Today is Fr. Walter J. Ciszek, S.J. Day in Shenandoah, PA. St. Casimir’s, the boyhood parish of Fr. Ciszek hosts this annual day to pray for his Cause of Canonization. In typical good Polish style, there is Mass, a hearty meal, and a social afterwards. Why should we pray for Fr. Ciszek’s canonization? G.K. Chesterton once commented:
The saint is a medicine because he is an antidote. Indeed that is why the saint is often a martyr; he is mistaken for a poison because he is an antidote. He will generally be found restoring the world to sanity by exaggerating whatever the world neglects, which is by no means always the same element in every age. Yet each generation seeks its saint by instinct; and he is not what the people want, but rather what the people need. . . . Therefore it is the paradox of history that each generation is converted by the saint who contradicts it most.
Our diseased culture needs an antidote and that antidote may very well be Fr. Ciszek. Certainly there are the heroics of his time in Russia–the struggle to keep the faith amid the tyrrany of the ruling political reality. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the government of the United States is making it more and more difficult to practice the faith. Indeed Catholic adoption agencies, hospitals, and even Catholic chaplains in the military are being forced by a subtle totalitarianism to accept the zeitgeist of contraception, abortion and so-called “gay marriage.” William Oddie of the UK recently observed that President Obama has declared war on the Catholic Church in the United States. How does a Catholic live in such times and under such a regime? Perhaps Fr. Ciszek can show us the way as he himself did under oppressive conditions in communist Russia from 1940-1963.
On an even more practical level, Fr. Ciszek’s commonsense spirituality is a key component for being a tough Catholic today. It is nothing other than, in the words of the good Jesuit, “giving it our lousy best.” God’s will for each and every human person is not found “out there” through an endless discernment process, rather, it is the situations and persons that God sends to us every day. How am I to see this person or this situation as an opportunity for grace, as an opportunity to do God’s will? That is how God speaks to us. In the words of Fr. Ciszek:
God has a special purpose, a special love, a special providence for all those He created. God cares for each of us. The circumstances of each day of our lives, of every moment of every day, are provided for us by Him…But maybe we are all just a little too afraid to accept (this truth) in all its shattering simplicity, for its consequences in our lives are both terrible and wonderful.
Fr. Daniel L. Flaherty, S.J., who assisted Fr. Ciszek in writing With God in Russia and He Leadeth Me, summed up Fr. Ciszek’s spirituality with this pithy phrase: “Get up in the morning.” That is the first thing we must do. Before we can thank God for the day or even do His will, we must get up. Common sense for the common man. That’s Fr. (and hopefully, Saint) Walter J. Ciszek, S.J.
UPDATE (17 October 2011): Here’s the local news on the day’s festivities. John Usalis’s “Father Ciszek Day Mass includes Panachida Service.”
This article, Fr. Walter J. Ciszek, S.J. Day is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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About John M. DeJak
John M. DeJak is an attorney and Latin teacher and works in academic administration. He writes from Ann Arbor, Michigan.