No, not Tony Stark. Meet a real Iron Man: Walter Ciszek, SJ (1904-1984), whose canonization process has just been greenlighted by the Vatican, according to fellow Jesuit Fr. James Martin (who ought to know, being the author of a book about saints).
Yes, that is a mug shot. A reformed Polish-American punk from Shenandoah, Penna., the young priest went to Europe on the eve of WWII, hoping to sneak into Russia as a missionary. He got more than he could ever have imagined: Accused as a spy, he survived years of solitary confinement and torture in a Moscow prison and was then swept into the fathomless Gulag system, where he toiled for decades in Siberian coal mines and logging camps. After his release, he was shuttled around the USSR for yet more years, finally being traded back home to the US in a Kennedy-era spy exchange.
This would be a ripping enough yarn, but all this time, Ciszek contrived to minister to those around him, even celebrating Mass secretly at great risk. In all the godforsaken places of exile, he left converts in his wake. And upon his return, he took up priestly life at Fordham and elsewhere, writing, counseling, and leading retreats.
More miraculous to me than his raw survival--against the elements, against brutality, starvation, and slave labor--is Fr. Ciszek's seemingly endless power of forgiveness and acceptance. "Let God rule; be affected by Him," he advised. I cannot manage this behind someone with 11 items in the 10-item supermarket lane, much less a prison camp. "The grace of surrender has to take effect like medicine," he also wrote. "You'll know it has when you're not thinking about it."
I hate surrendering anything, to anyone. Trivial slights reduce me to a raging toddler or, at my best, a sulking teenager. Just having read the bare bones of Fr. Ciszek's story has been awe-inspiring. Here's to the cause of Saint Iron Man, and here is a prayer based on his teachings.
Prayer Of Surrender
Lord, Jesus Christ, I ask the grace to accept the sadness in my heart, as your will for me, in this moment. I offer it up, in union with your sufferings, for those who are in deepest need of your redeeming grace. I surrender myself to your Father's will and I ask you to help me to move on to the next task that you have set for me.
Spirit of Christ, help me to enter into a deeper union with you. Lead me away from dwelling on the hurt I feel:
to thoughts of charity for those who need my love,
to thoughts of compassion for those who need my care, and
to thoughts of giving to those who need my help.
As I give myself to you, help me to provide for the salvation of those who come to me in need.
May I find my healing in this giving.
May I always accept God's will.
May I find my true self by living for others in a spirit of sacrifice and suffering.
May I die more fully to myself, and live more fully in you.
As I seek to surrender to the Father's will, may I come to trust that he will do everything for me.