Protecting Religious Liberty Is the Least We Can Do

Others have had to do face a lot more; from office of readings today:

From a letter by Saint Cyprian, bishop and martyr
(Epist 80; CSEL, 3, 839-840)

We know that the soldiers of Christ are not slain but crowned

I did not write to your community at once, dearest brother, because all the clergy, exposed as they are to the imminent danger of being put to the test and prepared in a spirit of dedication for the divine glory of heaven, were quite unable to leave here. But you must know that the messengers whom I dispatched to Rome have now returned. I sent them to find out the truth and report back whatever may have been decreed in our regard, for many conflicting and unreliable rumors are current.

The true state of affairs is this. Valerian has issued an edict to the Senate to the effect that bishops, presbyters and deacons shall suffer the death penalty without delay. Senators, distinguished men and members of the equestrian class, are to be deprived of their rank and property, and if, after forfeiting their wealth and privileges, they still persist in professing Christianity, they too are to be sentenced to death. Ladies of the upper classes are to be deprived of their property and exiled. In the case of members of the imperial staff, any who have either previously confessed or do now confess to being Christians shall have their property confiscated and shall be assigned as prisoners to the imperial estates.

To this decree the Emperor Valerian attached a copy of the letter he had sent to the provincial governors concerning us. Every day we are hoping that this letter will arrive, for we are standing firm in faith and ready to endure suffering, in expectation of winning the crown of eternal life through the help and mercy of the Lord. I must also inform you that Sixtus was put to death in a catacomb on the sixth of August, and four deacons with him. Moreover, the prefects in Rome are pressing this persecution zealously and without intermission, to such a point that anyone brought before them is punished and his property is claimed by the treasure.

I ask you to make these facts known to the rest of our fellow bishops, in order that by the exhortation of their pastors the brethren everywhere may be strengthened and prepared for the spiritual combat. Let all our people fix their minds not on death but rather on immortality; let them commit themselves to the Lord in complete faith and unflinching courage and make their confession with joy rather than in fear, knowing that in this contest the soldiers of God and Christ are not slain but rather win their crowns.

Farewell in the Lord, dearest brother.

RESPONSORY
2 Corinthians 4:11; Psalm 44:3

We are being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake
– so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our mortal bodies.

For your sake, O Lord, we are being put to death all day long,
and we are treated like sheep for the slaughter.
– So that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our mortal bodies.

And all we have to do is pay attention, insist on conscience protection with calls and letters and votes.


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