Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 8

St Michael

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Rev 12: 17 – 18

This is day 8 of the Novena to St Michael. We are praying for our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters around the world.

For today’s meditation, let’s think about the onlookers at Calvary.  

Every year on the Sunday before Easter, we re-enact the Gospel of Mark. In my parish, it’s the custom for the priest to take the role of Jesus and the parishioners to take the role of the condemning crowd that yelled “Crucify Him!”

But the actual crowd of that day when they crucified Our Lord was more mixed. The onlookers ranged from the holiness of Our Lady and the faithful women, to the taunting cruelty of the priests. 

These priests were not satisfied with what they had wrought. They followed Jesus to Golgotha and stood at the foot of the cross to taunt Him. 

“If He is the messiah,” they said, “let Him come down from the cross. He saved others. Let Him save Himself.”

This taunting mockery tells us two things. It demonstrates how completely these fallen priests were in the grip of satan, and it also shows how afraid they were of Jesus. 

This Jesus they were murdering had raised three people that we know of from the dead, but the one that upset the priests the most was Lazarus. In fact, it was the resurrection of Lazarus that pushed them into moving forward with their murderous plot. Now, they stood at the cross where Jesus hung, helpless and in agony, and mocked Him. He saved others. Let Him save himself, they said, as if to reassure themselves. 

But the priests were not the only ones who mocked Him. All along the way to the cross, the road had been full of gawkers, mockers and a smattering of genuine mourners. Most of these people probably left once the show of watching this desperately injured Man attempt to drag his cross up the hill was over. After he’d been nailed to the torturous device and, as He foretold, “lifted up,” there was nothing left to see but the slow dying of a totally humiliated human being. 

Most of them probably left, because they got bored. 

There were two groups to whom this whole affair was so deeply personal that they shared in His agony with Him. The first, oddly enough, was a group of people who were, by their own choosing, not there. The disciples who had followed Him, lived with Him, been taught and loved by Him, had run away from Him in His hour. 

Anyone who doubts the veracity of the Gospels should consider the raw and unflattering way these men described themselves. John Mark was in such a panic that when one of the soldiers who arrested Jesus grabbed his garment, he jerked free of both it and the soldier and ran away into the night naked. Peter suffered the ignominy of denying and cursing Jesus while Jesus looked at Him. The others fled like bunny rabbits into the darkness. 

They all went into hiding. They left Him to His fate. 

The other group stayed with Him throughout the ordeal. They stood at the foot of the cross, they buried Him in the tomb, and they came back a few days later to anoint his body for burial. 

This group was led by His Mother and included the women who followed Him, plus one disciple. John ran away with the others on the night He was taken. 

But He came back.

And he stood there with the women all that day long. 

Let’s consider what these faithful followers witnessed. The crucifixion of Our Lord did not resemble the prettied up presentations we see in the art that hangs on our church walls. 

It was ugly.

It was meant to be ugly. This kind of death was not meted out to Roman citizens, because Roman citizens were exempt from being reduced to the level that crucifixion took people. 

The cross was a protracted, humiliating death in which the person died alone, naked, in terror and in agony. 

The cross was then, and it is now, the full and complete message of how much God loves us. It was also then and is now a scandal and an embarrassment to those who want to follow a good-times god of prosperity and social acceptance. 

Those onlookers who gawked, mocked, ran away from and stood faithful before the cross can teach us a lot. It is not so much a question of which one of them would we have been back then as it is which one of them are we today. 

Christians are dying for Christ all over the globe. They suffer persecution, discrimination and terror on a daily basis. They are carrying their cross. 

But what of us? 

There is a large group of people who deny the fact of Christian persecution. They mock and jeer if the topic comes up.

There is another group who shrugs and says, What can we do? “What can we do?” is a fair question, if it is a question. “What can we do?” can easily be re-phrased to mean “How can I help?”

Put like that, as a beginning of a search for what we can, in fact, do, the question is both honorable and positive. 

But if it’s a dismissal, as in “What can we do,” said with a shrug and a turning away, then it is both dishonorable and deplorable. 

We are the onlookers as Christ is being crucified in our persecuted brothers and sisters today. 

Our first task is to pray. We need to pray for them, and for God’s guidance about what we can do for them. Our second task is to tell their story. Lift them up as the true martyrs for the faith that they are. Give them the respect they deserve by respecting their sacrifice for Our Lord. 

Never shrug and turn away from Christ crucified right in front of you. 

Pray and speak for them. Pray and witness to their witness. Pray and refuse to be silenced by the sneers and jeers of satan, speaking through the mouths of those who support this murder of innocence with their demands that we say nothing and do nothing for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Christ is crucified in the world today. We are the onlookers.

Mocker, gawker, run-away or faithful: Which one are you? 

 

Here is the Novena to St Michael for the Persecuted Church, Day 8. Please pray it and ask others to join you.

Glorious Saint Michael,
guardian and defender
of the Church of Jesus Christ,
come to the assistance of His followers,
against whom the powers of hell are unchained.
Guard with special care our Holy Father,
the Pope, and our bishops, priests,
all our religious and lay people,
and especially the children.

Saint Michael,
watch over us during life,
defend us against the assaults of the demon,
and assist us especially at the hour of death.
Help us achieve the happiness
of beholding God face to face
for all eternity.

Amen.

Saint Michael,
intercede for me with God
in all my necessities,
especially

for the conversion of the world, 
that from pole to pole, 
dateline to dateline, 
all will call out Jesus' name. 

Obtain for me a favourable outcome
in the matter I recommend to you.
Mighty prince of the heavenly host,
and victor over rebellious spirits,
remember me for I am weak and sinful
and so prone to pride and ambition.
Be for me, I pray,
my powerful aid in temptation and difficulty,
and above all do not forsake me
in my last struggle with the powers of evil.

Amen.
 
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 7
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 6
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 5
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 4
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 3
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 2
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 1

Professional Christians, Pragmatic Jesus and Finishing the Race

Joseph bottum 1

So some guy named Joseph Bottum wrote a flabby-blabby essay for Commonweal about how he’s a born-again gay marriage supporter.

In certain Catholic circles Mr Bottum’s decision to change political horses, is BIG NEWS.

I’m barely Catholic so far as the intellectual Catholic culture is concerned, which means that all this carrying-on and hand-wringing went right over my little Okie head. Everybody else seemed all worked up about it, so I googled the guy.

It appears he’s a former editor of a conservative Catholic publication called First Things and the author of several books. He basically sounds like a man who’s been making his living off being a Faithful Catholic bringing The Truth according to him to the uninformed masses. 

Based on what little I’ve read of First Things, it is a big sea change for its former editor to kick the real Jesus to the curb and recommend that we all follow politically pragmatic Jesus and “accept” gay marriage. In fact, such a thing would have been unthinkable — career suicide, if nothing else — for someone with Mr Bottum’s resume even a few months ago. 

But with respect to Bob Dylan, the times they are achangin’ and lots of Professional Christians are going to find that their bread is buttered on the opposite side of what it once was.

What I’m trying to say is that we’re going to see a lot of this. Successful people follow the money. That’s what they do. It’s how they got to be successful people. For a long time now, the easy money on the Catholic side of the street has been to try to out-faithful the faithful, at least in public. John Corapi road off on his Harley as a millionaire.

I have no knowledge of Mr Bottum’s finances. In fact, other than a quick read of his execrable essay and an even quicker google search, I have no knowledge of Mr Bottum.

I’m not writing this about him. I’m writing it about us.

We officially entered post Christian America with the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage last summer. A lot of Christians haven’t gotten the memo yet, but that doesn’t change the situation. As we move deeper into this new reality, the smart money types among us are going to betray Christ. 

They will try at first to broker themselves as negotiators for the other side of this culture war, as Mr Bottum has done in his essay. He’s being hailed as a hero in certain high-profile circles, but that won’t be true of the stragglers who switch further down the road. Professional Christian deserters lose their cachet when there’s a glut of them. 

Mr Bottum’s argument to other Catholics as to why they should abandon Church teaching on marriage is just about the crudest argument anyone can make. 

We’re gonna lose anyway, he contends, so let’s give this one to the culture and concentrate on areas where we can win. 

That, and he had a casual friend who is gay that he sees once in a while who won’t talk to him anymore, which proves that people hate the Church for its support of traditional marriage, which proves … I dunno … that Jesus was right when He said,

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. 

Mr Bottum’s viewpoint doesn’t exactly track with the Jesus who said that. In fact, it is so mind-bogglingly anti-Christian that it takes a moment for a Christian to grok it. Who told Mr Bottum that Christians are called to win, and if they don’t win, to walk off the field? For that matter, who told him that following Jesus wouldn’t cost him the loss of friends?

Not Jesus, that’s for sure. 

People are suffering and dying all over the world because they won’t turn their backs on Jesus. They aren’t being pragmatic. They are being faithful. 

More and more of the professional Christians who’ve been living high off the religious fat are going to cut and run. Christianity has been on the ascendant in Western society for so long that a lot of people have built lucrative careers and garnered our respect and trust by posing as super Christians while they were ripping it off the whole time. Now that we live in a post-Christian culture, they’re going to begin, as gay people say, to “come out.”

I don’t know if Mr Bottum is one of these. What I know is that he’s done well by being a professional conservative Catholic and now he’s backing up on an issue that conservative Catholics have long deemed “non-negotiable.”

My point is that we’re going to see more of this and we shouldn’t let it bother us. We certainly shouldn’t follow these guys. 

We need to keep close to God in prayer and through the sacraments and, as St Paul would say, finish the race. 


For more on this story see Why I Am Catholic, Feast of Eden and Catholic and Enjoying It

Book Review: God’s Favorite Place on Earth

To join the discussion about God’s Favorite Place on Earth, or to buy a copy, go here

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Frank Viola, who blogs at Rediscovering the Supremacy of Jesus Christ, is offering 25 free books or audios to those who buy his newest book, God’s Favorite Place on Earth, in the next week. To learn more, go here

That offer makes a good book a good deal, as well.

God’s Favorite Place on Earth is a combination first person fictionalization/meditation/teaching on the Gospel stories surrounding the family of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. This family lived in the little town of Bethany, and Gospel accounts make it clear that their friendship with Jesus was both personal and on-going. 

These people knew Jesus in the intimate way that friends know one another. They also recognized Him as more than just another rabbi. They got Him at a time when His own disciples were often confused the things He did and said. 

This is the same Lazarus who died and was dead four days when Jesus stood at his grave and, with the words Lazarus come forth! raised him from the dead. 

DrawingsofFaith2

First, Jesus meant it when He said that being his disciple means taking up our crosses and following after Him. The message in Viola’s fine book is three-fold. 

Second, God’s ways are not our ways. He doesn’t work according to our time-table or our human goals. He has His own plan and our part in it is to follow Him and do what He tells us to do.

Third, (and most important) Christian life is Christ-centered living. It is not about our missions or our apostolates. It is not a function of how many hours we spend at church or how we vote. Following Christ means following Christ and Him crucified.

Frank Viola has written a fine book that gave me meat for thought about my own Christian walk and the ways in which I put things ahead of Him in my life. It was a convicting and uplifting read, both at once. 

I heartily recommend it. 

Praise You in This Storm

Where is God when we’re hurting?

He’s right beside us.

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Song Praise You in This Storm by Casting Crowns


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