Franciscan Sister Kathleen Murphy reflects on Pope Francis’ March intention on praying that persecuted Christians may be supported by the prayers and material help of the whole Church.
Lent calls us to reflect on the sufferings of the persecuted Christ. It is a perfect time to join the Church in praying that persecuted Christians may be supported by the prayers and material help of the whole Church.
We may think that persecution of Christians was only a reality centuries ago. We may know that there are persecutions going on right now in our day, but we may be convinced that they take place in far off lands.
Pope Francis does away with the possibility of distancing ourselves from the concept of persecution. He tells us, “there are bloody persecutions, like being torn to pieces by wild beasts, or being blown up by a bomb at the end of Mass and there are velvet-gloved persecutions that are cloaked in politeness: the ones that marginalize you, take your job away if you fail to adapt to laws that go against God the Creator.”
“Persecution, I would say, is the daily bread of the Church. Jesus said so himself,” Francis proclaimed.
He explained that there are Christians today who suffer physically and even give their lives because they refuse to give up the practice of their faith. But—he noted—there is another persecution which is not much spoken about, a persecution camouflaged by culture, by modernity, by progress in disguise. It’s when someone is persecuted for wanting to manifest the values of the Gospel. It’s the kind of the persecution that deprives one of freedom, and of the possibility of conscientious objection.
None of these forms of persecution is beyond the reach of our prayers. Christians, particularly those in mid-eastern countries, need our prayers that they might endure with courage the attacks on their faith and on their lives. However, our youth, our young families, our senior citizens, our healthcare personnel, our politicians all need our immediate prayers for they too are being persecuted here in our midst.
St. Francis was even persecuted by his own brothers who did not want to give him the freedom to live the religious life he felt called to live. This month, let us try to open our eyes and hearts to those both near and far who suffer persecution. Can we offer support and empathy?