Let’s Show Solidarity with Iraqi Christians

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This is my new photo for Facebook.

Patheos’ geek squad is still uber busy mopping up the big changes they made earlier this week. But I plan to change my photo as soon as they can do it for me.

ISIS is leaving this symbol on the bodies of the Iraqi Christians they murder. It is the the 14th letter of the Arabic alphabet and is pronounced “noon.” The symbol stands for Nasara or Nazarenes, which is supposed to be a pejorative Arabic word for Christians.

But I can tell you that when I die, there would be no higher honor than to have my body labeled with the word Nazarene. What these murdering brutes intend as a dishonor is in fact, the highest honor. They are publicly labeling these people with the name of Christ the Lord. It is as if they are putting a sign on their bodies saying that, without doubt, the person whose body bears it is in heaven right now.

Pity the poor murdering wretches who martyr these Christians. Without repentance, they are going to hell.

Show your solidarity with the Christians of Iraq. Put this symbol everywhere you can; on your Facebook page, on your tweets.

If I can find something to put on my car, it’s going there.

It is an honor to stand with Iraq’s persecuted Christians in the face of this genocide.

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Pope Francis: Christ Transforms Death Into the Dawn of New Life

The second day of Christmas — today — is St Stephen’s Day.

Why would the Church remember the first martyr, a Deacon who was stoned to death for his faith, in the middle of this most joyous season of the year?

I think that St Stephen’s martyrdom is a reminder to all of us that we are crowned with eternal life, but that crown has thorns. In this world, the peace and joy of Christmas are blunted by reminders of the suffering of our persecuted brothers and sisters, as well as the challenges to religious liberty and freedom of conscience here at home.

We no longer live in a Christian nation. We live in post Christian America. This is a fact we all need to absorb. The more you speak for Jesus, the more you will be attacked. Do not let that deter you from taking a stand for Christ. Remember that you are an immortal soul who wears the crown of eternal life. Know that whatever people may try to do to you, Our God will find a way to use it for the good of His Church.

Pope Francis spoke of this great hope that sustains us, as well as the sobering reality of present-day Christian persecution in his St Stephen’s Day homily. St Stephen was the first martyr. Christian martyrs of the 21st Century join him every day.

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Is Russia a Surprise Ally in the Defense of Persecuted Christians?

Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, is paying a visit to the Pope.

According to Vatican Radio, this is the fourth time President Putin has visited the Vatican. He met twice with Pope John Paul II and once with Pope Benedict XVI.

President Putin, who is an Orthodox Christian, has said through his spokespeople that he and Pope Francis will focus on, among a couple of other things, “the protection of Christian minorities in the Maghreb and the Middle East.”

From QuestionMore.Live:

Hopes were high for warmer relations between the Russian Orthodox and Catholic churches as President Vladimir Putin flew Monday to Rome for his first audience with Pope Francis. Topping the agenda is likely help for Christians in the Middle East.

Putin, an Orthodox Christian, has repeatedly said that he is a man of faith and his administration has consistently sought closer ties with the Russian Orthodox Church.

His policies “have brought religion to the forefront and triggered positive change in ecumenical relations,” said Natalya Pecherskaya, rector of the St. Petersburg School of Religion and Philosophy.

But state interests will come first on the visit, officials said.

“Putin will be meeting Pope Francis as the president of Russia, and then only secondly as a Russian Orthodox [Christian],” said Father Kirill Gorbunov, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow.

As well as his visit with the Holy Father in the Vatican, Putin will meet with Italian president Giorgio Napolitano and Romano Prodi, the country’s former premier and a special UN representative, in Rome. On Tuesday, Putin will travel to Trieste for talks with the Italian government.

The Kremlin announced ahead of the visit that Putin and Pope Francis would focus on the state of international institutions and their ability to respond to crises, as well as the protection of Christian minorities in the Maghreb and the Middle East.

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Dolan: Christian Persecution is “a Humanitarian Catastrophe’

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God love Cardinal Timothy Dolan. 

He took the podium at the annual fall assembly of Catholic Bishops to speak out for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Public Catholic reader, Manny, sent a wonderful letter to Cardinal Dolan a few weeks ago, encouraging the Cardinal to do all that he could to help persecuted Christians. Perhaps we should all take to our word processors and send letters.

Christians need to stand in unity with persecuted Christians and not be intimidated by foul-mouthed attacks from those who seek to silence us. People who try to deny the persecution of Christians and who attack those who speak out for them are fellow travelers and enablers of those who carry the guns, wield the clubs and light the flames. 

From Catholic News Agency:

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York addresses the USCCB Fall meeting Nov. 11, 2013. Credit: Addie Mena/CNA.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York addresses the USCCB Fall meeting Nov. 11, 2013. Credit: Addie Mena/CNA.

.- Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, urged his fellow bishops to be advocates of Christians persecuted for their faith around the world, encouraging prayers as well as action on their behalf.

In his address to the assembly, Cardinal Dolan said one million Christians have been killed for their faith in the first years of the 21st century, which he called “a new age of martyrs.” Citing the Pew Research Center, he said that over 70 percent of the world’s population lives in countries with restrictions on freedom of religion.

He declared a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Syria, where two Orthodox bishops have been kidnapped amid the ongoing civil war. He said the Iraq war and its consequences have “devastated” Iraq’s ancient Christian community. The 2012 attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad resulted in a massacre of 58 Christians.

The cardinal also noted a “serious escalation of violence” against Christians in Egypt, where dozens of Coptic churches have been burned. An August attack on a school run by Franciscan nuns resulted in the rape of two teachers. Three nuns were paraded “as prisoners of war.”

There have also been attacks on African Christians, such as shootings of priests and church burnings …

Cardinal Dolan said the situation in India is “grave” in the aftermath of the 2008 Orissa massacres that killed hundreds of Christians and displaced thousands more. Thousands of homes and about 400 churches were destroyed. 

In addition, the cardinal noted the pressures on Christians in China, such as the state supervision and imprisonment that faces Catholic bishops and other religious leaders.

In light of these grave global challenges, Cardinal Dolan made several suggestions for action.

The bishops should encourage “a culture of prayer for persecuted Christians,” both in private prayer and in liturgical intercessions …

He encouraged the bishops to make others aware of the suffering of other Christians through their columns, blogs, speeches and pastoral letters … ask pastors to preach on the topic … encourage Catholic media to “tell the stories of today’s new martyrs.”

The bishops can insist that U.S. leaders listen to persecuted Christians and make their protection “a foreign policy priority,” he added, observing that this has not been a high priority for presidential administrations of either major political party.

Christian Persecution: The Deadly Worldwide Plague

Precious in the sight of God is the death of His saints. Psalm 116


Christian persecution is a deadly worldwide plague.

The evidence of massive, international Christian persecution is abundant.

What, exactly, causes some groups of people to be so vociferous and ugly in their denial of Christian persecution? What would cause someone to stoop to the level of personal attacks against those who speak of Christian persecution?

These attacks, which are often slanderous, are crude attempts to silence those who would speak out for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. Given what is happening, why would anyone do this?

I had a long talk about this with one of my sons a couple of weeks back, and he said something that I think is more pertinent than we would like to admit. People who do things like this are at one with the persecutors. 

What he meant by this was that those who try to silence people who speak out for persecuted Christians are fellow travelers and enablers of the persecutors themselves. There is nothing new under the sun, and that is especially true when we talk about the great evil of violent persecution of whole groups of people.

The persecutors could not act without their enforcers in the larger world demanding and coercing the silence of those who would speak against them. Evil, like cockroaches, needs darkness.

That’s why Hitler set up phony concentration camps to show the Red Cross. It is also why the Red Cross and the rest of the world bought it. No one seems to have questioned the rationale behind putting an entire population of people in concentration camps in the first place. Without that compliance, the lie would and could not have stood.

It’s also why I get attacked just about every time I publish a post about the persecution of Christians. Persecutors always have their apologists. They need the darkness of obfuscation to continue their deadly work.

It is painful to be attacked, but in this case, it is also an honor. I would far rather be the person who gets attacked for taking a stand against the persecution of Christians than the person who does the attacking. They are a sad lot.

I regard these slurs and jibes as small attacks on me for doing my best to follow Christ. I am a little shy about saying this, because what I am doing by writing posts about Christian persecution is such a small thing that it embarrasses me. But by attacking me for trying, however feebly, to follow Christ, these people are giving me the Kingdom of Heaven.

So, what I will say to those who go at me personally for trying to speak out about the persecution of Christians is thank you. I forgive you from my heart for your attempts to harm me personally and I pray for you daily.

However, what I say to them about their support for the persecutors is shame on you. To use a quote from the McCarthy hearings of long ago: Have you no decency?

Here are a few examples of Christian persecution:

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Congressional hearings on Christian Persecution.

Everything You Want is on the Other Side of Fear

Everything you want

I read Father Dwight Longnecker’s fine post, Bergoglio’s List, and it sort of pushed me over the edge I’ve been standing on for a while. Be forewarned: There’s a rant coming.

Pope Francis is like Blessed John Paul II in that he has lived through times when the devil was ascendant and incarnate in his country. He has, in the same way that Blessed John Paul II did in World War II and then under Communism, witnessed and lived through times of great evil. Like Blessed John Paul, he responded to these terrors with Christian courage, fealty and love.

As the article Father Dwight quotes says,

In his Argentina, between 1976 and 1983, Jorge Mario Bergoglio lived through the ‘years of lead’ of the military dictatorship. Kidnappings, torture, massacres, 30,000 disappeared, 500 mothers killed after giving birth in prison to children who were taken away from them.

… In front of three judges, Bergoglio was hammered for three hours and forty-five minutes with insidious questions, above all by the attorney Luis Zamora, the lawyer for the victims. A key passage of the questioning comes when Bergoglio is asked to justify his meetings with the generals Jorge Videla and Emilio Massera, in 1977.

… The “list” of Bergoglio is a collection of highly diverse personal stories, which make for exhilarating reading, whose common characteristic is that the people in them were saved by him.

… There is Alicia Oliveira, the first woman to become a judge in the criminal courts in Argentina and also the first to be dismissed after the military coup, non-Catholic and not even baptized, who went underground and was taken by Bergoglio, in the trunk of his car, to the college of San Miguel, to see her three children.

There are the three seminarians of the bishop of La Rioja, Enrique Angelelli, who was killed in 1976 by members of the military in a staged auto accident, after he had discovered who was truly responsible for numerous assassinations.

There is Alfredo Somoza, the scholar saved without his knowledge.

There are Sergio and Ana Gobulin, who worked in the slums and were married by Father Bergoglio, he arrested and she wanted, both saved and expatriated with the help of the Italian vice-consul in Argentina at the time, Enrico Calamai, another hero of the story.

I posted a pro life homily Cardinal Bergoglio gave in which he spoke of the children in his country who live in the dumps and search these dumps for their subsistence.

Our Holy Father has seen the devil looking at him through the eyes of another person. He has lived through times when the devil had absolute control of the government and military of his country. He has been forced to help people without letting his left hand know what his right hand was doing because secrecy of this degree was the only key to survival.

Children dump

He has seen small children cast out to fend for themselves in dumps.

I am sick to the marrow of my bones of hearing the carping about the way he does the liturgy or how he dresses. I know that the liturgy and the way it is presented is important to some people, but I think we should all remember that the liturgy is not a show. It is prayer. The mass is an hour-long prayer (half hour on weekdays) in which the sacrifice at Calvary is brought home to us and then presented to us in the body and blood of Our Lord for our strength as we go forward in the faith.

Jesus Christ, the living Son of God, is wholly present in His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist.

I respect the hunger of those who love the liturgy for its beauty and draw sustenance from that beauty. But some of the people I’m reading are dangerously close to making an idol of it. The point is Jesus Christ and Him crucified, risen again and ever present to us on all the altars of all the Catholic Churches of the world.

I think Pope Francis “gets” this. I think he also knows that the mass is prayer and that prayer comes from the heart. There is a whole world out there beyond the borders of the United States, and that world is a butcher shop. The mass, as prayer and re-enactment of the sacrifice of Our Lord, has to speak to people whose reality is far different from ours.

Who knows better what those children in the dumps need; us in our American self-absorption, or the Pope who has walked with them for decades? Who can best address the Church to the people who are suffering and dying for the faith; us, or the pope who has lived with the terror of a killer government himself?

I believe the Holy Spirit gave us this pope for these times because he is the pope we need. He is the pope for those people who are suffering and dying in this butcher shop world of ours.

I think that God gave us this pope at this time because He loves those children in the dumps, those who are unjustly imprisoned, beaten, tortured, raped and murdered. He loves them.

Our problems here in America are — every one of them — things we could solve ourselves if we’d just stop being such cowards. The reason our faith is being successfully attacked from every direction in this country is because Christians are colluding with the attackers by their silence, their tacit support in what they watch and say, and by their actions in how they live their lives.

We don’t need the pope to excoriate those who attack Christ in this country one more time. How many times do the popes have to reiterate Church teachings on the sanctity of human life, gay marriage and all the other evils our debauched society loves more than Christ? Does each pope have to say it five times? Or is it 20?

Maybe the problem isn’t that the popes haven’t told us, but that we aren’t doing our part. We don’t need more excoriation, and we don’t need more obsession over the details of the liturgy.

We need Christians who will follow Christ and stand up for Him, come what may.

The people who need the Holy Father’s active help are those who can’t do for themselves: The ones who are at the mercy of the evils of this butcher shop world.

Here in America, our problem is our own lack of faith in God, which makes us cowards. Christians all over the world are suffering and dying for Jesus. We need to get on our knees and pray for faith like that. It is the answer to all our problems.

Christian Persecution: What Can We Do?

Anti religion

Elizabeth Scalia has heard the call.

Have you?

I’m talking about the call to prayer for persecuted Christians around the globe.

Pope Francis issued a call to prayerfor the persecuted church earlier this week.

“So many Christians in the world are suffering,” the pope said during his general audience Wednesday morning in St. Peter’s Square. “Am I indifferent to that, or does it affect me like it’s a member of the family?

“Does it touch my heart, or doesn’t it really affect me, [to know that] so many brothers and sisters in the family are giving their lives for Jesus Christ?

Speaking directly to the crowd in the square, Francis said he wanted to ask a question, and he didn’t want people to shout out an answer but rather to ponder it in their hearts.

“How many of you pray for Christians who are persecuted?” the pope asked. “Ask yourselves, do I pray for that brother or sister who’s in difficulty for confessing their faith?” (Read more here.)

According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, one hundred thousand Christians have died for their faith each year in the last decade. That works out to 11 Christians martyred for their faith every hour for the past ten years.

Can you imagine the outcry if this was one the groups that fashion says we should care about? Just consider the sentence 100,000 _______ were murdered because of they were ______ each year for the past ten years. Supply the name of any group whose rights we hear daily that we are supposed to care about.

Now, go back and substitute the word Christians, as in:

100,000 Christians  were murdered because they were Christians  each year for the past ten years.

See what I mean?

Christian bashing is far more popular in today’s world than defending the human rights of Christians. Every time I post on the issue, I get a spate of comments telling me that no such problem exists. There are usually a few profane and truly ugly comments mixed in with them. I delete these things the same way I would swat a fly; the same way I delete Holocaust deniers and gay bashers and woman haters; with speed and quickness.

Pope Francis is right. We need to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. If you’re one of those people who has been observing this carnage and wondering What can I do? here’s you answer. Get on your knees and start praying.

I wrote a Novena for the Persecuted Church a few weeks ago. You can find it here:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Day 9

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

Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 7

StMichaelFace

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 7 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 consider Simon of Cyrene. 

Simon of Cyrene was a long way from home that day. Cyrene was a town in Africa, a former Greek colony, in the area we now call Lybia. 

He had probably come to Jerusalem for the Passover. He may never have heard of Jesus before that day. It is almost certain that he had no desire to get involved in this execution, much less be forced to help a bleeding, dying man carry His cross to His crucifixion. 

Roman soldiers had enormous power over the civilian population. They could arrest people on their own initiative, kill people who interfered with their duties, use people’s homes and provender to carry out their work and impress anyone they chose to work as free labor for them. 

When Jesus said If someone forces you to go with them a mile, go with them two miles, He was referring to the practice of Roman soldiers. They impressed random bystanders into carrying their loads and functioning as their beasts of burden. It was not a volunteer position, and the person who was forced into labor was not paid. 

That is what happened to Simon of Cyrene. He was evidently among the bystanders, watching the spectacle of three men, carrying the instruments of their execution to the place where they would die. 

The excessive cruelty the Roman soldiers had heaped on Jesus was causing them trouble now. This man they had beaten was so weakened by loss of blood and the injuries they’d inflicted that He fell repeatedly while trying to carry his cross. 

The Romans had a timetable. They were tasked with getting these three men on their crosses and dead before the Passover began that evening. The whole purpose of Jesus’ death was to spare their Governor the problems of an uprising. Breaking Jewish law by leaving these Jews hanging on their crosses alive after sundown might provoke the very uprising the Governor was trying to prevent. 

They didn’t have time to dally with a dead man, walking on the way to His final execution, Who was too weak to get there. 

The solution, for them at least, was simple. They grabbed a man at random, without knowing, as the authors of the Gospels did, his name, and forced him to carry the cross for Jesus. 

Simon doubtless thought this was his unlucky day. Here he’d come to Jerusalem on pilgrimage like the good Jew he probably was. He’d brought his two sons, Rufus and Alexander, and most likely the rest of his family, as well. It was supposed to be a holy time; a time of rejoicing.

And here he was, forced to stand beside this sweaty, smelly, bleeding wretch of a man — this criminal — and lift the heavy cross onto his own shoulders and help the man carry it to his death. 

Day ruined. 

Pilgrimage ruined. 

And yet something unexpected must have happened that day. Because scripture indicates that Simon didn’t just walk away. This indignity he suffered didn’t just fade into part of the family lore about what happened to Dad when we went to Passover in Jerusalem a long time ago.

The Gospel authors knew him. They knew the names of his sons. There is a familiarity about the way they identify him that makes it clear that Simon of Cyrene’s interaction with the followers of Christ went on past that horrible morning when He helped the Son of God carry His cross to Golgotha. 

This is satan’s hour, Jesus told His disciples. But even in this deepest darkness of the worst crime of our human history, the Light shone through. It touched the thief on the cross. It entered the soldier who confessed Him. And it evidently touched and stayed with Simon of Cyrene, as well.

It’s the same today.

Even in the deepest darkness of Christ crucified again in the persecution of His followers, the light of their witness, their fidelity, their awesome faith, shines through. 

These people who, in the face of unbearable terror, refuse to convert away from Christ, refuse to recant and deny Him, are the Light, shining for all of us. 

We need to set their light on a hill and let it shine so that it touches all of indifferent and callous humanity. Our first task as their brothers and sisters is to give their awesome witness to the faith the attention and respect that it deserves. 

Pray for an end to the persecution, yes. 

But in our praying we must pray also that their witness to the Truth is seen and known and honored in every church, before every Tabernacle and in every heart where Christ is worshipped around the world. 

Even in the deepest darkness, the Light still shines. 

Pray that we will have the eyes to see it, the courage to proclaim it. 

Here is the Novena to St Michael for the Persecuted Church, Day 7. 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 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

Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 5

St

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 5 of the Novena to St Michael. We are praying for our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters around the world.

Our Lord was crucified by a group of corrupt priests and a cowardly politician. Yesterday, we looked at the cowardly politician. Today, let’s meditate on the corrupt priests. 

The Levitical priesthood of Jesus’ day was corrupt. It had become a priesthood that, as Jesus said, does not practice what it preaches. 

This was so widespread that Jesus bluntly warned His followers to beware the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 

He went on with a warning that nothing that is covered up that will not be known, which was a frightening warning for those with the good sense to heed it that all our pretenses to goodness will be shown for the pretense they are when we stand before God. 

Both Jesus and John the Baptist before Him denounced this corrupt priesthood in unforgettable language. When the priests went to where John the Baptist was baptizing people, he said Brood of vipers! Who told you to flee the coming wrath?

Our Lord was no gentler in His condemnation of them. He repeatedly called them Hypocrites … blind guides … snakes … brood of vipers … white washed tombs that on the outside are beautiful but inside are full of corruption. 

The Levitical priesthood was corrupt. It had become a collaborator with the Roman conquerors to keep the people down. It used its power to interpret the Law of Moses to create new and more difficult regulations that it heaped on an impoverished and suffering people. These priests lorded it over the people of God. They used the law to punish and batter them. 

At the same time, the priests themselves lived large on the Roman beneficence. They did not follow the harsh laws they put on the people. Their faith was performance art, not faith. They demanded that the people that God had raised up and led through the desert to this land bow down to them and their pretend holiness.

They were, in Jesus’ words, blind guides.

His description of them to his disciples would fit any fallen priest or clergy today:

… they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

Their priesthood was for themselves, not God and certainly not God’s people.

Jesus condemned them as He condemned no one else. He diagnosed their spiritual poverty in a series of condemnations, beginning each condemning diagnosis with the words Woe to you, teachers of the law and pharisees. 

At the end of this long diagnosis of their fallen priesthood, He cursed them by prophesying:

You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?

Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.

This was God made Man, speaking to His own failed priests. It is sobering beyond sobering how God deals with corrupt priests.

It was also inevitable that they would try to kill him. While the people suffered under Roman rule, the priests had a good deal. They lorded it over the people and lived lives of luxury off the Roman fat. They weren’t doing good. They were doing well.

In one of the most chilling passages in Scripture, they discussed what to do about this Jesus the people were following, how to end this threat to their sovereignty and good times.

It appears that they lied, even to one another. Rather than just say the truth that they hated Jesus for exposing them for what they were and they feared His influence with the people, they made up a fantasy about the necessity of committing murder to “save the people.”

Caiaphas, the chief priest, concluded the discussion by telling the others It is better for one man to die than the whole nation. 

This is how murderers justify murder, by claiming that they are doing something fine and necessary with their killing. But in the end murder is always about one thing: Me. 

Caiaphas took it a step further:

He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

In other words, he used his full authority as chief priest, as the religious leader who interceded with God for God’s people, to promulgate this plan to murder Christ the Lord. 

In this he was no different from religious leaders today who stand before crowds or go on television and incite their followers to murder and persecute the Body of Christ in the person of His followers. They, like Caiaphas, are using their power as priests to murder innocence. 

Shakespeare famously said, Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds. 

Jesus put it differently when He said, To those whom much is given, much is required. 

Priests and religious leaders have been given much. They are entrusted first with the souls of many other people. They are also entrusted with the understanding of God in this world. 

Their smell when they become corrupt is associated in people’s minds with God Himself. 

These corrupt priests who Jesus said, Shut the door of heaven in people’s faces, had already turned their backs on God when Jesus began His ministry. Their priesthood was all about them, their power and the respect they loved to receive. 

But they entered history and became the manifestation of what a fallen priesthood is when they set themselves the task of procuring the judicial murder of God Himself. 

The Scriptures do not tell us that God warned these priests as He did Pilate. So far as we know, He sent no dreams to tell them what they were doing was wrong. He didn’t have to. They, unlike Pilate, had the law and the prophets. They knew beyond doubt that they were committing murder. 

They denied what they didn’t want to see: That Jesus was divine. They were, as He told them, the spiritual descendants of those earlier corrupt priests who had murdered the prophets. 

It is better for one man to die than the whole nation, Caiaphas said. 

How will you escape being condemned to hell? Jesus asked him. 

He is asking that same question of the religious leaders in various countries around the world who use their power over people to instigate the persecution of Christians. 

It cannot be said too many times that persecuted Christians are Christ crucified in today’s world.

Religious leaders who lead their followers in the almost unfathomable sin of attacking, persecuting and murdering Christ’s followers because they are Christ’s followers are these same Pharisees. The same satan who inspired them then, whispers calls to hate and kill in the ears of their descendants today. 

How will you escape being condemned to hell? Jesus asked. 

The question applies just as much to corrupt and fallen clergy today as it did when He first said it 2,000 years ago. 

 

Here is the Novena to St Michael for the Persecuted Church, Day 5. 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 4
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 3
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 2 
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 1


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