The following is a reflection from Msgr. J. Peter Cullen on the recent “Lenten Evening of Recollection” at Holy Spirit Parish in Stamford.
Sister M. Gaudia Skass, OLM presented a special “Lenten Evening of Recollection” at Holy Spirit Parish in Stamford on Monday, March 12th. I was blessed to attend. I did not know what to expect. I thought it would be something like a bible study. It was not. It was the witness by a woman convinced in her faith, enthusiastic in her witness, and joyfully living with God.
Sister Gaudia’s faith is intense and infectious. Listening to her deepened my faith in how much God loves me and in the joys that await me in heaven. Her longing for that dwelling place in heaven moves me to keep that same longing fresh on my mind.
There is much to reflect over Sister’s witness of faith. I reflected a lot about the personal love the crucified Christ has for me. After suffering all the pain and torments of the passion – the beatings, the insults, the scourging, the crown of thorns, the nails driven through his hands and feet, and so much loss of blood. How could Jesus trek up that hill of Calvary? Sister Gaudia enlightened me on what gave Jesus Christ the strength, stamina, and determination to complete the Way of the Cross. The answer is love.
Sister began by telling the extraordinary story of a trek to freedom by Slavomir Raivicz. The true story is told in the book, The Long Walk. It is a harrowing tale of Slavomir’s escape from a terrible gulag.
Slavomir Raivicz, officer in the Polish Army accused of spying, endured months of pain and torments at the hands of the Russians. He never gave into the beatings and tortures. He would only admit to being an Officer in the Polish Army. The Russians reluctantly freed him. Then the Russians arrested Slavomir’s wife. They began to torment her. She was so terrified and weak that she gave false testimony to the Russians that her husband was indeed a spy. She was set free and the Russians arrested Slavomir and sentenced him to years at a gulag in Siberia.
The Long Walk is the true story of Slavomir’s trek to freedom, his desperate journey out of Siberia, through China, the Gobi Desert, Tibet, and over the Himalayas to British India. Slavomir, a mere man, endured, without food, without water, in the world’s highest mountains and the world’s largest desert as he journeyed to freedom. Sister Gaudia explained that it was love that gave Slavomir Raivicz strength to endure; he was on a journey to find his wife, hold her in his arms, assure her of his unbroken love, and forgive her for the false testimony about him she gave to the Russians. Slavomir reached freedom and united with his wife.
Sister Gaudia transitioned to the Passion of Christ. How could Christ trek up that hill of Calvary, falling and getting up three times, after suffering all the pain and torments of the passion – the beatings, the insults, the scourging, the crown of thorns, the nails driven through his hands and feet, and so much loss of blood. It was his personal love for us that gave Christ strength to endure. Christ assures each and every one of us of his unbroken love; he forgives our sins that contributed to the pains and torments he endured; he promises each of us a place in heaven. Christ suffered and died for us; his loving us and forgiving us is personal. Kneel down before the crucifix; tell Christ that you know he endured all this for you personally. Tell Christ that you are sorry for the sins you committed and that you are humbled and grateful that he forgives you. Yes, you, not a stranger in the crowd, for you. Jesus loves you that much. Believe this and trust in him.
Thank you, Sister Gaudia for your strength, your faith, and your witness. May God continue to shower down on you many graces so that your ministry continues and many souls are saved. Jesus I Trust In You. Jezu Ufam Tobie.
Click here to watch the full video of Sr. Gaudia’s presentation.