Date: July 16, 2021
By: Veronica H.
“O Jesus, I surrender myself to you, take care of everything.”
These words taken from the Surrender Novena given by Jesus to Father Dolindo Rutolo have been on my lips often over the past four years. The prayers have brought peace to my soul and a deeper openness to God’s will in my life. The first time I prayed this Novena, I was particularly struck by the prayer on the fifth day of the Novena.
"And when I must lead you on a path different from the one you see, I will prepare you; I will carry you in my arms; I will let you find yourself, like children who have fallen asleep in their mother’s arms, on the other bank of the river. What troubles you and hurts you immensely are your reason, your thoughts and worry and your desire at all costs to deal with what afflicts you."
Little did I know that five months after praying the novena, I would find myself in the middle of a health crisis on a path much different from the one I was on previously and needing to let go of my reason, my worry, and my desire to control everything. I was unable to work and ended up needing to stay with family so that I could start to recover. God’s presence was most tangible during those darkest hours when I suffered days upon weeks of debilitating migraines. Despite my worry and anxiety, God has carried me in His arms and taken care of everything. He has provided me with His constant presence, the sacraments, help from my loving family, friends, and good health care practitioners. As the months have turned to years, my symptoms have gradually improved, but now, I am challenged to accept that which I did not choose in my chronic illness and the circumstances of my life as coming from God’s hands. God continues to call me to surrender myself totally to Him. I make baby steps in my trust and confidence in God as I strive to let go of my thoughts, my worry, and my desire at all costs to do it all on my own (and in the way I want) by asking for His help and giving Him more and more access to my life.
The saints and holy men and women give witness to total abandonment to God and to what is possible when we surrender ourselves entirely to Him. Fr. Walter Ciszek, who is being considered for beatification, is one such example. In his personal story, “He Leadeth Me”, he writes of his decision of total surrender to God that took place while he was in a Soviet prison. In a moment of weakness, he had signed false papers and thus admitted to things that he had never done. He experienced a great sense of shame and grief over this choice, and later he realized that this was due to his reliance on himself and a lack of humility. Days later, he had reached a place of despair, seeing only a position of cooperation or execution, when he was suddenly consoled by the thoughts of the agony our Lord. In the garden of Gethsemane, Our Lord felt true fear and weakness in His human nature as he faced enduring His Passion yet He cried out, “Not as I will but as thou wilt” (Mt. 26:39). He totally surrendered Himself, all His fears, self-doubt, and weakness, to God. Immediately following this meditation, Fr. Ciszek wrote, “I knew that I must abandon myself entirely to the will of the Father and live from now on in this spirit of self-abandonment to God. And I did it. I can only describe the experience as a sense of “letting go,” giving over totally my last effort or even any will to guide the reins on my own life. It is all too simply said, yet that one decision has affected every subsequent moment of my life.” Fr. Ciszek suffered over twenty- three years in the Soviet prisons and Siberian labor camps. He learned to accept all as a gift of God and strove to always do His will.
In imitation of Our Lord, may the meditation on the Passion of our Lord and the examples of the saints encourage us as we endeavor to surrender ourselves totally to God.
Ellis, G. I. (2018). Servant of God Fr. Dolindo Ruotolo, Priest, Mystic, Stigmatist, Brief Biography & Surrender Novena. Signs and Wonders of Our Times, Fall/Winter, 60-63. https://www.sign.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Fr-Dolindo-article-novena.pdf  Ciszek, W. J., & Flaherty, D. L. (1973). He Leadeth Me. New York: Image., p.80.