The heroine of 'The Sound of Music' was faced with many challenges when the family left their native Austria. Maria's faith and the love of her large family filled their days with joy in spite of the circumstances.
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How do you solve a problem like Maria? The heroine of the 1965 American musical drama, The Sound of Music, the Baroness Maria Augusta von Trapp, was truly fascinating. The events of the film are but one small chapter in the incredible lives of Maria, her husband Georg, and their 10 children. As her life unfolded, Maria came face-to-face (literally) with both abortion and Adolf Hitler.
The first nemesis was Adolf Hitler himself. The von Trapps were living in Austria for a time after the Nazi invasion. The Nazis quickly tightened their grip of Austrian culture by replacing folk songs, customs, and statues with images of Adolf Hitler and swastika flags bearing the image of what Maria would call “the black spider.”
In their public schools, the von Trapp children were given new teachers from “the party.” In her own book, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, Maria wrote,
“The children came home from school saying that this or that teacher wasn’t there any more, new teachers, even a new principal taking their places … [the children were told] never to mention at home what they learned at school now … How long could this go on?”
Very soon after, Maria and Georg decided to depart from their homeland. In the movie, the von Trapp family plots a daring escape over the mountains of the Nazi-invaded country of Austria. In reality, the family makes a less dramatic departure from the country on a ship to New York City. However, before fleeing their native homeland, Maria and Georg encounter the Führer himself. While having lunch in Munich, the von Trapps discover they are sitting adjacent to Adolf Hitler himself.
“’Look! The Führer! At the next table!’ And so it was. At the very next table sat the Führer of the German people, surrounded by six or eight S.S. men. They all were drinking beer, and Hitler, raspberry juice, because one of his innumerable virtues was that he didn’t touch alcohol, nor did he eat meat. For the next forty minutes we had a first-class opportunity to look at the Messiah of the Third Reich … One couldn’t stand it too long, however. Knowing who he was, it was too depressing.”
Not long after this encounter, the von Trapps’ bank had crashed, and the family lost all their immense wealth. They left everything behind to make a journey to America with little money in their pockets. Their large family got them through the most difficult of times. Maria reflected, “Whatever the day may be, it is turned into a feast only by that genuine affection of which a large family is a real powerhouse.”
Indeed, true to the film, Maria adopted her seven stepchildren. She and Georg would soon go on to have three additional children together. They traveled as a family to America with the addition of a priest-friend, who would celebrate daily Mass and evening Benediction with the entire family. With little to no money, they were forced to drastically change their lifestyle, and Maria paradoxically became especially joy-filled. Amid their financial struggles, her husband once commented,
“’What’s the matter with you? You act as if you had made a million dollars.’ ‘Oh, much more,’ she said. ‘I have just found out that we were not really rich, we just happened to have a lot of money. That’s why we can never be poor.’”
It was during this uncertain time that Maria became pregnant. She immediately began to experience severe back pains and went to see a specialist. Maria recounts the visit,
“’Your wife cannot have another child,’ he informed my husband; ‘at least, not until the kidneys are back to normal. They are both badly infected … The child has to be removed, of course, immediately.’ This made me indignant. ‘What do you mean, of course? That is not of course at all. On the contrary, it is absolutely out of the question—we are Catholics, you know.’ Now the doctor seemed seriously worried. ‘The child won’t be born alive; this much I can tell you.’”
Maria proceeded the only way she knew how: with fervent prayer. She prayed, “Dear Blessed Mother, help me. Let nothing happen to this child.”
When it was time for the baby to be born, the family converged in prayer at the time of delivery:
“The family gathered in the living room, reciting the rosary aloud. Then they sang hymns. Then they prayed again.” After labor, the baby arrived! “I had to squeeze Georg’s hand very hard, and time seemed to stand still. Then I heard a funny little squeak … At that minute a full chorale downstairs started: ‘Now thank we all our God!’ … ‘Why it’s a boy!’ … The predictions of the doctor proved beautifully wrong, and Johannes promises to be a fine American boy.”
It is here that Maria offers encouragement to future mothers as she recounts the moment she learned about the leading abortion provider in the United States:
“Many years later I happened to learn about planned parenthood and birth control to guard against unwanted children. I must say, Johannes had not been exactly planned for that very moment, and as far as being wanted is concerned, I would have gladly said many times, ‘Oh, won’t you please be so kind as to wait for just six months?’ … If there is any planning to be done, why don’t we let Him do it? Looking back now, I know that He chose the only right moment for Johannes’ arrival.”
The von Trapp Family would go on to claim a great musical success with many tours in the United States and abroad. They would eventually buy a farm in Stowe, Vermont, and build their home with their own hands. They truly climbed every mountain of a troubled world and forged every stream under circumstances of uncertainty. With the undying love of each other, the von Trapp family truly had found their dreams.
“Whatever faults may be committed, big or small, whatever clouds may pile up on the horizon, dark and threatening, love will overcome all.”— Maria Augusta Trapp