#648 OCT 2017 ... CHURCH UNITY... WITH GOD IN AMERICA

                                         WITH GOD IN AMERICA

"WITH GOD IN RUSSIA," the story of Father Walter Ciszek's 23 years in the gulags of the Soviet Union from 1940 to 1963 kept me spellbound as I read his book. I was 100% mesmerized as I digested his sacrifice and the priestly qualities as he suffered the challenges for survival. I was glued to his book as he retained the holiness of his priestly actions. Reading his book provided me, and thousands of others who read his first book, a shining example of a Catholic priest who practiced his faith beyond all expectations.

The lessons learned from reading the third book of Father Walter Ciszek, S.J.,  "WITH GOD IN AMERICA," is a gift from heaven. Every priest, sister, seminarian, novice, faithful will be renewed in their life. Every member of the Catholic faithful will be gifted in more fully understanding the treasures of our priests and sisters after reading this book. When a non-Catholic reads this book, he/she will fully know the blessings placed upon the practicing Catholic and Orthodox. I was thoroughly convinced in reading "WITH GOD IN RUSSIA" and "HE LEADTHE ME," the first two books of Father Ciszek are classics in that they not only reflect his life of 23 years in Soviet prisons but they provide a bond between Catholics and Orthodox in a manner that will ease our unity.

The book, "WITH GOD IN AMERICA," is from Father Walter's letters and notes of his lectures and retreats given in the USA from 1963 to 2004, the time prior to his passing, and I have been blessed to spend 60 days listening to 30 lectures in Southern California that I will treasure forever.  

I was parish chairman of Saint Andrew's Russian Catholic Church in El Segundo, California, pastored by a classmate of Father Ciszek, Father Fionan Brannigan, S.J., at the Russicum in Rome, provided details on Father Walter  and also the dozens of Russicum classmates.  After reading Father Ciszek's first book, "WITH GOD IN RUSSIA," I knew that we must invite him to California for a 60 day, 30 lecture tour.
Father Ciszek's second book, "HE LEADTHE ME" exceeded the value of the first book because of the faith expressed therein. When Father died in 1984, I never believed there would be a third book that surpassed the first two. "WITH GOD IN AMERICA" does surpass the first two books because they present the personal depth and faith of Father Ciszek in greater detail and fully explain why he will be a declared  saint. 

Father Brannigan and I welcomed Father Ciszek to his lecture tour in Southern California and we were thrilled by the smile of Father Walter as his blue eyes emitted a most sincere expression of a thoughtful, compassionate priest. His first lecture was more than expected and welcomed by an overcrowd as it was to be in all 30 presentations. After his first lecture, limited to an hour, and knowing that he was filled with many stories, we suggested that he use the 30 lecture sequence as an opportunity to experiment with many different stories to hone his following speeches to allow for the following years to be a highly sought speaker. Father Walter experimented with many variations of his talks and by the time of the 30th lecture, he was much at ease and expressed himself with a fluent flow of objectives.

The book, "WITH GOD IN AMERICA," fully illustrates his priesthood and is must reading for all who are in need of examining their own llife. I treasure all of his books and God surely had a purpose of his return to America.

There are a few occasions in his California journey that express the abilities of Father Ciszek. During the days between lectures, I asked him if there was any activity that he wished to enjoy. First on his list was his desire to play a round of golf. My good Polish friend, Joe Korick, and I took him to an executive golf course (primarily par threes) and Joe and I gave him a lesson on the basics, the hand grip, the swing plane, the stance, and he did very good. In fact, during the first nine holes he pared two of them.

During his lecture tour we drove by car and we stopped to visit many of the great California sites.  While in San Diego, He was asked if he wished to visit any of the many sites in the San Diego area.  He requested a trip to Tijuana, Mexico. While he were in Tijuana, he asked if there was a bishop, there was and we were in time to enjoy a magnificent lunch during which the bishop asked if Father Walter could visit the nearby seminary and give a very short talk, As we drove there, the bishop pointed the shacks along the way. Father Ciszek stated that he wish he had one that good in Norilsk, Siberia.  The Mexican seminarians understood no English and Father Ciszek stated that he was fluent in Italian and the seminarians should raise their hand if a word was not understood. The question and answer period after the short talk made the bishop very proud of his seminarioans.

Father Ciszek expressed his desire to visit Disney Land and one full day in unbelievable awe while our children delighted in Father's expressions of joy as we toured the many stops. Father was pleased and a fun day is a great memory. The entire 60 days was a very relaxing time for Father Ciszek and most memorable not only for the company of a holy man who would be a saint ... in our hearts and mind he is a saint.

After reading "With God In America," we recognize Father Walter Ciszek as a priest's priest. His ability to capture the mind and heart of those he comforted is well expressed in his book. Father Walter "thank you," we have been blessed by your presence.

                 GOD IS WITH US
                 WE ARE WITH HIM 

                                          Joseph P. Bonchonsky