temporal life, within individual freedom, respecting everyone’s rights and practices of brotherhood towards everybody (…). Democracy is connected with Christianity doctrinally and chronologically (…). Christianity taught equality to all people, children of the same God, redeemed by Christ, without any difference of their race, skin colour, class or profession. It brought acknowledgement of work dignity and a duty of recognizing it by everybody. It brought priority of inner values (…)’.
Who was really this man?
Robert Schuman concealed his illness from his relatives. Everything started in 1960. He went out for a walk, lost his consciousness and did not return home before night. He had a fit of epilepsy, fell down and suffered multiple injuries. He suffered from anemia of the brain which caused losses of consciousness. – He never swaggered himself, in fact, I always saw him kneeling – either before a man, in his posture, or physically, during a prayer before the Holy Sacrament – said a nun of the Holy Heart of Jesus from Scy-Chazelles, who looked after Schuman in his illness. Sisters of the Holy Heart of Jesus knew Schuman because his house was opposite their monastery, and Schuman used to go to the Holy Mass there every day. He lived in a modest way - a metal bed, no useless things. Although he suffered, he refused to take pain-killers. He devoted three years of severe illness for a continuous prayer for Europe so that there would not be any war. He died on 4 September 1963.
He wrote in a testament that his funeral should be modest. Soon after his death materials for beatification process were collected. Robert Schuman is God’s servant. Today documents are being analyzed by the Congregation of Canonization Issues.
Europe needs his prayer
- I cannot conceal my disappointment with the fact that the text of the Charter does not include any mention about God who is the original source of human dignity and his fundamental rights. This is ahistorical proceeding and derogatory to fathers of new Europe – said pope John Paul II in Vatican on 23 February 2002; commenting on the content of the Charter of Basic Rights and the preamble to the European Constitution, in which the reference to God was omitted. This Charter is derogatory to the works of Robert Schuman, distorts his vision of united Europe going in a safe direction. Military actions taking place on the Ukrainian-Russian borderline, March annexation of Kremlin, shooting down a passenger plane do not allow Europe to feel safe. We are not sure whether today politicians work in the European Parliament who, on their knees, every day, pray for Europe without any war. Believing in the power of prayers of the saints and the blessed of the Church, let’s call bravely through the intercession of God’s servant Robert Schuman.