Pope Francis recently attended an ecumenical prayer service at the Church of St. Bartholomeo in Rome in which the Church honored the contemporary Christian martyrs of this 21st century. Among those attending the prayer service was the sister of the French priest, Father Jacques Hamel, who was murdered by Muslim extremists while offering Mass last July. In her remarks, she said: “Jacques was 85 when two young men, radicalized by hate speech, thought they’d be heroes by engaging in homicidal violence.”
A low estimate of the number of Christian martyrs is 900,000 over the past 10 years. This number included Catholics of the West and the East, Orthodox Christians, and Protestant Christians. All were killed for one reason: they professed belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.
We have to be aware that this is going on around the world. The Islamic State and other radicalized individuals link the fall of the Western World with the demise of Christianity. We pray for our fellow Christians who are suffering, our brothers and sisters of other faiths or no faith at all who are also victims, and we also must pray for those who are persecuting and killing them. This is our primary response as Christians. We have to support the efforts of groups like the Knights of Columbus in their fundraising to assist Christians in the Middle East. It is the least we can do. Sadly, we realize that, as these Christian men and women are killed, there but for God’s grace go we. We need to be in solidarity with them.
We are blessed to live in a nation where religious freedom is practiced. But we know that we are also more subtly under attack for living our Christian faith, whether it be over issues of the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, care for the poor and disenfranchised, the immigrant and worker’s rights, or for believing in natural law concerning the difference between men and women, and the place of marriage and family.
As we pray for the “red” martyrs who are slaughtered for their faith, let’s pray for the courage to be “white” martyrs, those who are willing to live according to the faith, as taught in Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium of the Church, as well as what is expressed in natural law.