‘I kept alive by praying’: Homily for October 20,2019, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Deacon's Bench | 10/20/2019 | Staff
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“My stronghold was my faith.”

His name is Sigitas Tamkevicius and he may be one of the most heroic priests you’ve never heard of, with a name almost impossible to pronounce.

Sigitas - Tamkevicius

Sigitas Tamkevicius.

Remember that name. He is a man worth remembering.

Lithuania - Youth - Persecution - Men - Country

He was born in Lithuania in 1938, and he spent much of his youth resisting Communist persecution. Like all young men from his country, he spent some mandatory time serving in the Soviet army. He was ordained a priest in 1962.

Six years later, he was secretly admitted to the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits. A year later, his license to work as a priest was revoked because he signed a petition against Soviet restrictions at the seminary.

Metal - Factory - Living - Digging - Ditches

He went on to work in a metal factory and made a living digging ditches. That didn’t stop him from fighting to proclaim the Gospel.

In 1978, with four other priests, he founded the Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers Rights.

Brave - Work - Behalf - Faith - Price

His brave and persistent work on behalf of the faith came with a high price.

In 1983, he was arrested by the KGB, sentenced to 10 years of hard labor, part of it spent in Siberia.

Father - Tamkevicius - Weapon

But Father Tamkevicius was not unarmed. He relied on a powerful weapon.

Prayer.

Stronghold - Faith - Praying

“My stronghold,” he said later, “was my faith. I kept alive by praying.”

He explained:

Mass - Eucharist - Care - Source - Strength

“I could only celebrate Mass secretly. I celebrated the Eucharist with great care, and for me it was a great source of strength.”

To get the bread and wine, he used the meal tickets he received as a prisoner. He was able to get a small amount of bread and a dry grape, which he would use to make the wine.

Prisoners - Faith - Strength

The other prisoners noticed his faith, and the strength that it gave him.

“They told me,” he said, “’It’s easier for you because you have faith, because you can say...
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