Principle and Foundation

Human beings are created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by means of doing this to save their souls. The other things on the face of the earth are created for the human beings, to help them in the pursuit of the end for which they are created. From this it follows that we ought to use these things to the extent that they will help us toward our end, and free ourselves from them to the extent that they hinder us from it. To attain this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things, in regard to everything which is left to free will and is not forbidden. Consequently, on our own part we ought not to seek health rather than sickness, wealth rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, a long life rather than a short one, and so on in all other manners. Rather, we ought to desire and choose only that which is more conductive to the end for which we are created.

A few years ago, Joe Grady, Jesuit scholastic, age 32, was buried at Wernersville. In December 1985, during his second year of regency at St. Joe’s Prep, he was told he had leukemia. The disease progressed and during  his first year of theology, he made the decision to undergo a bone marrow transplant. Later that year he would receive new marrow from his younger sister, Colleen. The transplant was successful, but some months afterwards, Joe contracted viral pneumonia from which he never recovered.

At the cemetery, Joe’s mother read a passage written by another Maryland Province Jesuit, buried only a few feet away from Joe. It was a passage she had read to Joe in the hospital at the point when Joe was no longer able to read- although still very much alert and aware. The other Jesuit was Walter Ciszek. The book – He Leadeth Me – was Father Ciszek’s account of his 23 years in the Soviet Union most of which was spent in proson or slave labor camps in SIberia.

Two Jesuits- two different generations- two very different experiences and worlds- both shared something. Both lived under the same Principle and Foundation… That principle – that we are created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save our souls. The other things on the face of the earth are created for us to help us in attaining the end, and we must rid ourselves of them insofar as they prove a hindrance to us.

Therefore we must make ourselves indifferent to all created things as far as we are allowed free choice and are not under any prohibition. Consequently as far as we are concerned we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life. The same holds for all other things. Our one desire and choice should be what is more conducive to the end for which we are created.

The Principle and Foundation-a real challenge- Joe Grady knew that. He lived that with real heart, great humor, deep faith. And he struggled as I think all of us do. For are we really meant to believe we should prefer a short life to a long life? Poverty to riches? Sickness to health? Are we able to embrace the Cross? Even celebrate the Cross? Place ourselves with Christ crucified in this world today?

Walter Ciszek appreciated those words as well. He knew the meaning of the Principle and Foundation and certainly lived them out for so many years imprisoned, having little to eat, working for long hours, being forced to say Mass secretly with a few others- secretly taking the crusts of bread at breakfast and saving them until he got back at night. Polish prisoners would make wine out of stolen raisins- a cover for a gold watch would serve as a paten. The chalice a shot glass. Back home in the Maryland Province he would be officially listed as dead and added to the list of Masses Jesuits said for the repose of souls. In those dark days for Fr. Ciszek, when the temptation to give up was so present, he was able to call to mind the end for which he was made- he looked to God’s Providence.

In the last few months of his life, Joe Grady would hear those words of Cisek’s read to him by his mother. She shared one of those passages with all of us that July. From the Epilogue of He Leadeth Me, Father Ciszek wrote: What I have tried to show in the pages of this book, however, is how faith has affected my life and sustained me in all I experienced. That faith is the answer to the question most often asked of me – ‘How did you manage to survive?’ And I can only repeat it, simple and unashamedly. To me the truth says more than that man has a duty and obligation towards his Creator, as many have tended to interpret it. To me, it says that God has a special purpose, a special love, a special providence for all those He has created…It means for example that every moment of our life has a purpose. That every action of ours, no matter how dull or routine or trivial it may seem in itself, has a dignity and a worth beyond human understanding. Yet what a terrible responsibility is here. For it means that no one moment can be wasted, no one opportunity missed.

That was the secret Walter Ciszek came to know. He would say that is was not his alone- Christ spoke of it, the saints have practiced it, and I think Joe Grady came to know that secret in his own courageous suffering.

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