By Derick Cranston
“God’s will for us is the twenty four hours of each day — the people, the places, the circumstances he sets before us in space and time. It is in the ‘moment’ that we find God, and are called to do his will,” observes Father Walter Ciszek, S.J.
Fr Ciszek was an American-born Jesuit assigned to Poland in 1939 when the Soviet army overran the small town where his parish was located. He came to this insight over the next 23 years he spent in Soviet prisons after his capture.
His is an incredible story of survival and endurance. It was not until the NKVD had totally broken him physically, mentally and spiritually that he was able to totally surrender his will to God. It was only at this point of deepest despair that he crossed over a boundary in his spiritual life. This allowed him to see God in “the moment” of each day and to see God in others. He reached such a state of spiritual perfection that he came to pray for the souls of his captors and those who beat and tortured him. He even recalls at first he was only praying that they would see the error of their ways and stop tormenting him. He then realized this was the wrong reason to pray for them, and he should pray for them simply because they, too, were God’s children.
It is often when we are totally beaten down and in a place of darkness that God will speak to us if we are open to his grace. I have found this to be true in my own life and in the lives of former drug addicts, victims of abuse and the homeless whom I have encountered in my ministry. It is only when the vessel of our body and soul is broken open that the Holy Spirit will flow through us and give us the grace to find peace, joy and happiness. It is through this grace that we are then able to “Bless those who curse us, and pray for those who persecute us.”
Most of us will never face the extreme test that Fr. Ciszek endured, but we can still try to emulate his example in the little difficulties we encounter in our daily lives. Say a quick prayer for the person who dangerously cuts you off in traffic. Pray for the boss who makes your life miserable, for he too is a child of the Lord. Most of us will never achieve the spiritual perfection that Fr. Ciszek did, but it is a goal worth striving for. It is something we are called to practice and it is why we call ourselves “practicing Christians.”
Recently Osama bin Laden was killed in a raid on his compound. Could you pray for his soul, simply because he, too, is a child of the Lord? I am sure Fr. Ciszek could and it is what we are called to do as Christians when God told us to love our enemies and pray for them. It is the example Christ showed us upon the cross when he prayed for his tormentors, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”
I do not pretend that it is easy for me to pray for Osama bBin Laden, but it is a good reminder of what we are truly called to do as Christians. It is finding God in the moment and the people and situations he sets before us — whether they are a terrorist halfway across the globe or the person we encounter on the street.
(Derick Cranston is youth minister for St. Mary Parish in Riverside, Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond and St. Joseph Parish in Wellman. He is going through diaconate formation and can be reached at email@example.com.)