Thursday, September 10, 2015

Resist Him, Steadfast In Faith

   The Communion of Saints is one of Christ’s great gifts to the Church; we have more than enough intercessors and models of heroic virtue for any one of us. I like to go to Catholic Online (Catholic.org) and look at the biographies of some of the lesser-known saints, some of whom have led to posts on this blog (here, for instance, and here). There are 59 separate entries for today, September 10th. While many of them are from the same persecution in Japan in 1622, a random sampling finds Saints, mostly martyrs, from throughout the history of the Church; it is interesting how, as they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same. For instance:



St. Nemesian, Felix, and Companions
A group of Nicomedian martyrs condemned to labor in the marble quarries of Sigum. They all died in this arduous servitude. The group was comprised of nine bishops from Numidia, along with other clergy and laity. The bishops include Lucius, Litteus, Polyanus, Victor, Jader, Dativus, and a second Felix. St. Cyprian wrote to them from his place of exile. (c. 250?)

We are all familiar with the first three centuries of the Church as a time of persecution. The Romans took particular care to target the leaders of the Christian movement, the bishops.  There are places today (most notably Syria and Iraq) where Christians are persecuted with a ferocity equal to, or even greater than, that under the Romans.

St. Theodard of Maastricht
Bishop and martyr. A disciple of St. Remaclus in the Benedictine abbey of Malniely. Stavelot, Belgium, he succeeded him as abbot in 635, receiving appointment as bishop of Maastricht, Netherlands, in 662. He was murdered by a band of robbers in the forest of Bienwald, near Speyer, Germany, while on his way to defend the rights of the Church against the harsh confiscatory policies of King Childeric II (r. 662-675) of Austrasia. (670)

Imagine needing to “defend the rights of the Church against . . . harsh confiscatory policies”. We can’t think of anywhere today where the state is encroaching on the Church, can we?  In any case, here’s a Saint and who didn’t hesitate to stand up for Christ’s Church in the public square.

St. Cosmas of Aphrodisia
A bishop and martyr, born in Palermo, on Sicily. He was named bishop of Aphrodisia, ordained by Pope Eugene III. When the Saracens captured his see, Cosmas was seized and died as a result of harsh abuse. His cult was approved by Pope Leo XIII. (1160)

Speaking of Syria and Iraq, here we see a Catholic Bishop murdered by the Muslim jihadists of the day. While not always as virulent as it is under ISIS, persecution of Christians is endemic throughout the Islamic world.

St. Joseph of St. Hyacinth
Dominican martyr of Japan. He was born in Villareal, Spain. The provincial vicar of the Dominicans in Japan, he spoke perfect Japanese. Joseph was burned alive at Nagasaki.  He was beatified in 1867. (1622)

Bl. Lucy de Freitas
Martyr of Japan. A native Japanese, she was the widow of Philip de Freitas. Lucy, a Franciscan tertiary, was arrested for sheltering Blessed Richard of St. Anne, a Franciscan priest. Although advanced in age, Lucy defended the faith before the authorities and was burned to death for it at Nagasaki, Japan, on September 10. She was beatified in 1867. (1622)

St. Joseph and Blessed Lucy are just two of a large number of Christians martyred at Nagasaki in 1622; there is no part of the world that has not been baptized with the blood of Christian martyrs.
     Jesus says: “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” (Matthew 5:11) It’s going to happen. Sometimes it’s as ugly and brutal as it was for the Saints above, or as it is for many Christians in the Middle East today; sometimes it’s a much milder variety of uttering “all kinds of evil against you falsely”, as is becoming more common in the United States and other Western countries.  Nonetheless our own sufferings for the name of Christ, even when they don’t rise to the level of serious persecution, are still hardships and injustices. As St. Peter wrote:

Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. (1Peter 5:8-11)

The example of our brothers and sisters in Christ who have undergone, and are undergoing, much worse than we are shows us that we, too, can stand firm.