Tuesday, May 12th
Good Morning, Good Morning,
This letter is dedicated to young John Paul Heisler, seminarian, deacon candidate, for the Diocese of Arlington. His the tall young man who sings like an angel when you see him at Mass on your computer screens. He is the nephew to Fr. John Heisler, parochial vicar of the parish. We are blessed to have them both under the same roof, at the same table, and at the same altar.
They are similar in their appearance, humor, devotions, and deportment but different as night and day in addressing their challenges. The older, with military experience is all about logistics. Especially with use of his computer and his communication techniques. The nephew is all about strategies and carries on with his philosophy of life, addressing the challenges to the Church. He will cover economics, music, poetry, and philosophy.
Many years ago, when the senior Heisler entered the seminary as the diocesan vocations director I made it a point to visit the families of each candidate. I especially wanted to meet the father of the candidate. The image of the father was often displayed in the life of the future priest. The Heisler meeting was never to happen as his parents lived in Maine, too far to reach. With junior Heisler I have met his parents and can see he has all the qualities of his good father. In both cases I hear two of them, uncle and nephew, quoting their fathers every morning, noon, and night. Well done. God bless the fathers of the priest and future priest.
In this pandemic, with the lockdown, all in the rectory feel something for the imprisoned. And in this pandemic both will stretch to a new evangelization that will affect their future apostolates in preaching and teaching. They will never see a boring day and I am sure will never be wanting in the service to Lord in his name and person. Ad Multos Annos. To the many years…coming.
Two great books that had a great influence on me in my youth were: “With God in Russia,” and “The Keys of the Kingdom.”
The first, written by Fr. Walter Ciszek SJ. (1904-1984)
In concern for the Catholics in the Soviet Union that were being annihilated by the Soviet Government, Pope Pius XI, in 1938, called upon the Jesuits to set up a secret program where Jesuits would be inserted into the Soviet Union for the benefit of the Faithful. The program was known as the Russicum. Fr. Ciszek was trained in the Russian College in Rome and ordained in the Byzantine Rite. The priests were also trained to be carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and mechanics to assist in their disguises. Twenty four were sent. Almost all were discovered and killed/imprisoned. Fourteen would return to the West, the others never to be heard from again. Fr. Ciszek spent Fifteen years in confinement and hard labor in the Gulag, plus five preceding them in Moscow’s infamous Lubyanka prison. He was released and returned to the United States in 1963.
The first book he authored was all about the eyes of the priest looking out to the world in front of him. A second book, “He Leadeth Me” was all about the eyes of the priest looking in on himself. In one of the two books he mentioned how the guards in the torture sessions could never break him… until they found his prayer book and rosary. Both destroyed in front of him marked the day they broke him. On his return to his cell, in total devastation, he put his nose into the corner of the room, where the walls met. He spoke of seeing the eyes of Christ in the Cistern, the night before the crucifixion. With his thumbnail he etched a cross on the wall in the corner. Every morning before the beatings he would meet the cross and every afternoon on his return he would meet it without fail. With that, which no one noticed, they never broke him again. From that story I encourage folks in difficult times of their life to put a cross on the wall at home and meet it in the beginning of the day and at the end… assuring them they won’t be broken if they meet the cross.
His return was as mysterious as his departure for the underground mission in the Russicum. His family knew of his imprisonment. And one relative worked in the dentist office, visited by non-other than Robert F. Kennedy, US Attorney General at the time. Kennedy and his brother, the President of the United States, arranged a swap for Ciszek. The Soviets had a spy returned to them and Fr. Ciszek came home to the States.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2CN1d681cs Fr. Ciszek on, “To Tell the Truth” (at 16:30)
The second book of influence was written by a physician from Scotland. His name was A.J. Cronin and the book, a novel, was titled, “The Keys of the Kingdom.” It was a story of a young man from Scotland who went off to Missions in China. Surviving the Chinese Revolution he continued on until his retirement brought him back to Scotland. It was an inspiration for a life of adventure in the priesthood… if only one could leave home.
The themes of prison and the missions that affected me in my youth were well recognized when I met up with the Missionhurst Fathers on my arrival in the Arlington Diocese. Theirs is one of the great stories of religious life of which most in the Arlington Diocese have little, or no memory. It is the story of the “Congregation for the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” The CICM’s. They were founded in Belgium in 1852 and focused on the missions of China and Africa. In this parish letter I will only focus on two, of many, Missionhurst priests who have reached our shores in America.
The first was a Belgian, Fr. Paul Cauwe CICM. He entered China in 1935 and was caught up in the Chinese Revolution. He was a prisoner to the Chinese, in Manchuri, and later the Japanese during their control of China during World War II. He was tortured in all sorts of ways. In one case the tip of his tongue was cut off. In another case he was placed behind a horse that kicked him in the lower abdomen, causing a suffering he would carry the rest of his life. In 1946 he was released from China to return home.
In 1951 Fr. Cauwe was assigned pastor of St. John the Evangelist parish in McLean. In his time, the new church was designed and constructed in the shape of an octagon. The metal beams stretching from floor to ceiling, and across roofline, were all painted blue. The color of the beams honored the Blessed Mother… for CICM, Congregation for the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The architect, Koenig, a parishioner and disciple of Fr. Cauwe, was fully on board for the symbol for the Blessed Mother. But few others recognized it. Years later the following pastor incased the beams in wood. No one noticed except the architect, who, in anger, resigned from the parish. Many years later, on his death bed, he would return to the sacraments.
The exterior of the Church had two oriental features. The structure, circular was similar to the Chinese buildings at the time of Fr. Cauwe’s duties in China. The grounds, oriental in style, much like the Hispanic hacienda style, had the buildings surround the property with a grassy knoll/garden adorning the center.
In 1964 Fr. Cauwe was assigned to be the first pastor of Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Annandale, Virginia. Again the oriental compound approach and a much more profound pagoda roof style. He would continue at Holy Spirit until he retired in 1974. He died in the rectory on the following month.
One of the unique features of the church was the wall relief behind the altar. It included the Lord on his Cross and Holy Spirit above. The Blessed Mother, in greater clarity, stood below the cross. Some liked it others not. A blind man could see the devotion of the CICM clarity of the Blessed Mother. Fr. Cauwe’s final gift to the Church and the Blessed Mother was well done.
One of the unique features for the rectory was all the Chinese writing on the wall next to the safe… it was the combination. The years of torture had taken a toll on the memory of the poor priest.
The second priest of Missionhurst who arrived in the diocese was Fr. Maurice Du Castillon. He was the founder of Precious Blood Parish in Culpeper, Virginia. When he started the parish he also had two missions in Orange and Gordonsville, Virginia. He would later start a third mission in Little Washington. And now the rest of the story.
In the Fall of 1981 Fr. Maurice offered a day of recollection to the priests of the diocese. He mentioned the story of his arrival in China. He had only been in the assignment six weeks when he received a letter from the Bishop. The letter said something to the effect, “Dear Fr. Maurice. I need you to take a new assignment in a parish seven days distant from your current assignment and I need you to be there in four days. I know you are not capable and I know you are not qualified, but I have no one else to send. So, please don’t come to see me.”
His entire priesthood revolved around that one letter. “I know you are not capable and I know you are not qualified, but I have no one else to send.” In his duty assignments Fr. Maurice would go to the counties that had no priests. The true missionary.
Let us pray for one another.