Found Via Deacon Greg:
Government authorities from a district in the Central Highlands last week compelled ethnic villagers to remove Catholic pictures and items from their chapel and replaced them with images of Ho Chi Minh last weekend.
“After local Catholics finished prayers in the chapel on Sunday morning, local government authorities came and asked them to remove a cross and a Marian picture from the chapel,” a Church source said.
The source added that authorities from Kon Thuc hamlet, led by two security officials from Mang Yang district in Gia Lai province, threatened that if villagers did not remove the items from the chapel, their lay leader “would be put in prison.”
Villagers had to carry the cross, Marian picture, altar and tabernacle to the lay leader’s house, the source said.
Authorities then put two pictures of Ho Chi Minh in the places where the cross and Marian picture were.
On the following day, authorities dismantled the bell of the chapel after local Catholics refused to do it. The bell was also taken to the lay leader’s house.
A lay leader said authorities told parishioners that the building was to be used “for village activities, not for worship.”
Once upon a time, the great city of St. Petersburg found its name changed to Leningrad.
Communists do that; they take a Saint’s name off a city, or replace a cross with a picture of a tyrant.
They start off slowly, of course, in little ways, like in demanding that a cross off a city logo. And as they get away with it, they grow bolder, and bolder.
They must obliterate the cross — or any religious symbol — because it is a constant threat to them, a reminder to people that they are created for something greater than human subjugation; that their birthright is freedom and that their creator is a benevolent being who constantly beckons, even as his creatures are given the choice to love him, serve him, know him or to wholly reject him.
A being so secure that even when we close the door on him, he keeps his open to us, always.
A cross, a statue, a saint’s name — what they communicate is more loaded with transcendent promise than any moment that originates in humanity, and certainly steadier and more faithful to the intention of our ultimate good, than any man, no matter how charismatic, no matter how well-spoken, no matter how well-versed on “policy”.
When I read stories like this out of Vietnam, I recall the wise words of the late Mother Mary Francis, PCC, in her terrific book, The Right to be Merry:
The children of light walk heedless of the source of their light. The children of darkness know better. And when the hour of darkness is at hand in any country, the first act of the powers of evil is invariably to throw the switch. They raze the cloisters. They turn the contemplatives out of their monasteries with loud speeches about the good of the state and about contributing to the social need. […]
By a strange paradox, the persecutors of religion are always far more spiritual-minded than the common run of humanity. It is a perversion of spirituality, but it is a kind of spiritual vision, nonetheless. One has to be very spiritual-minded to grasp the true meaning of the cloistered contemplative vocation, very convinced of the supernatural values to understand its supreme significance for the universal Church. Those who hold power in communist-dominated countries have a very comprehensive grasp of it. They understand its significance quite perfectly. If they sometimes draw red herrings of “national churches” across their atheistic paths, they dare not deal even in half-measures with cloisters. We shall grow old and die waiting for Russia or (Communist) China to set up “national cloisters.”
There is “nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). But we are always surprised when this stuff occurs, because every generation thinks it knows better than the history that has come before it — and so they forget it. The drive to obtain power and then wield it over others never fades, however. It just changes its clothes and chants something new, until enough people believe it.
And eventually it seems to win.
But it always ends up tumbling before God, and often on the strength of whispered prayers remembered and passed down through the night, or on the pages of a holy book, kept hidden. The humblest of things defeat all that pride.
UPDATE: modern crucifixions?