Friday, April 13, 2012

Ciszek, Saint of the Gulag?

Dear Misfits, 

Our decision several months ago to read He Leadeth Me was another winner!  Fr. Walter Ciszek’s harrowing account of the 23 years he spent in Soviet prison and labor camps in Siberia is riveting as well as deeply moving.  The book relates his unflagging Catholic faith even in the midst of the suffering and pain of the death camps.  He said that it was only through an utter reliance on God's will that he managed to endure. He tells of the courage he found in prayer-a courage that eased the loneliness, the pain, the frustrations, the anguish, the fears, the complete despair of life in the Gulag.  The most moving part of his struggle to survive occurs when, in the depths of solitary confinement in Lubianka prison, he discovers the solace offered by completely turning his life over to God.  This gave him an inner serenity that he was able to draw upon in the very midst of the "arrogance of evil" that surrounded him.  Equally moving was his acceptance of the inhuman work of toiling in the Siberian prison camps as a labor pleasing to God.  He was able to turn inhuman suffering into a source of positive value and a means of drawing closer to the compassionate and never-forsaking Divine Spirit.  The book proved to be a perfect prelude to Holy Week and the promise of Easter.  (It would also be a wonderful book for anyone who seeks to learn the meaning of prayer and what it means to pray even when undergoing complete desolation, despair, and suffering.)

I should also mention that we opened our meetings with a wonderful prayer for the Cause of Canonization of Fr. Walter Ciszek S.J.  I have attached a copy of that prayer and suggest that you perhaps add it to your prayer list.  You only have to read He Leadeth Me and his other book, With God in Russia, to know that he is worthy of that great honor and would be a Saintly advocate for all undergoing the persecution of unjust imprisonment and persecution..  You can also get more information about the cause for his Canonization at this web site: 

Our heartfelt thanks to Misfit Don Wessel for recommending this compelling book.

In May the Misfits will continue their quest to read all of the books of our Christian literary tradition (now that’s a goal for you!) by reading one of the great classics of American literature,  The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  This novel is an 1850 romantic work of fiction set in 17th-century Puritan Boston during the years 1642 to 1649.  It tells the story of Hester Prynne, who conceives a daughter through an adulterous affair.  When Hester bears her illegitimate child she is introduced to the ugliness, complexity, and ultimately the strength of the human spirit. Though set in Puritan community centuries ago, the moral dilemmas of personal responsibility, and consuming emotions of guilt, anger, loyalty and revenge are timeless.  It is a story that will lead to thought provoking discussion and many comparisons to contemporary life in America.  The book is widely available on line and in paperback at Amazon for $3.95.

And then in June, we will read (get ready for this) Hamlet!  Wow, are we pretentious or what?  At any rate, we asked ourselves at our last meeting, “How can we be a Men’s Reading Group and never have read any Shakespeare”?  The remedy: The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.  I don’t think this choice needs much of an introduction.  We all know the rudiments of the story of the tragic Dane. However, the Misfits are still trying to decide how to approach the play.   Hamlet is Shakespeare's longest play and among the most powerful and influential tragedies in the English language, with a story capable of "seemingly endless retelling and adaptation by others.”  The play was one of Shakespeare's most popular works during his lifetime and still ranks among his most-performed, plays.  It has also been been described as "the world's most filmed story after Cinderella”.  And therein is an approach to this daunting piece of literature—How about we individually read Hamlet as a play and then come together to view one of the classic film productions that are widely available for viewing? 

So now, I need some of you to please send me recommendations for a film version.  I will then order (Netflix)a movie version of the play and then we’ll come together for popcorn, pop, and an evening of great entertainment.  Let’s do it!

And remember, the Misfits always meet the second Wednesday of the month at 7:00 pm in the St. Thomas More Library, the Church of St. Michael, Stillwater, MN.

Finally,  may the true blessings of our glorious Easter be with each of you,

Misfit Buzz


“Of course there were doubts, at one time there was near despair.  It was not reason that sustained me then but faith.  Only by faith could I find God present in every circumstance, only
by faith could I penetrate the mystery of his saving grace, not by questioning it in any way but by fully cooperating with it in exactly they way he asked.”

                    Fr. Walter J. Ciszek, He Leadeth Me, page 118-19.

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