Saturday, February 6, 2010

Fr. Walter Ciszek: Appreciation for the Holy Eucharist

Servant of God Fr. Walter Ciszek was born in Pennsylvania, became a Jesuit priest and volunteered to be sent to Russia as a missionary. He entered Russia in 1939, was arrested in 1941 as a Vatican spy and suffered in prison and at hard labor until 1955. In his book, He Leadeth Me, Fr. Ciszek wrote:

“Sometimes I think that those who have never been deprived of an opportunity to say or hear Mass do not really appreciate what a treasure the Mass is” (pg. 122).

“Mass and the Blessed Sacrament were a source of great consolation to me; they were the source of my strength and joy and spiritual sustenance”(pg. 132).

From the Walter Ciszek Prayer League:
"... for the first time in five years he met another priest and was able to say Mass. Polish prisoners had made wine out of stolen raisins, the paten was a cover for a gold watch, the chalice was a shot glass. "But my joy at being able to celebrate Mass again cannot be described. . . . I heard confessions regularly and from time to time was even able to distribute Communion secretly after I'd said Mass. The experience gave me new strength. I could function as a priest again, and I thanked God daily for the opportunity to work among this hidden flock, consoling and comforting men who had thought themselves beyond His grace."

(Above quotes from the official website for the Cause for Canonization of Servant of God Fr. Walter Ciszek, SJ)

Five months after Fr. Ciszek's return to the United States, he wrote: "... when I walked through St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, do you know what impressed me most? The few people, out of all the crowds streaming by, who came in through those open doors to make a visit. I understand that my impression was not fair, that at noontime on a working day the church is jammed with office workers who take time out from their lunch hour to go to Mass and to Communion. At first glance religion here seems almost a formality, an obligation that can be dispensed with if you have been out late the night before.

"In Siberia, when I said Mass, people risked arrest to come; here, they risk nothing, neither do they always come. In Krasnoyarsk and Norilsk, when people learned a priest was in town or was saying Mass at such and such a place, they came for miles, bringing their children to be baptized, going to confession before Mass and then Communion during Mass, asking to have their marriages blessed after Mass, begging me to come and bless their homes or sing the panikida (a requiem service) for members of the family who had died. They came to huts, to barracks rooms, to private homes, and they risked their jobs, their union membership, their chance for an apartment or an education for their children. Having ministered to such faith, therefore, it was incredible to me to think that people here could look on Sunday Mass as an obligation, or the supporting of their parish and their school as a burden.

"I should repeat again that these were my first reactions, my impressions, and are not meant in any way as criticisms. I am only reporting what struck me when I first looked at America again. As a priest who had worked very hard to help people who were so eager just to be able to go to Mass, I could not help being struck, thunderstruck, at this initial impression of indifference to religion in a country where there was nothing to restrain its open practice. (Quotes from article written by Fr. Ciszek for America Magazine) .

Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ, Eternal High Priest, Mother of all priests, and our Mother, help us respond generously to the Holy Spirit's request, through the voice of His Church, to offer up to God Eucharistic adoration for priests. Amen.

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