In her Diary, St Faustina relates that the Lord gives us three ways in which we can be merciful – in deed, in word and in prayer. By these three means, all of us are able to be merciful towards others. Sometimes, we will have the opportunity to be merciful by our prayers, at other times, by our words. Perhaps the most visible way is by our actions. We may not always be always to do something merciful, but when we are – and when we grasp the opportunity to do so – wonderful things can happen. Such was the case in the life of a man called Sir Nicholas Winton, who died today at the age of 106.
During the War, Nicholas Winton had the chance to put mercy into action.
Born in London of Jewish parents, Nicholas and his family converted to Christianity. He worked as a banker and then as a stockbroker in various European cities. As the days of ward approached, he was increasingly concerned about the very real dangers he saw the Nazi party presenting. In late 1938, he found himself in Prague following a change of plan, where he established an organisation to help Jewish refugee children whose lives were in danger. That same month, the British Government allowed refugee children to enter the United Kingdom as long as they had somewhere to stay and there was a £50 surety kept to allow their eventual return home. And so, Nicholas sought British families who were willing to take in these children and provide the required financial bond. he then set about arranging trains to take them across Europe and toward the United Kingdom. The final group of 250 children did not make it and were killed, unfortunately. However, Nicholas Winton successful saved the lives of 669 children.
After working with the Red Cross, he finally returned to the financial sector. He remained quiet about what he had done to save the children. It was only fifty years later, in 1988, that his wife found documentation in the attic which revealed his heroic efforts to save lives. Appearing on television that year, he was surrounded by some of those whose lives he had saved, and was clearly deeply moved to meet them again. They, too, were deeply moved.
The life of Nicholas Winton is one of great mercy and great heroism, coupled with true humility; he never once sought credit for what he had done, indeed, he remained silent for so many years. One single man – and yet, what a difference he made to so many.
This is a singular example of mercy in action, certainly – but no less real because of that. Not all of us will be called – or have the opportunity – to be merciful in such a massive way; but every single one of us is called to be merciful in whatever way we can be. Whether in word, deed or prayers, we must be merciful to our neighbour – those who hate us as much as those who love us, and whom we love. Mercy often costs a heavy price; but the rewards of mercy far outweigh that price. The life of Sir Nicholas Winton is one example of the proof of that.
“You are to show mercy to your neighbours always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve from it. I am giving you three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbour: the first – by deed; the second – by word; the third – by prayer. In these three degrees is contained the fullness of mercy, and it is an unquestionable proof of love for Me. By this means a soul glorifies and pays reverence to My mercy” (Diary, 742)