A Simple Truth
Friday, July 3, 2020
During World War II, Jesuit priest Walter Ciszek (1904–1984) was accused of being a “Vatican spy.” After spending five years in a Moscow prison, he was sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor in Siberian prison camps. He is an example of someone whose life has been pared down to the “one thing necessary.”
Through the long years of isolation and suffering, God had led me to an understanding of life and [God’s] love that only those who have experienced it can fathom. God had stripped away from me many of the external consolations, physical and religious, that people rely on and had left me with a core of seemingly simple truths to guide me. And yet what a profound difference they had made in my life, what strength they gave me, what courage to go on! I wanted to tell others about them. . . .
The simple soul who each day makes a morning offering of “all the prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day”—and who then acts upon it by accepting unquestioningly and responding lovingly to all the situations of the day as truly sent by God [I prefer to say “allowed” although it helps many people to see all situations as “sent by God.” And who really knows?]—has perceived with an almost childlike faith the profound truth about the will of God. . . . God’s will for us is clearly revealed in every situation of every day, if only we could learn to view all things as God sees them. . . .
The challenge lies in learning to accept this truth and act upon it, every moment of every day. The trouble is that like all great truths, it seems too simple. It is there before our noses all the time, while we look elsewhere for more subtle answers. It bears the hallmark of all divine truths, simplicity, and yet it is precisely because it seems so simple that we are prone to overlook it or ignore it in our daily lives. . . .
The fullest freedom I had ever known, the greatest sense of security, came from abandoning my will to do only the will of God. . . .
For what can ultimately trouble the soul that accepts every moment of every day as a gift from the hands of God and strives always to do God’s will? “If God is for us, who can stand against us?” [Romans 8:31]. Nothing, not even death, can separate us from God. . . . Is this too simple, or are we just afraid really to believe it, to accept it fully and in every detail of our lives, to yield ourselves up to it in total commitment? This is the ultimate question of faith, and each one of us must answer it for ourselves in the quiet of our heart and the depths of our soul. But to answer it in the affirmative is to know a peace, to discover a meaning to life, that surpasses all understanding.
Anyone in Fr. Walter’s situation could not fake such radical faith and trust. It had to be real.
Walter J. Ciszek with Daniel L. Flaherty, He Leadeth Me (Image: 2014, ©1973), 13, 40, 41, 165, 208. Note: Minor edits made for more inclusive language.