A few weeks ago, I was going through the many books of on my wee little bookshelves and came across one called, "The Seven Sorrows of China" by Dr. Mark Miravalle. The book is first hand encounters of Miravalle's travels to China observing the great persecution of the Catholic Church, including forced abortions on women for the one child policy, rampant use of contraception/euthanasia/abortion, the underground extent of the Church, and martyrdom of faithful of many Chinese Catholics. It was powerful, amazing, and sad all at once.
Last night, I went to a talk from a priest who escaped Communist Albania. He grew up in a country where if you even suspected of going to church or living the Catholic faith, you were thrown in prison for years on end or killed. Fr. Fred shared how his parents stopped talking about their faith, for fear of their lives. As a young man, he happened to come across the Gospel of St. Matthew, which through the grace of the Spirit began to answer all his unanswered questions; with that, he began to hear the call of the priesthood deep within. The Communists were suspicious of him, so he and some friends decided to escape by swimming seven hours over the border. Eventually, Fr. Fred made it to the United States and became a priest in the Church.
These two different incidents have caused me to reflect and pray over many things. How much we take for granted here in the United States! Fr. Fred made a good point when he said, "You didn't just wake up one day, and Communism takes over your country, it happens slowly over time." This made me reflect on our own lives here. Slowly, we see the traditional values and fundamentals of Christianity being ridiculed and slowly stripped away from our society. From taking prayer out of public schools, not saying the name of God in the pledge of allegiance, the faith being mocked and persecuted in the media, etc. Are faithful Christians asleep at the wheel?
I am not a person who is pessimistic or is consumed with all the doom and gloom ideologies you sometimes hear about. But, I truly believe within my lifetime we will see and perhaps endure to a degree what many Catholics have and continue to suffer all over the world for their faith. We will have to suffer for our belief in Jesus and our faithfulness to the Church in a way we have never known here in the United States...maybe even martyrdom. Even though it can be easy to look at the world and get discouraged, I believe that although it is a challenging time to be a person of faith, it is also an exciting time! No matter whatever suffering we encounter, we know that Jesus will win! T continue fighting the good fight and to be ready to follow Jesus anywhere we must be people of prayer and sacrifice. We must go to Mass and receive the sacraments often! We must read Scripture and have an intimately, personal relationship with the living Jesus. We must actively live our Catholic faith out in the world, and not be afraid to speak the truth boldly! We must be passionately in love with Jesus Christ to the point all of the early martyrs of the Church were, to the point of giving our life for the name of Jesus Christ.
United in the bonds of prayer and through the Holy Eucharist, let each of us continue to pray for our country, national and world leaders, and all countries of the world. Let us pray for especially all area's of the world where the Catholic Church is heavily persecuted or forced to go underground, such as China.
May the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, bless and protect all the faithful!
Below is the Holy Father's letter to the Catholic Church in China: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/letters/2007/documents/hf_ben-xvi_let_20070527_china_en.html