Sunday, November 28, 2010

With God in Russia by Walter J. Ciszek, S.J.

For several months I had seen his prayer card at our children's school. Just a regular looking older priest. Not a saint (yet), not someone famous (yet), but an ordinary looking man on a prayer card. I turned it over to find out who guy was. Fr. Walter Ciszek, S.J., a Jesuit, huh.

Then I read Fr. James Martin's book My Life with the Saints. Fr. Martin refers to Fr. Ciszek several times. He talks about his life and his writings.

Then at Blessed Trinity parish in Ocala, I found his book With God in Russia . This is often how God speaks to me, in small unnoticiable ways. But third time's a charm, same guy-I had to buy it.

I started reading it right away. I could hardly put it down. From the synopsis on the book:

Father Walter Ciszek, S.J.,  tells here the gripping, astounding story of his twenty-three years in Russian prison camps in Siberia, how he was falsely imprisoned as an "American spy", the incredible rigors of daily life as a prisoner, and his extraordinary faith in God and commitment to his priestly vows and vocation. He said Mass under cover, in constant danger of death. He heard confession of hundreds who could have betrayed him; he aided spiritually many who could have gained by exposing him.

This is a remarkable story of personal experience. It would be difficult to write fiction that could honestly portray the heroic patience, endurance, fortitude and complete trust in God lived by Fr. Walter Ciszek, S.J.

For me, sitting in my comfy bed, reading this book mostly at the end of a warm day in Florida, the contrast of my life and his was extreme. I marveled not only at his deep faith, but his ability to do hard manual labor in the freezing cold year round temperatures of Russia. Although he could not perform the regular duties of a priest throughout the day, he found ways to hear confessions and occasionally say mass. But through it all, Ciszek never stopped praying. We do well to imitate that practice, to pray without ceasing.

This book makes World War II and prison camps come alive. To me this is the best way to learn history, through the stories of the real people that actually lived through it.

I highly recommend this book.

1 comment:

  1. Among the many things that amazed me about Father Ciszek was his unrelenting belief in Jesus Christ and his faith in the Catholic Church. Such faith was necessary for his survival in the Gulag. Fr. provided me with much direction in my letters and personal correspondence with him from roughly 1968 till the 1980's. He was my guide then and my guardian angel now.