Fr. Walter Ciszek, S.J.
From this interesting piece on Fr. Walter J. Ciszek and the simple (but not easy to come by) truths he learned while in the Gulag:
. . . Lubianka wore him down with its constant hunger and isolation and the all-night interrogations, with their mind games and agonizing afterthoughts. After a year—brutalized, drugged, threatened with death—Ciszek did what he had been sure he would never do: He signed papers that gave the impression he had been spying for the Vatican.
Afterward, burning with shame and guilt for being “nowhere near the man I thought I was,” he finally faced the truth.
I had asked for God’s help but had really believed in my ability to avoid evil and to meet every challenge… . I had been thanking God all the while that I was not like the rest of men… . I had relied almost completely on myself in this most critical test—and I had failed.
The interrogations continued, and Ciszek fell into black despair. Terrified, he threw himself on God, pleading his utter helplessness. Then, in a moment of blinding light, he was able to see “the grace God had been offering me all my life.”
I knew that I must abandon myself completely to the will of the Father and live from now on in this spirit of self-abandonment to God. And I did it. I can only describe the experience as a sense of “letting go,” giving over totally my last effort or even any will to guide the reins of my own life. It is all too simply said, yet that one decision has affected every subsequent moment of my life. I have to call it a conversion… . It was at once a death and a resurrection.
Selfless in Siberia. Walter Ciszek was a new man—and it showed. Realizing they could not manipulate him, the Soviets sentenced him to fifteen years of hard labor in the Siberian Gulag.
Sister Damiana with Baby Theresa
While we’re speaking of Russia and the church, a recent post about a new order of American Catholic sisters, who serve Vladivostok, Russia has brought some interesting emails from reader Frances, who passed this along from a woman who has visited the orphanage in Vladivostok:
The children were darling, but there are so many of them that the well-meaning caretakers at the orphanage could not possibly give each and every child the personal, loving attention that they needed. The children were starved for love. They just wanted to be held. In one of these pictures, a little girl—who had never met any of us just climbed up into the lap of Sr. Julia and stayed there.
At this orphanage, there was a section for babies with HIV. The nurses were afraid to hold them, so the Sisters went in and held the babies. Me too, it was hard to put the baby that I was holding down because when I did, he would cry. He wanted to be held.
That is why Fr. Myron started the “Babushkas and Babies project”. The grandmas of the parish, and the sisters too, go over to the orphanages and give the children as much love and attention as they can. The grandmas are helped with a stipend (their pensions are next to nil and they need some financial support to live) and the little children get loving attention from the grandmas. It’s a “win-win” situation. Both the Widows and the Orphans are helped. Sometimes the grandmas are allowed to have children come stay over at their homes.
Some of these orphans have never left the building and gone outside to play! There was no outdoor play yard at one of the orphanages in Vladivostok. The Church has helped the orphanages with many of the very basics such as bedding for cribbs and beds, art materials, clothes, shoes, etc.. I think most of the Russian caretakers do care about the children, but the needs are so great, and the people are poor. They just need a lot of help there.
We have read in recent weeks, about the problem some Russian orphans have with bonding, because of their isolation and lack of human contact in the orphanages, where there are not enough helpers. These Sisters in Jesus the Lord are promoting the “Grand(parents) Mentoring” program at three Russian orphanages, in Vladivostok, Nakhodka, and Lesozavodsk.
For $70 a month we can send a grandma into an orphanage for 12 hours a week. This program was suggested by Americans who have adopted children at orphanages in our area. They say that the kids, besides needing more and better food [See our webpage "Help the Orphans"] also need more socialization. The program is designed to also aid pensioners who need additional income—they become the “grannies”.
Imagine if your poker buddies, your KofC or Rotary group, your bowling league, your prayer circle, your book club, your teen-group, your scouts, your summer play group or your auxiliary decided to raise $70.00 a month to “adopt” a Granny-mentor for the orphans. What a great help that would be; a win-win, indeed! Pray about it! Talk about it with your friends!
If you are not in a position to give material help to the sisters in their mission, you can always prayer-partner with them.
Prayer has power, as this sister interviewed by Kathryn Jean Lopez would doubtlessly agree.
Dreadful story out of Italy.