My 17 year old daughter Anastasia wrote this essay as part of her application for the Honors Program at Loyola University.
I think she gets it.
The Will to Endure
“It’s sooo cold! I have to wear a sweater when I go to their house! Why does Mass have to be so early and why does Father have to give such a long sermon? Who cares if I swear? I have to express my anger. This bread is so stale! It must be a day old! I have to get home in time to watch the season finale! These are the trials of many Americans in the 21st Century of worldliness and luxury. We are pampered and expect the best of everything but without giving our best effort. The 21st Century philosophy is the philosophy of Self. It is all about Me and My feelings and what I want.
With God in Russia written by Fr. Walter Ciszek is an eye-opening autobiography that changed my way of viewing the world. Father Ciszek was a prisoner, tortured and starving. He spent 23 years behind the Iron Curtain as a prisoner-of-war but with the sacred powers of a priest. Father Ciszek’s spirit inspired and challenged me as I read his amazing story. His love for others overflowed into mine as he healed broken hearts and tortured minds. He heard confessions of numerous Russians who could have betrayed him. His life is an example of a magnificent will to endure.
Instead of curling up inside himself he reached out to those who could have harmed him. This priest wholly surrendered himself to God where others surrendered themselves to despair and vice. As the oldest of a big family I try to take control of everything but the seminarian Ciszek showed me how his domineering personality could be channeled to serve God. He made countless sacrifices in the prison camps. He did not despair or succumb to its horrors. No matter what situation Fr. Ciszek found himself in, he never complained and always had a positive attitude. He never blamed God for his trials. He taught me that my trials are nothing but trivial and superficial. Witnessing his patience during intense interrogations calmed my temper. He countered difficulties by hard work. He spoke to me by his example.
His book whispers directly to the heart from his prison cell in Russia all the way to the 21st century. When you start complaining about the cold, the vision of a young man with neither running water nor heat, in freezing barracks in Siberia comes to mind. As you find yourself dreading to go to Mass, you hear the whispered prayers of a priest who risked his life to offer the Mass. When you feel yourself slipping into sins of the world, you think of Fr. Ciszek who devoted his life for sinners. As you complain about bad cafeteria food, you imagine the taste of watery soup. When you complain about your flu, you hear the troubled breathing of a man with tuberculosis. As you find yourself questioning hard work and situations. “Remember, that God has a plan,” Fr. Ciszek whispers.
Work hard and put all your efforts into satisfying the needs of others because through them you will find Him. Father’s courage, ambition and endurance filled me with the enthusiasm to forget myself and aspire to become a doctor. His blatant unselfishness and charity towards others helped me find my vocation in life. It channeled my desire to help others and to accept every challenge. His extraordinary will to endure empowers my will to succeed, no matter the obstacles.