The life story of Fr. Gereon Goldmann is extraordinary. During World War two Goldmann was a young German seminarian studying to be a priest in the Franciscan Order, when he was conscripted into the SS aged 22 and served as a medical orderly. As well as nursing the sick and wounded, he also gave Communion to dying soldiers.

In 1943 Goldmann went home on brief leave to Fulda from the battleground. There he met Sister Solana May, an elderly nun who had taught him to be an altar server as a child. She calmly told him that he would be ordained a priest the following year. Goldmann replied that it was ‘impossible’, pointing out that when he was drafted he had four more years’ study in the seminary.

Unperturbed, the nun stated, ‘On the day of your mother’s death [when Goldmann was eight], I began to pray for you, that you should become a priest at the end of 20 years. The entire convent joined me in this devotion and for two decades we have appealed to the Lord on your behalf…Since Holy Scripture assures us that our prayers are heard, there is no doubt that you will be a priest next year.’

Goldmann was still sceptical, saying there was a war on and that Church law would not permit it. Sister Solana made short shrift of this: ‘War? The Bible does not say “Prayers are answered except during a foolish war, in which event God is powerless”… The matter is very simple. You will see the pope. He made the laws, he can also dispense from them.’

She then directed Goldmann to ‘pray to the Mother of God in Lourdes. Then you will see the Pope in Rome and you must ask him boldly for your ordination.’

By some ‘coincidence’ some months later, the seminarian was given special duties in France, at Pau, near Lourdes. And later that year, en route to the Front, he found himself in Rome and the highly improbable circumstances predicted by his elderly spiritual benefactress came true: he was ordained in 1944.

Fr. Goldmann’s story illustrates what all Christians should know: that prayer is powerful and God always answers it, though sometimes in unpredictable ways.

It also shows us that God is present even during the most evil or tragic events, such as a war, a world war.

Francis Phillips


Adapted and edited from Frances Phillips, ‘The gripping graphic novel that teaches us that God always answers our prayers,’ Catholic Herald Friday, 27 May 2016.

This article can be found in Mirror 0716.