The Saintly Walter Ciszek

The Vatican office for the Causes of Saints has opened an official examination of the life of Walter Ciszek, SJ, to see if he should be canonized one day.

Fr. Ciszek, an American Jesuit, spent 23 years as a prisoner in the Soviet Union, including 15 years of hard labor in Siberia.  He secretly ministered to fellow prisoners during his captivity.  After he returned to the United States in 1963 he wrote two fine books, With God in Russia and He Leadeth Me.  Fr. Jim Martin describes how Ciszek came to understand what “God’s will” meant in a Soviet prison camp:

[God’s] will for us was the 24 hours of each day: the people, the places, the circumstances he set before us in that time. Those were the things God knew were important to him and to us at that moment, and those were the things upon which he wanted us to act, not out of any abstract principle or out of any subjective desire to “do the will of God.” No, these things, the 24 hours of this day, were his will; we had to learn to recognize his will in the reality of the situation.

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Jim Manney
Jim Manney is the author of highly praised popular books on Ignatian spirituality, including A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer (about the Daily Examen) and God Finds Us (about the Spiritual Exercises). He is the compiler/editor of An Ignatian Book of Days. His latest book is What Matters Most and Why. He and his wife live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


  1. A few years ago I read ” He Leadeth Me” and remember being so moved by the sheer courage, faith and goodness of this man. Once he realized that he was doing God’s will in the midst of so much pain, suffering, and misery he was able to go on and minister to those around him.
    This is certainly a “man for others” and one who was able to see God in every situation. What an example for us.

  2. AMDG to the 10th power. I have read some snippets from Fr. Ciszek. He is amazingly inspiring given the place that he writes from. How do people in the most awful situations come through with the reasons and even some hope and sunshine while others of us whine over a hangnail?

  3. ‘ ” … he wanted us to act, not out of any abstract principle or out of any subjective desire to “do the will of God.” ‘
    I feel affirmed with those words in that they indicate manner in which to do a thing even if we were athiestic or just not thinking of God, that is, because it is our natural and inherent way of living, of doing what is right and just, not just because it is the will of God, which of course is the will of God. Discernment supplies the best option. Sometimes.

  4. Thanks for including this. I needed to read, and re-read today the powerful line, “we had to learn to recognize His will in the reality of the situation.” A lot to think about there!
    Thrilled that a cause for Fr. Ciszek has begun. Sounds like he was a very special man/priest.


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