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Sunday, January 20, 2008

We All Need Heroes

Recently, Father Tim had an article on his website regards the book called "Priestblock 25487" - it's the memoirs of a Catholic Priest, , Fr Jean Bernard, from his time in Dachau. It looks like a great read. In addition to these two books, I can think of a few other books by or about Catholic priests regards their difficulties in serving the people of God when they put their very lives in jeopardy.

Here are some good reads in a similar vein:

1. With God in Russia by Father Walter Ciszek, S.J.

Father Ciszek (1904-1984) hailed from Schuylkill County, Pa., the same neck of the woods as my own father. After the decimation of the Russian Orthodoxy clergy after communism took over, many priests answered the call to the Russicum, which specificially trained priests from different countries to answer a call to serve in Russia. Fr. Ciszek was in Russia for 24 years, and was in and out of prison, including the infamous Lubianka and the northern reaches of Siberia. In between times of his imprisonment, he also established a "parish" of sorts, serving the Orthodox and Catholics. In 1963 President Kennedy exchanged him and released a Soviet who had been spying. A cause for canonization has been put forth for him. Amazon has a good deal on it now. He also wrote a follow on book called "He Leadeth Me" -- about his spiritual journey.

There is also a film of the same name, quite good.

2. Autobiography of a Hunted Priest - John Gerard, S.J.

This account is a breath taking read, by a Catholic priest guided his flock in the Elizabethan years. Many of my English readers are probably already familiar with this one, but my US and other anglophone readers perhaps not as much. Father Gerard was ordained in France and then secretly landed in Norfolk and ministered to Catholics and brought many Protestants back into the fold. He was responsible for many vocations, and was constantly on guard for imminent arrest. He served as a priest in England for 17 years. Once he was captured and had a dramatic escape from the Tower of London. He also knew many Catholic martyrs such as St. Henry Walpole and St. Southwell. There's a little bit more in this old Time Magazine Article book review.

3. My Thirty Third Year by Fr. Gerhard Fittkau

Also well worth a read, if you can find it. Your best bet is a used book store or ebay. It was originally published in German. He was a priest in East Prussia, and when the church was overrun from the Russians in the east towards the close of WWII, he was shipped off to the Arctic Circle. His account is of the daily struggle keep his priestly dignity intact under severe conditions and also his tale of survival and ministry to those around him.

4. Bishop Walsh of Maryknoll - Prisoner of Red China -- by Ray Kerrison

I believe a used book store is also your best bet here. Bishop Walsh was among the first to attend Maryknoll in 1912, and institute founded for development of those called to foreign missions. In his time he founded many hospitals, clinics, schools, seminaries and orphanages. He returned to the United States in 1936 but in 1946 went back, and suffered under the Communist regime. At one point being sentenced to 20 years. He was released in the early 1960s

I'm sure I've missed others. Please feel free to add them in the combox.


The Digital Hairshirt said...

Karn, try the website for out-of-print books.

gemoftheocean said...

Hey, thanks that's one I didn't know about. There's a really good used bookstore in downtown San Diego called "Wahrenbaock's." Assuming, of course, it hasn't been turned into a Starbucks yet....last I looked....


swissmiss said...

I had seen a show on the priests in Russia during the Cold War. It was very intersting and they were basically on their own and almost lived like spies since what they were doing was so covert. I think the show was even on PBS not too long ago.

BTW: I also have used Albris and there is Powell's in Portland ( that is good for used and technical books.

gemoftheocean said...

Thanks Swiss! Hey, I have heard of Powell's before too. I LOVED used book stores and specialty stores. I love finding things long out of print and stores that carry more than just what "they" think you need.

There are some great non-used bookstores too. Foyle's in London was always a favorite of mine.


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