Soul Saturday // Book Review "He Leadth Me"

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He Leadeth Me

Walter J. Ciszek

Books come and go just as everything else. In my experience, rarely does a text stick with someone long after it has been read, and when a book does make a mark, it is due to exemplary writing and the exceptional story being told. He Leadeth Me tells the story of an American, Father Walter J. Ciszek, and his experience within the Soviet Gulag during and after World War II.  

Understandably, Fr. Ciszek spent much time after his arrest wondering what he did/what choices did he make/what was God’s end that involved living in a prison and labor camp in Russia. Although Fr. Ciszek wanted to go to Russia, even truly believing God would send him to Russia one day, he struggled with the expectations placed on a priest in a prison and the physical and emotional demands in his life.

Ciszek, however, did develop a clearer understanding of the importance of mass and communion and the will of God in his life.  “He was asking me to do something, as another Christ; to forget about self and feeling sorry for myself, and to act in the situation after the example of Christ himself”. Throughout his inordinate number of struggles, it was realized the value and importance God placed in the young American’s hands. How valuable to be one of the few shepherds of Christ, especially in such a hostile environment!  I found the admiration of mass as particularly interesting in that during my most trying times I have found solace in only mass and communion with Christ.

I recently listened to another of Fr. Mike Schmitz’ bulldogcatholic podcasts in which he mentions doing God’s will, as He wills it, solely for the purpose of it being God’s will. Fr. Ciszek states, that one did not need to find God’s will in each situation; “God’s will was not hidden somewhere “out there” in the situations in which I found myself; the situations themselves were his will for me….it meant losing the last hidden doubt, the ultimate fear that God would not be there to bear you up. With this true conversion, anything can be approached, because it is always God’s will.

Lastly, I would like to mention a little note about my personal experience reading He Leadeth Me. Many people today don’t like to talk about faith. I find myself struggling to share all about the good works and miracles of God because, truthfully, it isn’t always well-received. Fr. Walter Ciszek’s story of his imprisonment in Soviet Russia is a well-written memoir about a particularly trying time in the world’s history. Regardless of an individual’s personal belief, the story doesn’t change and can’t be denied.  God’s providence saved Ciszek in order that he invite more to communion.  I highly recommend reading and sharing this story, not only for spiritual growth, but as a piece of history documenting the absence of freedom of religion and the horrid results of the rejection of Christ.

If your parish or you have a account, the audiobook for He Leadeth Me can be listened to here.

To Jesus Through Mary-Michelle Spalla