As John DeJak made his way to the podium to address those gathered for Vespers at Lourdes in April, the audience could see clearly the words of Father Walter J. Ciszek, S.J., illuminated on the projector screen behind him: “Give God your lousy best.” These perplexing and, perhaps, brusque words were confusing at first, but upon discovering the life of Fr. Ciszek those in the audience -like this writer- learned quickly to embrace such a statement with a sigh of relief.
For young, devout Catholics there can often be a tendency toward scrupulosity, and unhealthy perfectionism both in discipleship and discernment. Many of us falsely demand of ourselves that before we act, complete our work, come to decisions, or anything else with which we occupy our mental efforts, we must be at the most heightened state of spiritual certainty and personal sanctity. It was DeJak’s refreshing talk based on the life and spirituality of Father Ciszek that introduced us to a very different and liberating mentality: to “give God your lousy best” means that “God does not expect a man single-handedly to change the world or overthrow all evil or cure all ills,” but rather that we must abandon ourselves to God’s providence and accept that, for God, “each individual is equally important at all times.” At all times. Even in our confusion and even in our sinfulness.
Father Ciszek was a Jesuit priest who, shaped by his Polish upbringing and hardened by his own stubbornness, served briefly overseas in Poland before making his way to the Church’s mission in Russia. Father Ciszek had long desired to serve the Russian people, but what he discovered through his experience there was far different than what he had planned. God had allowed this young, upstart missionary priest to be imprisoned in the Russian gulag, falsely accused as a spy, for 23 years, toiling tirelessly to discover God’s purpose for his life. Amidst all of these difficulties, he was broken – but was Ciszek’s will conquered by the Communist officials, or by God? In his suffering, Ciszek learned to see God’s providence, and furthermore, that “each day, every day of our lives, God presents to us the people and opportunities upon which he expects us to act.” Even by means of a Soviet labor camp God can convert a stubborn prisoner-priest and show him the true meaning of his life. One can learn much about humility and faith from Father Ciszek’s witness for he embodies the expression: “Faith is like a dark tunnel: God gives us the light to take one step at a time. The light is not given to see the end of the tunnel.”
DeJak’s talk was refreshing, encouraging, and certainly not lacking in humor. All were privileged to listen to his expertise, but most especially to hear that not only did DeJak have incredible knowledge of Father Ciszek, but that also for him, Father Ciszek is a dear friend whose spiritual wisdom and powerful intercessory prayer continually accompany both him and his family through this valley of tears.
- Father Walter J. Ciszek and his cause for canonization
- More from John DeJak: The Bellarmine Forum.
— John M. DeJak (@jmdejak) April 8, 2015
Great crowd and wonderful folks at @VespersMN. Very receptive to Fr. Walter Ciszek, SJ! Many thanks for your kindness.
— John M. DeJak (@jmdejak) April 10, 2015