photo courtesy of Yaletown Photography
March 16th, 2023
A most inspiring book for your daily communion with God has been written by the Jesuit Priest Fr. Walter J. Ciszek, entitled “HE LEADETH ME”, Ignatius Press, 1995.
Ciszek was born in the United States in 1904 to Polish parents. Shortly after he joined the Jesuit priesthood in 1928 in Poughkeepsie, New York, Pope Pius XI issued an encyclical letter to all seminarians to volunteer to set up a centre in Russia. Father Ciznek was assigned to a Jesuit mission in Albertyn , Poland. When the war broke out and Hitler’s forces captured Warsaw, Ciznek disguised himself as a worker, following the refugees into Russia, hoping to be able to minister to their spiritual needs. In 1941 he was arrested falsely for espionage and taken by train to the dreaded Lubyanka prison in Moscow. Incessantly interrogated and tortured as a Vatican ’spy’, he eventually signed a confession and was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in the GULAG. After another four years he was sent to Siberia where he worked in the mines. His mandate was to be a good shepherd of Christ’s people, leading ever deeper into a life of semi-starvation and extreme cold, and he secretly would hear confession and lead retreats. He was released in 1955 after the completion of his sentence but was required to stay in Norilsk. He continued to secretly establish mission parishes. Eventually, in 1963, he was exchanged for two Russian spies captured by the FBI and returned to the USA, where he ministered through teaching and spiritual direction until his death in 1984.
Through reading this book I have been meditating on the following points:
1. Facing a gun barrel to be killed, as he did - like Dostoyevsky before him - was he more afraid of being accountable before the King of kings, than death itself? The Resurrection has removed all fear of death for the Christian. 2. He learnt profoundly that freedom is not just freedom to do what one wants, but freedom from one’s wilful self, to serve only God as our Creator Redeemer. 3. His eyes were opened to see that the Kingdom of God is much wider and deeper than our denominational life, for it is within prisons as well as churches, among the broken and the lowly. As Jesus reminded Pilate His Kingdom was not of this world, but transcendent over all humanity. 4. Humility is not just an emotion; it is a truth, indeed the truth above all truths. For it is based on the relationship of man with God. As Christ’s whole earthly life was living as the Son obedient to the Father’s will. So, for us it means accepting humiliation, accepting a multitude of disappointments, and even of crushing circumstances. 5. Faith is embarrassingly simple, as that of a child of God. It is the basis and incentive of all our prayer life. It is, states Cisnek:” the fulcrum of our moral and spiritual balance…an unshakeable confidence in God, that all things work together for good who put their trust in God”. That is how the Christian lives ‘providentially!