With God in America:
The Spiritual Legacy of an Unlikely Jesuit
by walter j. ciszek, s.j.
loyola, 264 pages, $19.95
With God in America completes the triptych of the legendary Walter J. Ciszek, S.J., an American missionary priest who endured twenty-three years in the Soviet Gulag. While the 1964 classic With God in Russia remains the central memoir of his grisly imprisonment, and the 1973 sequel He Leadeth Me is a vivid reflection on what God intended during that period, With God in America looks to Fr. Ciszek’s legacy as a spiritual director and retreat master at Fordham University during his final years.
Unlike the first two books, this is a posthumous compilation of Ciszek’s writings and talks. With God in America leans heavily on editorial commentary and interviews of acquaintances of Fr. Ciszek for context. They give a picture of a stubborn and good-humored Jesuit who carried on quietly until his passing at eighty years old in 1984.
Ciszek’s transition back into the American scene was without fanfare. He thought little of the writings which brought him recognition. Once asked if he would return to Russia, he responded that, God willing, he’d “go back in a bathing suit.” Wherever he was, his apostolate was the same. He was doggedly loyal to the work of souls, to whom he gave his “lousy best.” Toward the end of his life he sent nearly a thousand Christmas cards. He served where others refused, as in one poignant instance when he administered sacraments to a transgendered Russian Catholic ostracized by his parish.
Fr. Walter Ciszek’s conferences and meditations, a mature take on Ignatian spirituality, are the highlights of With God in America. His heroic faith can be appreciated not merely in his triumph over communism but also in his triumph over the mundane.
—Andrew M. Lang is the headmaster at Holy Spirit Academy in Monticello, Minnesota.