Word from the Pastor

From the Desk of Fr. Davis

April 14, 2024

With everything adverse that is happening to Christians on the other side of the world these days, we would do well to pay close attention, to pray, to foster solidarity with the suffering Church, and to deepen our own convictions about our life of faith in the Risen Christ.

The level of persecution, and the number of martyrs for the Christian faith may currently be at a historical all-time high. Already in 2015, for example, there were over 7000 Christians across the globe who were martyred for the Christian faith, more than double the number of deaths from the year before. And in 2015 over 2,400 churches were deliberately torched, destroyed, or damaged as targets of religious persecution, again more than double the number in that statistic from the previous year 2014. Many of these danger spots for Christians are in countries run by radical Islamic clerics, or where the warlords of Isis seemingly reign supreme (such as in Iraq and Syria). Yet, North Korea continues to be one of the most dangerous places to profess faith in Jesus Christ. where some 50 to 70 thousand Christians languish in prisons because of their faith. In our own day, worldwide violence against Christians continues to cause us alarm. Dare we mention the tragic situations in Nigeria, Nicaragua, Viet Nam, Israel, and Gaza. Such places have seen great persecution of Catholics, their Bishops, and their priests. Of course, we would be concerned, and speak out against any systematic persecution of people for their religious beliefs, even if they were not Christian. But the violence that I describe above actually impacts those that share the same faith as we do, worship the same God as we do, and profess faith in the same Lord Jesus Christ. Our hearts, therefore, should break for them, and our feet and hands should be moved to action, on behalf of these members of our common household of faith. These things, together with the encroachments on religious freedoms in our country, should give us pause, to pay attention, to pray profoundly, to foster solidarity with the suffering Church, and to deepen our own convictions about our life of faith in the Risen Christ.

One thing for sure, though: persecution of the Christian faith is not a new phenomenon. The first centuries of the Christian faith were marked by many Church leaders who endured cruel punishment, torture, and death in the prisons and in the public colosseum of pagan Rome. These were the first generations of the Christian faithful who chose death instead of renouncing their faith in Christ, or bending the knee and pledging to worship the Roman emperor. Almost all of the Apostles gave their lives in martyrdom for the Christ we worship today in freedom and peace here in our parish. Adversity has been part of our Catholic Christian story from the beginning. One wonders how we would fare today if faced with such darkness.

The nascent Church, however, learned early on that when Jesus invited his followers to take up their cross and follow him, some of them (even some of us in our contemporary day) would literally have to follow him in suffering and death for the sake of the Gospel. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews reminds us all, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy before him endured the cross, scorning its shame. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Heb.12:2-3)

May we learn his lesson attentively, pray profoundly, foster solidarity with the suffering Church, and deepen our own convictions about our life of faith in the Risen Christ.

Father Davis