Father Walter Ciszek

Great Jesuits 4: With God in Russia

Fr_ Walter J_ Ciszek, S_J_

Part 4 of my series on great Jesuits in American history

Perhaps there are braver men than Walter Ciszek, but they don’t come readily to mind.  Hard enough to be brave for a short period when the adrenaline is flowing.  Ciszek was brave under often horrendous circumstances for almost a quarter of a century.

Born in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania on November 4, 1904, the son of Polish immigrants, he grew to be  a wild, tough kid, a bully and gang member.   He therefore floored his parents when he told them he wanted to be a priest.  Entering a minor seminary he remained tough as he related:

“And I had to be tough. I’d get up at four-thirty in the morning to run five miles around the lake on the seminary grounds, or go swimming in November when the lake was little better than frozen. I still couldn’t stand to think that anyone could do something I couldn’t do, so one year during Lent I ate nothing but bread and water for the forty days –another year I ate no meat at all for the whole year –just to see if I could do it. “

Always looking for a challenge, Ciszek simply presented himself to the Jesuit provincial in the Bronx in 1928 and announced, “I’m going to be a Jesuit!” Continue reading

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