Starved for Truth

Victims of long-term spiritual starvation are fragile and must be fed gradually


Faith Virtue

When Soviet troops arrived at the Auschwitz complex on January 27, 1945, bewildered prisoners greeted them with tears and embraces, kissing the flaps of their overcoats and hugging their knees. Confused and surprised by the wretched conditions of the camp, the soldiers gruffly asked, “What are you all doing here?”

They saw thousands of men, women, and children who had been in a state of starvation for months on end, recently abandoned by fleeing SS officers. Auschwitz had imprisoned 1.1 million people during the war, but only about 9,000 were still alive. Emaciated to skin and bones, grown men weighing 90 pounds — who should have been 150 pounds — stared out from dark, sunken, terror-stricken eyes.

The shocked Russian soldiers immediately worked to build hospitals onsite, and local Polish townsfolk joined in. The Red Cross set up tents for treatment. Government-issued army rations that included biscuits and chocolate bars were fed to the prisoners. But the rescuers did not know that a mouthful of food could cause almost immediate death. Only 7,500 of the starving survived the charitable, compassionate efforts to feed them.

The fate of these victims brought to mind an analogy to spiritual starvation, which is widespread but hidden by the erroneous notion that true happiness comes only by stuffing ourselves with worldly things.

Yielding to this temptation in the past left me hungry for more because it never nourished my soul. For years I swaggered around thinking myself sexually liberated when I was in fact captivated. Concupiscence — my flesh lusting against the Spirit (Gal. 5:17) — starved me of God’s grace.

Imagine a Christian finding old friends who are spiritually starved while imprisoned by self-indulgence. If he tells them the Gospel truth, that self-denial of their carnal appetites will liberate them, such an alien concept will be a shock. He may never hear from them again. People can stomach only what they are used to. For many, the whole truth is too much to swallow. They will reject what exposes the lie they’ve lived for so long. Victims of long-term spiritual starvation are fragile and must be fed gradually to rebuild their dissipated strength and stamina. As St. Paul wrote to some early catechumens, “You need milk, not solid food… Solid food is for the spiritually mature, who by constant practice have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5: 12, 14).


Richard M. DellOrfano spent ten years on a cross-country pilgrimage following Christ’s instruction to minister without possessions. He is completing his autobiography: Path Perilous, My Search for God and the Miraculous.

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