If you’ve been following the news lately, you know that our Church is currently in a time of crisis. Throughout the world, our brothers and sisters are suffering from religious persecution, famine and poverty, and lack of adequate education. Now, the clergy abuse crisis adds another burden to disturb and sorrow the hearts of people of faith.
As missionary priests, we encounter the wounded Body of Christ every day as we try to bring God’s love into some of the darkest places on earth.
But even if you’re not a missionary, the state of our Church throughout the world may be weighing heavily on you as well. Where is God in all of this? Why does it seem like he is silent when his children are crying out for justice and reprieve from their sufferings? How can you grow in love and understanding of God while grieving?
We Have a God Who Suffers with Us
Our faith does not provide us with easy answers to these questions. Instead of platitudes, we have a God who suffers with us, who knows what it’s like to bear the weight of the world on his shoulders. But that can seem like cold comfort when we are in the midst of our own crises of faith.
We need to see the examples of other human beings who have lived through times of crisis and come out on the other side with authentic hope.
Thankfully, the Church has thousands of saints who did just that, and learning about them is as easy as doing a Google search. Today we want to share with you the story of a faithful missionary priest who is not yet canonized, but whose life is a testament to God’s power to bring good out of great evil.
Learning from a Missionary Priest's Example
Fr. Walter Ciszek was an American Jesuit priest who snuck into Russia as a missionary during World War II, and was eventually captured and sent to a Siberian prison camp. He lived for years without being able to contact anyone outside of Russia, without being able to practice his faith openly, and without being able to see many fruits of his tireless labor for the Catholics in atheist Russia. It is fair to say that Fr. Ciszek saw humanity at its worst, and at its best during his time as a missionary.
Fr. Ciszek miraculously survived his time in Siberia and eventually returned to the United States, where he wrote two memoirs about his experience: With God in Russia and He Leadeth Me. In the latter, he writes with conviction about the difficulties he had in remaining hopeful in the face of corruption and great sorrow:
“For each of us, salvation means no more and no less than taking up daily the same cross of Christ, accepting each day and what it brings as the will of God, offering back to God each morning all the joys, works, and sufferings of that day. But those are abstract words. What it means, in practice, is spelled out as always by the poor old body. It means getting up each morning and going to bed exhausted. It means the routine, not the spectacular. It can mean drudgery, pain, putting aside pleasures, happiness, or the love the human heart craves until another time, so that what is necessary at the moment can be done. It means working for others, touching the lives of others, through the medium of the body.”
Encounter Christ through Everyday Service
It is this concrete presence of Christ that we try to bring to each person we encounter in our missionary work as Missionhurst priests. In suffering with those we serve, we draw nearer to the source of our hope: Christ.
We want to encourage you to encounter Christ through genuine service to those in your own life: your family members, parish, the poor who live in your own neighborhood or community.
You don’t have to be a missionary serving in remote, suffering part of the world, to know the truth of the prayer attributed to St. Francis: “it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
If you're interested in learning more about how you can help those suffering around the world, we invite you to check out our devotional resources!