Devouring fire

Prison Writings by Alfred Delp S.J.

After my introduction to Fr Alfred Delp over Advent, I ordered this book to gain a greater insight into his writings, and although a portion of the book is related to Advent, there is much that is ideally suited to reflection this Lenten season.

This is a book I am now taking to Adoration with me as a springboard to deeper reflection.  There is much here to meditate on.  Reading this is like devouring fire.. much to cleanse the heart and refine the will to be more aligned to God’s will.

There is way too much richness from here to be constrained to one post, so for this review I am going to focus only on his reflections, written handcuffed in  a Nazi prison cell awaiting execution, on the Our Father.

Because I am a book nerd and love to share my insights with others, I am going to give you a sample of some of his thoughts on this prayer.


” This pompous, self-important world in which we live is only the foreground to the centre of reality which so many scarcely notice in the noise and tumult surrounding them.  The fundamental motif for our life is compassion and paternal guidance…God as Father, as source, as guide, as comforter;  these are the inner resources with which a person can withstand the mass assault of the world…

One of the most terrifying weapons in the hands of ruthless authority is enforced solitary confinement…We have come to the end of all things where we are utterly on our own.  And the old truism, it is not good for man to be alone, applies especially to this situation and this dark hour… But then – our Father – and all at once the chasm is spanned.  Suddenly we see the truth that in God, through God, we have always possessed the shortest route to reach our neighbour…the personal God who speaks to us, and to whom we speak, makes humankind human and the community a genuine whole.”


“The God of life is a personal God and only when humans enter into the dialogue with him do they begin to realise their dreams…Adoration is the road that leads us to ourselves… The realm of the personal God is heaven, that is to say it is the sum-total of all that we consider to be our life’s greatest happiness… It is fundamentally God himself – a conscious union with Him.  Anyone who has achieved that union is in heaven… We must aim for heaven with all our strength.”


“The name of God is the holy of holies, the central silence, the thing that above all others calls for humble approach… we should subjugate everything to this law of holiness and reject everything that does not harmonise with it… I have been a mere number long enough to know what it means to be nameless and what effect it has on life… Since the name of God is no longer the first and foremost of all names in the land and the voice of the people, then everything else that was once precious and prized has lost its name and been subjected to false and falsifying labels… Prayer is our way to freedom and education in the method of prayer is the most valuable service that can be given to human-kind.”


“Humanity, left to itself, can accomplish nothing.  And the purpose and part of prayer is precisely to make us realise that we need supernatural help and that all the power of the living God is at our disposal… The kingdom of God is where humanity is in a state of grace and all things move in divine order… If we cannot bring ourselves to turn completely to God we must at least consent to be receptive so that God can reach us… This prayer asks a great deal of God – no less than himself.  But at the same time it imposes a great responsibility on humanity.”


“Only in voluntary acceptance of all this will we find freedom.  Failing such acceptance we are a slave to our fears and the things we would like to hold on to.”


“One can idolise bread and make a God of one’s stomach.  But if one has endured hunger for weeks on end it is a very different matter…  I can vouch for this because I have personally experienced it.  Only one who has known the effect hunger can have on every life impulse can appreciate the respect in which bread is held and what the perpetual struggle for daily bread really means…Bread always was one of the greatest mediums of temptations and still is so…That is why we are not enjoined to pray for overflowing barns and well-filled store houses;  we are only told to pray for daily bread.”


“We can only gain remission of sin by repentance.  We must recognise and acknowledge that sin inflicts a wound on God’s creation, a wound that defies all the arts and strength of creative being.  As sinners our only hope lies in turning to the healing forgiveness of God.  This generation urgently needs persons prepared to stand before God for its sins.”


“Temptation assails us from within and without.  Compulsion, force, pain, humiliation, one’s own cowardice, God’s silence, complete inability to cope with an external situation, all these call for painful decisions.  And added to all these there is fear, that creeping worm that eats its way into a person’s very substance… We have only God to fall back on in such a moment… God bids us to pray that we may be spared such trials… We must guard against every kind of false security – only then will we find access to God’s great peace and omnipotence…Life is worth living and worth dying for.  If this is true it applies in the fullest measure to moments of temptation when we cannot depend on our own strength alone.”


In temptation it is a question of deciding for or against God and the essence of temptation is that it robs our judgement of its clear-cut certainty in making decisions… this prayer requires far more humility and honesty than are usual nowadays… wherever self is stressed, as in strength that glories in its own might, power that idolises itself, life that aims at ‘fulfilling itself’ in its own way and by its own resources, in all these, not the truth, but the negation of the truth may be suspected.  And there is only one thing a person of truth can really do about it – fall down on his knees and pray.”

You can read more of Fr Delp here.














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