– By Alfred Delp. 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].

From The Prison Meditations of Father Alfred Delp, first published in German as Im Angesicht des Todes by Verlag Josef Knechr, Carolusdruckerei, Frankfurt am Main,1958. First English edition © 1962 by Bloomsbury Publishing Co. Ltd. (New York: Herder and Herder,1963). Photo: Gedenktafel Alfred Delp in C7, 1-4, Mannheim, 2012-04-28 Graf Foto 


See a selection of prison meditations written by Alfred Delp