Wednesday, August 22, 2007

He Leadeth Me - Fr. Walter Ciszek

I have gotten the chance to read a lot lately. One of the books I'm in the process of reading is He Leadeth Me by Fr. Walter Ciszek a Jesuit priest who spent 20+ years as a prisoner in Russia. This book was recommended to me by one of my favorite bloggers, Jen at Et Tu?. She has a great post here that explains the book beautifully.

This book is so deep and meaningful. I am only on chapter 6 but that is because I have to think about and process each chapter for a while after I read it. This would actually be a great book to use for a prayer group or book club.

For example, last night I read about the time he spent in Lubianka Prison - known among prisoners as the place where men were broken, body and spirit. The prisoners were in cells by themselves 24/7 except for the 2 minutes they got to go to the bathroom and empty the buckets they used as toilets and the 20 minutes of exercise time they got if it was nice outside. Oh yeah, and then there were the times you got to go and meet with the interrogators...the next chapter goes into more detail about these horrific sessions. Other than that, it was almost total silence except for when a guard would slip you the tiny ration of food you got each day. Fr. Ciszek talks about how much he learned about prayer during this time. It was almost all he had to do to fill the time and keep himself from going crazy. He learned to:

"purify my prayer and remove from it the elements of self-seeking"

I don't know about you, but if I'm stuck in a room all by myself for hours and days and years on end with no interaction with other humans and barely enough food to keep a bird alive, I just don't think I'd be worried about purifying my prayer! But Fr. Ciszek was and explains so beautifully how to pray during suffering and trials, not for your own needs to be met but for the grace to offer up the sufferings and to endure them. Wow!

Another interesting thing he mentioned was that even with total silence, total lack of stimulation from any outside elements, and all the time in the world on his hands, his mind would still be distracted from prayer. At first I thought, well at least it isn't just me but then I realized that despite the fact that he was distracted by hunger pains, anxiety about his future, not knowing if he would ever get to leave this hell he was in, he figured out a way to subsist on prayer. I have none of these very real problems facing me - only self imposed distractions that keep me from prayer time with the Lord.

I hope to share more from this book. Like I said, each chapter is a new lesson...about prayer, God's will, how to handle suffering. It goes on and on. I got it from the library but am realizing that I'm going to have to shell out the bucks to buy this book because I can tell I will go back to it again and again as sort of a handbook or textbook.

I was happy to see upon Googling Fr. Ciszek that he is up for canonization. He is in the very early stages but you'd better believe that this inspiring man is going to become one of my intercessors!


Jennifer F. said...

Isn't that book just amazing? I can't say enough good things about it.

I love your point about how it's interesting that he too was distracted in prayer, but yet found a way to push through it. I hadn't thought of that!

Can't wait to read more of your thoughts! Wait until you get to the part about what some Russians were willing to go through to receive the Eucharist -- it makes you realize how much we take the Mass for granted around here!

Michelle said...

It's an excellent read, isn't it? After I read the book I felt like if he could find God there, certainly I should be able to see God in my ordinary everyday surroundings.

A couple of other great reads that kinda follow up on those thoughts are Abandonment to Divine Providence (very short but take it slow to absorb it all) and an EXCELLENT book is Left to Tell: Finding God Admist the Rwandan Genocide.

Stevie said...

Thanks Jen! Now I'm having trouble getting a chance to read but I'll keep sharing my thoughts.

Michelle - thanks for the recommendation on books! They look really interesting!