Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 4

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 4 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. Today, let’s meditate on the cowardly politician. 

Pontius Pilate was not a coward in what we normally consider the manly sense. He was a soldier, and I would imagine a brave one. He certainly had no fear of putting people — even innocent ones — to death. Not too long before he was faced with the early-morning trial of this carpenter turned itinerate miracle worker and preacher from Nazareth, he had ordered the slaughter of worshipers in the Temple, “mingling their blood with their sacrifices.” 

Only God knew how many people Pilate had killed. I’m sure that Pilate had lost count long before he was forced to deal with the demands of the corrupt priests that he put yet another man to death. He knew the priests were corrupt because he was their corruptor. Rome left the Levitical priesthood in place when they conquered this land, but they did what governments always try to do: They tamed this priesthood with money and special favors; with the power of speaking for the larger populace to the ruling powers.

The uneasy population underneath this layer of Roman-Levitical governance gave the priests a certain power in dealing with Pilate. If Pilate had been an absolute ruler, or if Judea had been an unimportant area, this wouldn’t have been true.

But Pilate merely governed in the name of the Emperor in Rome. His head was as easily forfeit as that of any of the people he governed. Judea, for all its backward ways, was an important piece of real estate. It sat strategically along the trade routes between Rome and the breadbaskets of Egypt and the East. War here hurt commerce everywhere.  And Rome, like all empires, cared far more for commerce than human life, including the life of its governors. 

Pilate’s job was to keep things peaceable and those trade routes running. Uprisings and military clashes cost Rome money and endangered its privileged way of life. They weren’t to be tolerated.

The priest’s job in all this was to work with Pilate to keep the people down. Which meant that they had Pilate by the throat. Pilate, on the other hand, could certainly squeeze and punish them harshly if they cost him too much trouble, which meant he had them by the throat, also.

So, it was a gathering of political friends and allies that morning, come to haggle over what should have been a small thing to this Roman governor: The death of a single man. 

But there must have been something in Pilate, some honest thing or longing that only God saw. Because He dealt differently with Pilate than He did Herod, or even the priests.

He warned Pilate with a dream to his wife. Have nothing to do with that innocent man, she told her husband. For I have suffered greatly because of him in a dream last night. 

Jesus talked to Pilate, answering Him as directly as He ever did anyone. My kingdom is not of this world … I come to testify to the truth. 

Pilate responded with the answer of nihilists from then to now: What is truth? 

And yet, he tried. He tried hard to comply with his wife’s warning and what sounds like a cacophony of inner warnings in his own mind and step aside from killing this one man. He sent Jesus to Herod and tried to pass the problem off on him. He had Jesus scourged and displayed His wrecked and bleeding person to the priests with the words See the man! 

See how I have punished Him for you, he implies. See the blood and brokenness of Him. See the man! Isn’t this enough for you?

He even tried to use their own religious laws to free Jesus because of the Passover. 

But nothing worked, because they wouldn’t have it. And in the end, Pilate literally washed his hands of the whole affair declaiming that the blood of this man is on you to the priests and ordering Jesus murdered by means of crucifixion. 

It is fascinating that even though Jesus came for the purpose of redeeming all of humanity on Calvary, God still gave Pontius Pilate every opportunity to avoid his participation in this great crime. The point here is that God does not entrap us into sin, even if our sin plays a part in the on-going history of His Kingdom. 

We choose. 

The cowardly politician and the corrupt priests who murdered Our Lord did not have to know that they were dealing with God Incarnate to see that what they were doing was wrong. Their own laws told them that. The innate natural law that is inborn in each of us told them that.

You do not murder innocent people. Killing people to preserve your political career or your place in society or your special privileges is wrong. There is no qualifier to the wrongness of it. 

But the priests convinced themselves, as people do, that what they were doing was a political necessity to “save” the nation, and Pilate convinced himself that by killing this man he could avoid the uprising that might get him recalled. They convinced themselves and that is the key. It is the key to their evil that day and to most of ours today. 

We can convince ourselves of anything. 

That is what is at work in the political and religious justifications for the violent persecution of Christians around the world today. And for these persecutors now, just as it was for Our Lord’s murderers 2,000 years ago, there is no qualifier to the evil wrongness of what they are doing. 

The innate, inborn natural law that tells us every one that the murder of innocents is wrong condemns every person on this earth who breaks it. There is no confabulation or dissimulation or propaganda that we can use to convince ourselves otherwise that will wash away the stain of blood guilt for those who kill innocent people.

Those who kill Christians because they are Christians commit the almost unfathomable sin of crucifying Christ again in the persons of His followers. 

Without repentance and the grief that comes with the realization that they have done monstrous things, they are doomed. 

When we pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ, we need also to pray for their persecutors. 

For while those who are privileged to suffer for Christ are piling up crowns for themselves in heaven, their persecutors are committing sins, that, if they die with them on their souls, will condemn them to an eternity in hell. 


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

Obama Obama Don’t You Care? Christian Blood Everywhere!

Two hundred Coptic Christians demonstrated in Nashville for peace in Egypt a few days ago. God bless them.

Here is the video.

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Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 3

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

Meditate today on Our Lord as He prayed and suffered in Gethsemane.

Allow yourself to consider the Alone. By the Alone, I mean the isolation and utter desolation that a person feels when they are at the mercy of satan’s disciples in this world. 

Unlike us, Jesus did not have the luxury of fooling Himself into thinking things would be alright. He knew beyond hope the horrors that were coming.

But just like us, he wanted and needed companionship, and witnesses.

Jesus was human at Gethsemane. He didn’t go away to pray alone. Instead, he took Peter, John and James with Him. My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, He told them. Stay here and keep watch with me. 

Jesus was human that night. He saw with His God eyes what was coming, the “cup” he would have to drink for us, and He recoiled with human horror. 

He prayed that God would spare Him the agonies ahead. He sweated blood in His distress.

And, His human self longed for the comfort of other people. Keep watch with me, He asked. 

And, like we fail Him when He is crucified again today in His Persecuted Church, the disciples failed Him then. 

Keep watch with me, was all He asked of them. Stay awake. Pray. Be my friends and give me the comfort of your active presence in my agony. 

But every time He paused in His prayers to go to them, He found them asleep. Can you not watch with me for one hour? He asked them. 

The forsaken aloneness of that question echoes down the centuries to us today. Jesus was standing on the edge of the abyss. He was looking forward into that time when He would be at the mercy of satan; completely, utterly and absolutely. Unto death. 

He was looking into the Alone. 

It is a terrible thing to look into another person’s eyes and see satan looking back at you. It is a depth of horror that only those who have been there can understand to be helpless and utterly alone in that moment, to know that there is nothing you can do to save yourself. That is the Alone. And it is what Jesus was facing. 

It was His Passion. 

And it is the Passion of persecuted Christians, everywhere. 

The persecutors of Christians are satan’s disciples in this world. As such, they are capable of descending into ever deeper pits of depravity. There is no bottom for those who have given themselves over to satan, whether they know they have given themselves to satan, or not. 

They are the apostles of the darkness, and like their master, they hate the light of Christ. Like him, they will not stop until the darkness they crave rules this world in an eternal night. 

This is the same satan who tempted Him at Gethsemane. Who came at Him through His wholly human horror of suffering, death, shame and humiliation. This is the same satan Who tried to get Him to turn His back on us and step aside from the oncoming sacrifice at Calvary. 

My heart is sorrowful and troubled … My soul is overwhelmed … to the point of death.

That is our Wholly Human Lord facing His hour of greatest temptation. All He asked of His friends was to bear witness; to watch and pray … with me for one hour.  

But they could not do even that much. 

In the end, He went into the Alone alone. Our Wholly God Lord and Savior allowed Himself to be stripped completely of His Godhead and lead away like a lamb to the slaughter. He endured the deepest pit of taking on our sins so that He could save us from those sins. 

He became Wholly Human to save us from our fallen humanity. May your will be done, he prayed

He was tempted like we are with the recoiling horror of the pit. He was sorrowful and troubled to the point of death. He sweat blood and entreated heaven to spare Him what was coming. 

He was human at Gethsemane. 

And He was alone in His humanness. He battled satan in that garden and faced down the temptation to turn aside from the agonies ahead. 

He is alone again in the hearts of our persecuted brothers and sisters all around the globe. He faces the Alone again with them as they face it. 

The question now, as it was then, is can we watch with him one hour? 

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

Kids of Courage: Persecuted Christian Teens Around the World

This video shows us a glimpse of the magnificent faith of Christian young people around the world.

Can we do less that stand for Jesus here in America?

Note: The video says that in China it is illegal to give religious instruction to anyone under 18. This mirrors the Dawkins’-inspired secularist calls to stop parents from passing on their faith to their children here in the West. It is notable how often extreme secularists use the tactics of communists.

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Christian Persecution: The Worst Place on Earth

I can’t write about Christian persecution this week.

I’ve gone through  a long list of horrific stories from all over the globe. But I can not force myself to write about them. The weight of it is too much for me. I plan to devote prayer time to them, instead.

This is one of those times when the horror of it all is just too much for me. Christians are suffering violent persecution in so much of the world. At the same time, they are being subjected to increasing pressures to deny their faith and go along with the world here in the Christian West.

Much of the Muslim war on Christians is centered on Christian women and girls. Young Christian girls are kidnapped, raped and forced to convert. This cowardly behavior says a lot about their attackers.

Christianity is attacked and Christians are subjected to persecution in every atheist government on the globe. According to the video below, North Korea is the worst place on Earth to be a Christian. Given the amount of competition for that title, that’s saying a lot.

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Voice of the Martyrs: Christian Persecution Around the World


“In most cases, the persecution could have been averted if they had simply denied Christ. But they won’t.”

“The persecution of Christians is not a human tragedy. It is a spiritual reality facing the body of Christ.”

If these people refuse to deny Christ in the face of such suffering, how can we allow ourselves to deny Him in order to keep a job, or to avoid harrassment from aggressive unbelievers?

Pray for them and take every opportunity to stand up for Jesus here.

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Lord Have Mercy. Christ Have Mercy.

After seeing the video “Passion of the Copts” all I could think was Lord have mercy. This hauntingly beautiful rendition of the Kyrie Eleison and the equally beautiful Gospodi Pomiluj below it are for them and for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ everywhere.

Kyrie Eleison – Zurgo – Navratil Andrea

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Gospodi Pomiluj

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Bleeding Nigeria and Boko Haram

Boko Haram has killed at least 1600 people in Northern Nigeria since 2010.

It’s a repetitive story of bombings, mass shootings and knife attacks, much of it centered on the northern city of Kano. I used to know people who lived in Kano and I’ve heard their stories of atrocities against the Christians there.

This business of killing Christians in Kano precedes Boko Haram. LIke all forms of persecution, it gets and has gotten worse over time. A couple of decades ago, I knew people who were  victimized by deadly anti-Christian riots that were more or less disorganized and at least somewhat spontaneous.

But for the past 10 years or so Kano and all of northern Nigeria has been subjected to the organized violence of Boko Haram. I’ve published posts here at Public Catholic indicating that Boko Haram is funded and trained by extremist Muslim forces from outside Nigeria, indeed, from outside Africa. It appears that at least some of the funding for Boko Haram may be coming through England,

That’s an interesting and sad thought. A small child who is blown to bits on a summer’s evening may owe his or her death to the actions of international financiers and organizers who have given over their lives to organized killing.

A few days ago, Boko Haram struck again with a series of bomb blasts in Kano. These happened during the evening hours in the Christian section of the city. Many Muslims were out at the same time, because of Ramadan.

As usual for these things, Boko Haram has taken to killing other Muslims who don’t conform to their ideas, in addition to Christians.

My question: Why don’t the Muslims and Christians unite against these killers and get rid of them?

Another question: Why don’t the rest of us in the “civilized” world put their money people in prison? I don’t think it would be too difficult to write a law that could shut them down.

In the meantime, the killing and the dying go on in bleeding Nigeria.

From the Associated Press:

Associated Press

KANO, Nigeria (AP) — Multiple explosions rocked a Christian area in Nigeria’s northern Kano city Monday night, with security forces ferrying scores of wounded to hospitals.

A mortuary attendant at Murtala Mohammed Specialists Hospital said at least 10 bodies had been brought in from the scene. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

Nigeria is fighting an Islamic uprising by extremists based mainly in the northeast, where the government has declared a state of emergency. Kano city and state are not part of that emergency.

Nigeria’s government is fighting an Islamic uprising by a network called Boko Haram, which means “Western education is forbidden.” The group wants Islamic law imposed in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation of more than 160 million, which is divided almost equally between Christians who live mainly in the south and Muslims who dominate the north.

Witness Kolade Ade said at least one blast appeared to come from a Mercedes-Benz parked beside a kiosk selling alcohol and soft drinks.

“After the first bomb, I threw myself into the canal (drain) to hide. There were at least three blasts,” he said.

The explosions came as hundreds of people thronged the area in Sabon Gari neighborhood, where some were playing snooker and others table tennis.

 

Imprisoned for Christ: Cardinal Van Thuan

I once worked with a woman who had lived through the fall of Viet Nam and then stayed in the country after the communist takeover.

She told me that where she lived, the officials would call someone in for questioning. She said that this person was never seen again. They simply vanished.

When they called her to come in for questioning, she and her large family stayed up all night discussing what to do. They decided to walk out of Viet Nam under darkness and take their chances on the open sea as stateless refugees. They did this as an entire family group.

She cried when she told me of the terrible things that happened in the boats with the other refugees.

Long story short, she and her family ended up in Oklahoma, where, when I knew her, they were working together to build a new life.

This lady was not a Christian. She was a Buddhist. They were rural people who had never had contact with the Americans during the war. Her crime was that her family was a well-to-do family who owned a granary in her small town. She was also an attorney.

Cardinal Van Thuan committed a much worse crime, one that continues to be punished in Viet Nam today. He was a Christian. Not only that, he was a leader in the Catholic Church.


The result was that Cardinal Van Thuan spent 13 years in solitary confinement inside a Viet Nam prison. He was so completely shut off from the world that most of his friends and followers thought he was dead. I would guess that what happened to him was somewhat like what happened to the people my friend knew: He went in, and was never heard from again.

I’ve read The Miracle of Hope by Andre Nguyen and Van Chau and also The Testimony of Hope which is a retreat Cardinal van Thuan gave for Pope John Paul II. I recommend both books to those who want to learn more about this great man of Christ.

My archbishop, Archbishop Paul Coakley, ordained our newest priest on June 29. Here is what he said:

We are living in an age of increasing indifference or even hostility toward faith and toward the Church. The generation of priests ordained today will, I suspect, witness increasing persecution and perhaps even a new age of martyrdom. It is already happening in other parts of the world.

Given certain signs of our times today, it is naive to believe it could not happen here. It is important, therefore, to be clear. The priesthood is not a career; it is not a path for those seeking a comfortable life. The priesthood is a vocation of radical commitment and radical dependence on Jesus Christ, who came not to be served but to serve.

I’m glad my archbishop realizes this and has the courage to say it publicly. Far too many priests are either unaware of it, or indifferent to it. As a Public Catholic in the political realm, and more specifically as a Catholic Democratic elected official, I’ve been on the tip of the sword for a long time now. I can tell you without reservation that I saw this coming way back for the simple reason that I was the object of so much excoriation and social/verbal abuse in my office because of my faith.

I had the advantage of perspective, since I had been in office in the 1980s, then left to raise my kids and was later re-elected to the same position. The changes in attitude and behavior toward Christians by non-believers was stark. However, most Christians were reacting by either allowing themselves and their faith to be co-opted so they’d feel comfortable with this new world, or by withdrawing into their Christian friendships and refusing to see it.

I knew it was a matter of time before it started expanding to other Christians who try to follow the Gospels but who were not in the hot spot of being Democratic elected Catholics. I found then, as I do now, that not many people want to hear the truth of what is happening. This attitude further isolates the Christian who is being attacked for Christ and also encourages the attackers to continue. At the very least, we need to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ when they are attacked for the faith we hold.

These head-in-sand Christians compare themselves to people like Cardinal van Thuan and say, I’m not afraid of being arrested in the middle of the night and put in solitary confinement for 13 years, so there is no problem here.

My answer to them is the same one alcoholics anonymous says to its adherents who claim they aren’t so sick since they’ve never done what that other drunk next to them has done: Not yet.

If you consider where we are now compared to where we were even 10 years ago, I don’t believe you can honestly say that this country, and indeed the whole Western world is not on a trajectory of overt hostility and verbal abuse and lately legal discrimination against Christians. If this trajectory is not reversed, it will inevitably end up at active persecution.

This video about Cardinal van Thuan describes a priest who was Christ’s man first. May his tribe increase.

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Iran: Trying to Stifle the Holy Spirit with Persecution

This story of Christian persecution has a twist.

Iranian government officials raided the Central Assemblies of God Church in Tehran May 21. They arrested the pastor, Rev Robert Aserian and seized his books, documents and equipment, including his computer.

Iran pastor 4X3

Rev Robert Aserian, Barnabas Aid Photo

The charge? Pastor Aserian had been conducting services in Farsi, which is the language that people speak in Iran.

This is akin to arresting someone in America for making speeches in English.

Why would they do this?

My guess is that the reason for trying to force the pastor and his church to conduct services in some other language than Farsi is precisely because people could understand Farsi. I think the Holy Spirit was working in that church and Iranian people were converting to Christianity. The fact that the church has discipleship classes on Saturdays for new Christians seems to indicate that there are a good number of converts.

The Assemblies of God Church in Iran began in 1955 with a single house church. Now there are congregations across the country. That sounds like people are converting, and they are doing it in significant numbers.

This has resulted in persecution of church members, especially the church leaders. For instance, Pastor Farhad Sabokrouh, who leads an Assemblies of God church in Ahwaz, Iran, along with his wife Shahaz Jeizan were recently sentence to one-year prison sentences. 

Iranian christian beaten for her faith

Iranian Christian, beaten by police. Photo by Barnabas Aid

Hundreds of Christian converts have been arrested and detained throughout Iran in the past few years. They have been subjected to intense interrogation and verbal and physical abuse. Some were prosecuted, while others have been forced to pay exorbitant sums for bail.

Several members of the Central Assemblies of God Church in Tehran have been killed, and, as a local source told Barnabas Aid:

The pressure has become unbearable. They constantly threaten the church leaders and their families with imprisonment, unexplained accidents, kidnapping and even with execution. We cannot go on like this.

The twist in this story is that it’s not about a shrinking population of Christians who are barely hanging on. It’s about a thriving and growing Christian ministry that is built on conversions. Will the Iranian government be able to stifle the Holy Spirit with persecution?

There are probably more of these stories than we know. These people need our prayers and any support we can give them.


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