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Holiness in the “humdrum”:  A housewife’s homage to Fr. Walter Ciszek

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Of course our sufferings are nothing alike, but what can I say, I relate to the guy!

A few years ago, the story of a Jesuit missionary priest who was born and raised just miles from my home in coal country Pennsylvania captured my imagination. Father Walter Ciszek, a former prisoner of the Soviet Union who served 23 years convicted of being a “Vatican spy” during World War II, insists again and again in his three books — He Leadeth Me, With God in Russia, and With God in America — on the acceptance of Divine Providence in the minute-by-minute, seemingly meaningless events and duties of day-to-day life.

As a homeschooling mother of six, I can relate to a key illustrative term Father Ciszek uses often to accurately describe the imagined dream of a vocation, compared to the reality of that same vocation: “humdrum.”

While Fr. Ciszek cut and stacked and loaded endless numbers of logs onto trucks in a Siberian forest, I load countless hampers of laundry into an oversized washing machine. I cook mac and cheese, I wipe tiny noses. But it is precisely in these apparently routine, “humdrum” duties of life that Fr. Ciszek insists a supernatural reality exists.

Speaking of Jesus’ years as a carpenter, Fr. Ciszek writes: “Work cannot be a curse if God himself undertook it; to eat one’s bread by the sweat of one’s brow is to do nothing more or less than Christ himself did. He did it to make plain that the plainest and dullest of jobs is – or at any rate can be, if viewed properly in respect to God and to eternity – a sharing in the divine work of creation and redemption, a daily opportunity to cooperate with God in the central acts of his covenant of salvation.” (From He Leadeth Me)

Fr. Ciszek also motivates me when I start to feel sorry for myself. Case in point: I was sitting in my parked van waiting for soccer practice to end. My boys were hopping from bench to bench, playing a game that involved stealing the burger I had foolishly neglected to eat in favor of reading a few more pages of He Leadeth Me. With six growing sons, a lonesome burger is fair game – I really don’t know what I was thinking. All this drama was unfolding at the precise moment I arrived at the part of the book where Fr. Ciszek finds himself in a cattle car surrounded by the Russian Mafia. The mobsters are drawing straws for the priest’s only belongings – the clothes on his back.

Of course our sufferings are nothing alike, but what can I say, I relate to the guy! If this dear priest and Servant of God, whose cause for canonization has been open since 1990, accepted his grueling trials as God’s perfect will for his life, I can surely suffer the loss of a stolen hamburger.

Perhaps this holy man’s story would sing to your soul too. I highly recommend reading Fr. Ciszek if you’re struggling to find meaning in your life in any way, but especially in your day-to-day work and relationships – in your own “humdrum.”  He Leadeth Me is a great place to start.

Father Ciszek, pray for us.

To learn more about Fr. Ciszek visit the Father Walter Ciszek Prayer League’s website.

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