God the Prison Visitor Arthur Middleton
Alfred Delp, a German Jesuit priest, found himself implicated in the failed attempt on Hitlers life in 1944 and was swept into prison in the widespread campaign to inflict Hitlers anger on any who had connections with the underground resistance movements within Nazi Germany in those dying months of the war.
Despite terrible punishments, Fr Delp was allowed regular visits from two women to bring him clean clothes, and folded in the clothes were paper and pens, communion hosts and wine; and folded into the returned dirty clothing were letters and meditations, all written painfully with closely-manacled hands
The grace of God
In one letter dated November 1944, he writes to a member of his parish congregation in Munich:
This week has in many ways been really turbulent. Three of our number have gone the way that remains a bitter possibility for all of us and from which only a miracle of God can separate and protect us. Inside myself, I have much to do, to ask, to offer up completely, before God. One thing is clear and tangible to me in a way that it seldom has been: the world is full of God. From every pore, God rushes out to us, as it were. But we’re often blind. We remain stuck in the good times and the bad times and don’t experience them right up to the point where the spring flows forth from God.
Even with the death of three of his friends and his own possible death mentioned in one breath, as it were, he can then go on to talk of the experience of God ‘rushing out from every pore to meet us’.
Like a sponge there is nothing in the whole of creation that cannot soak up and hold the presence, the grace, of God. Material things like bread and wine, conditions such as holiness or sinfulness, events like birth and death; from all of these the grace of God can ooze out into our lives. It is by the waters of baptism flowing over the life of Jesus that the grace of God is poured out on all creation. Everything and every circumstance can be a vehicle of his presence and power.
So Fr Delp could feel the grace of God oozing out of every pore, a spring pouring forth the presence of God himself. And in these waters Fr Delp could sense his own ultimate freedom. He ends that paragraph with these words:
In everything, God wants to celebrate encounter and asks for the prayerful response of surrender. The trick and the duty is only this: to develop a lasting awareness and a lasting attitude out of these insights and graces – or rather, to allow them to develop. Then life becomes free, in that freedom which we have often looked for…
Alfred Delp’s freedom came at the gallows on 2 February 1945, with Berlin already surrounded by Allied troops. Of the two it was Fr Delp who experienced the freedom of God, because he could recognize God rushing out at him from every pore of this sinful and degenerate world.