Seventy-five years ago on August 15, the feast of the Assumption, the Jesuit Alfred Delp was due to make his final vows in the Society of Jesus. Instead, he was enduring interrogation and torture at the hands of the Gestapo in the Moabit Prison in Berlin.
“How I wrestled with God that night,” he wrote in his prison meditation on the Holy Spirit sometime after that brutal experience.
Three months later, he wrote with his hands in handcuffs to a family of friends:
Yes, life has come to this. I have learned much in these twelve weeks of bitterness, temptation, and loneliness. And misery. Yet God is good enough to help me make use of it all. With his help I always have hope, yet in purely human terms things seem pretty hopeless. Between myself and the gallows lies nothing less than a miracle. Please pray and wait with me, and get the children to pray.
I imagine myself once again with hands that are free to open the door or shave myself or pick up a piece of bread—such rare priceless things. And each week we’re becoming fewer. The will to destruction is hard and clear.
—Written at Tegel Prison in Berlin, mid-November 1944 (With Bound Hands: A Jesuit in Nazi Germany)