December 2013/January 2014 - Vol. 71

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God Alone Suffices

Excerpted from Alfred Delp's diary entry, 
December 31, 1944

This year now ending leaves behind it a rich legacy of tasks and we must seriously consider how to tackle them. Above all else one thing is necessary religious minded people must become more devout; their dedication must be extended and intensified. 

And that brings me to my own affairs. Have I grown in stature in the past year? Have I increased my value to the community? How do things stand with me? 

Outwardly they have never been worse. This is the first New Year I have ever approached without so much as a crust of bread to my name. I have absolutely nothing I can call my own. The only gesture of goodwill I have encountered is that the jailer has fastened my handcuffs so loosely that I can slip my left hand out entirely. The handcuffs hang from my right wrist so at least I am able to write. But I have to keep alert with one ear as it were glued to the door-heaven help me if they should catch me at work! 

And undeniably I find myself in the shadow of the scaffold. Unless I can disprove the accusations on every point I shall most certainly hang. The chances of this happening have never really seriously occupied my thoughts for long although naturally there have been moments of deep depression-handcuffs after all are a symbol of candidature for execution. 1 am in the power of the law which, in times like the present, is not a thing to be taken lightly. 

An honest examination of conscience reveals much vanity, arrogance and self-esteem; and in the past also a certain amount of dishonesty. That was brought home to me when they called me a liar while I was being beaten up. They accused me of lying when they found I mentioned no names except those I knew they knew already. I prayed hard, asking God why he permitted me to be so brutally handled and then I saw that there was in my nature a tendency to pretend and deceive. 

On this altar much has been consumed by fire and much has been melted and become pliable. It has been one of God's blessings, and one of the signs of his indwelling grace, that I have been so wonderfully helped in keeping my vows. He will, I am confident, extend his blessing to my outward existence as soon as I am ready for the next task with which he wishes to entrust me. From this outward activity and intensified inner light new passion will be born to give witness for the living God, for I have truly learned to know him in these days of trial and to feel his healing  presence. God alone suffices is literally and absolutely true. And I must have a passionate belief in my mission to mankind, showing the way to a fuller life and encouraging the willing capacity for it. These things I will do wholeheartedly - in nomine Domine [in the name of the Lord].

Go to next meditation > The name Jesus



Return to Joy in the Face of Death - Alfred Delp S.J., by Jeanne Kun, with excerpts from the book, Even Unto Death: Wisdom from Modern Martyrs, edited by Jeanne Kun, The Word Among Us Press, © 2002. All rights reserved. Used with permission. The book can be ordered from WAU Press.

A selection of prison meditations


> The People of Advent
> True Happiness
> God Alone Suffices
> The name Jesus
> No Death Can Kill Us
> Aim at Heaven with All your Strength
> I Must Take the Other Road

Delp's family surrounded him on the occasion of his ordination and first mass, July 4, 1937 

Alfred Delp was a German member of the Society of Jesus, who was executed for his resistance to the Nazi regime.

Alfred Delp was born in Mannheim, Germany, to a Catholic mother and a Protestant father. Although baptized Catholic, he was raised and confirmed a Lutheran. At the age of 14 he left the Lutheran church and was confirmed as a Roman Catholic. In his later life Delp was a fervent promoter of better relations between the churches.

Delp joined the Jesuits in 1926. In the next 10 years he continued his studies and worked with German youth, made more difficult after 1933 with the interference of the Nazi regime. Delp was ordained in 1937.
Unable for political reasons to continue his studies, Delp worked on the editorial staff of the Jesuit publication Stimmen der Zeit (Voice of the Times), until it was suppressed in 1941. He then was assigned as rector of St. Georg Church in Munich. Delp secretly used his position to help Jews escape to Switzerland.

Concerned with the future of Germany, Delp joined the Kreisau Circle, a group that worked to design a new social order. He was arrested with other members of the circle after the attempted assassination of Hitler in 1944. After suffering brutal treatment and torture, Delp was brought to trial. While he knew nothing of the attempted assassination, the Gestapo decided to hang him for high treason.

Delp was offered his freedom if he would renounce the Jesuits. He refused and was hanged February 2, 1945. His body was cremated and his ashes spread on an unknown field.

While his physical remains disappeared, Alfred Delp left behind letters smuggled out of prison. They reveal a man of courage who told the prison chaplain accompanying him to his death, In half an hour, Ill know more than you do.

[biographical source: IgnatianSpirituality.com]


[Selection from The Prison Meditations of Father Alfred Delp, with an Introduction by Thomas Merton (New York: Herder and Herder, 1963)]
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