Sunday, June 24, 2012

In Russia

After Father Ciszek and Father Nestrov arrive in Russia with refugees from Poland, Father Ciszek says:

"...The rudest awakening of all, however, was our growing realization that we might have no apostolate at all here. Though freedom of religion is technically guaranteed by the 'Soviet Constitution, proselytization is strictly forbidden. The constitution guarantees freedom of atheist propaganda, but those who try to spread the truths of the faith or foster religion are in fact breaking the law; Nestrov and I had known this, of course, simply as a matter of pure fact; now we began to experience it as a fact of daily life.

Nobody wanted to talk about religion, let alone practice it. Though none of the workers in our barracks knew that Nestrov and I were priests, they were still reluctant to so much as discuss any matters dealing with God or religion. We were accepted among them as fellow workers, in an easy spirit of comradeship. We shared the work, the poor food, the poor housing, the daily hardships. The refugees, especially, were a simple people with a difficult lot in life that they accepted with resignation. They welcomed us in their company, conversed freely, and answered practical problems with the cliches and bromides born of common hardships or cultural heritage. But they would not speak of God or hear of God.

They were afraid. Nestrov and I, too, became cautious and even fearful; you could not help it in that atmosphere. We were afraid not only for ourselves and for what we still hoped might prove the ultimate success of our apostolate, but for the people among whom we hoped to minister as well. They had so little in this life that we did not want to be the cause of further trouble to them. We knew, and they knew, there were informers and party members who would report any religious activities. It was even necessary not to say anything to the children about God, tempting as such a thought might be, lest they in all innocence tell others about our conversation and so give us away..."

The two priests thought that they had made a mistake in coming to Russia...

"...And then one day, together, it dawned on us. God granted us the grace to see the solution to our dilemma, the answer to our temptation. It was the grace quite simply to look at our situation from his viewpoint rather than from ours. It was the grace not to judge our efforts by human standards, or by what we ourselves wanted or expected to happen, but rather according to God's design. It was the grace to understand that our dilemma, our temptation, was of our own making and existed only in our minds; it did not and could not coincide with the real world ordained by God and governed ultimately by his will..."

From Walter J. Ciszek's book He Leadeth me

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