Feast of Walter Ciszek (December 9)   Leave a comment

grave-of-walter-ciszek

Above:  The Grave of Father Walter Ciszek, S.J.

Image in the Public Domain

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WALTER JOSEPH CISZEK (NOVEMBER 4, 1904-DECEMBER 8, 1984)

Roman Catholic Missionary Priest and Political Prisoner

Father Walter Ciszek suffered for Christ and glorified God in dire circumstances.

The son of Polish immigrants entered the world at Shenandoah, Pennsylvania.  At a young age he belonged to a gang, but he changed his ways and resolved to become a priest instead.  Ciszek, who became a Jesuit novice in 1928, planned as early as 1929 to become a missionary to Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.  He began to study theology and the Russian language at the Pontifical Russian College, Rome, in 1934.  Three years later our saint became a Byzantine Rite priest.  The Church sent him to the Jesuit mission at Alberty, in eastern Poland, in 1938.

Ciszek, a citizen of the United States, did not return to his homeland until 1963.  The beginning of World War II in Europe forced the closing of the Jesuit mission at Alberty.  Our saint, a clandestine missionary in the Soviet Union, was in custody from 1941 to 1963.  He spent five years at the notorious Lubyanka prison, Moscow.  For most of that time our saint was in solitary confinement.  In 1942, under pressure due to torture, Ciszek signed a false confession and received a sentence of 15 years of hard labor.  From 1946 to 1963 our saint suffered in the gulag in Siberia, performing slave labor (frequently in mines) and menial tasks.  Until 1955, when authorities permitted him to write letters to his family, Ciszek’s relatives and the Society of Jesus had presumed him to be have been dead for years.  From 1955 to 1963 the KGB forced him to move periodically, usually after he had become “too popular” and founded a church.  Through all of the suffering and indignities Ciszek relied on divine providence and maintained his dignity.

On October 12, 1963, the Soviet Union traded Ciszek and Marvin W. Markinen (an American student convicted of being a spy) for two Soviet agents.  Back in the United States our saint wrote two memoirs, lectured at Fordham University, and worked as a counselor and a spiritual advisor.  He died, aged 80 years, on December 8, 1984.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 23, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 25:  THE TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES OF JERUSALEM, BROTHER OF JESUS

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Almighty God, whose will it is to be glorified in your saints,

and who raised up your servant Walter Ciszek to be a light to the world:

Shine, we pray, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth your praise,

who called us out of darkness into your marvelous light;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Isaiah 49:1-6

Psalm 98 or 98:1-4

Acts 17:22-31

Matthew 28:16-20

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 717

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