Yesterday, GetReligion's Terry Mattingly posted a poignant piece about Father George Calciu, "an immigrant from Romania for suffered for many years in communist prisons because he would not be silent about human rights and his faith, especially in his ministry to young people." Father George died Tuesday, leaving a testimony and life full of God. Particularly moving for me is Mattingly's reposting of a section of an article at BeliefNet that Mattingly aptly describes as a piece "that captures one remarkable piece of Father George’s life. Here is a key passage from the piece, which focuses on his spiritual struggles against the communist brainwashing and torture technique called 're-education.' In the first step, prisoners were simply beaten":
Next, they would begin to “unmask,” which meant requiring prisoners, under torture, to verbally renounce everything they believed: “I lied when I said ‘I believe in God,’ I lied when I said ‘I love my mother and my father.’” Third, prisoners were forced to denounce everyone they knew, including family. Because a diabolical element of this plan was to employ fellow prisoners as torturers, the targeted prisoners knew no rest. The abuse never ceased, not even in the cell, and every torture imaginable was employed.These brief words in the long life one who lived with God registered at the core of my being. Testimonies of people like Father George are soul earthquakes, pointing to and reminding us who God is: so-always-love, the ever-waiting-Father, and so-always-present — even in the midst of such unimaginable great evil and physical and internal suffering. Testimonies like this bring great peace, for if Father George could meet God there, then God will meet me, too.
Last, in order to show they had truly become “the communist man,” these prisoners were required to join the ranks of torturers and assist in the “re-education” of new prisoners. This last step was the most unbearable. “It was during this fourth part that the majority of us tried to kill ourselves,” says Fr. George.
The experience created a spiritual crisis in Fr. George, who until his imprisonment had led an ordinary, reasonably devout life. “When you were tortured, after one or two hours of suffering, the pain would not be so strong. But after denying God and knowing yourself to be a blasphemer — that was the pain that lasted. . . . we forgive the torturers. But it is very difficult to forgive ourselves.” Though often angry at God, sometimes at night a wash of tears would come, and the prisoner could pray again. “You knew very well that the next day you would again say something against God. But a few moments in the night, when you started to cry and to pray to God to forgive you and help you, was very good.”
(Image: by velo_city at flickr; some rights reserved)