The last two entries in the blog have looked at anniversaries connected to the incarceration of the Jesuits in Rome. This was an unfortunate chapter in a long history of Jesuits who have been prisoners. Starting with St Ignatius himself - who was imprisoned by the Inquisition and then at the request of the Dominicans in Salamanca. This second stretch in prison is recounted in the autobiography of St Ignatius. With his companions, they were chained foot to foot and fastened to a stake set up in the middle of the cell. Some days afterwards Ignatius was examined and found without fault. His patience won him many friends; and when he and his companions remained in prison while the other prisoners managed to escape, their conduct excited much admiration.
In England, at a time when Catholicism was outlawed, Fr John Gerard SJ is reputed to be the only man to have escaped from the feared Tower of London, the infamous prison of queens, princes, bishops and martyrs. After his escape, he went into hiding in France and under obedience from his superiors wrote an account of his daring escape, by rope from the roof of the Salt Tower into a boat waiting from him in the Thames. His autobiography is a gripping read, click here. Also notable are the courage of two German Jesuits Alfred Delp and Rupert Mayer who were both imprisoned due to their resistance to Nazism. Delp was executed and under orders from Himmler he was cremated and his ashes were spread over a sewage field. Mayer 'the apostle of Munich' was so well known and loved by the German People that even the Nazi's feared to execute him - he was moved around various prisons and concentration camps during the war.
Finally it is worth remembering the great Fr Walter Ciszek SJ who survived twenty three years in Russian prisons and Siberian Labour Camps. Beginning with the feared Lubyanka prison in Moscow his is an incredible story of resilience and faith. Famously he said "The fullest freedom I had ever known, the greatest sense of security, came from abandoning my will only to do the will of God" The process is now open for his beatification...... A very humble Dominican once told me that it was always the Jesuits who survived in prison camps, when I asked him why he said it was something to do with the Spiritual Exercises, the internal framework that you built up when you had made them. Maybe he was right after all.