These days the horrific images went all over the world of the beheading of yet another group of Christians by black-clad men, this time 22 Coptic Christians from Egypt abducted in Libya some time ago. They died calling “O God, Jesus Christ, Jesus my Lord”. They are not the first, and also not the last in a daily growing number of Christian martyrs in the Middle East and Africa at the hands of those for whom it is our duty to pray fervently for their conversion to Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Pope Francis, in an impromptu reaction to this event on Monday, said that “the blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a blood that cries out to the Lord.” It is therefore the Lord that we have to ask for intervention through his love and mercy. As so many Christian martyrs throughout the ages have taught us: hate can only be overcome by charity and forgiveness.
Our response to the daily growing threat from ideologically inspired persecution and violence is not revenge, neither an ever more militant secularism, nor the rejection of religion in general. All this will only severely weaken us, something which our political elites still fail to see, even in the face of the crumbling order in our so-called “enlightened” democracies. As much as an army can only fend off the attacker when it is run through order and discipline and based on solid principles, so a culture can only survive and fend off those that aim at its destruction when it is embedded in a moral order and unchangeable principles that are like the roots of a tree that give water and nourishment whilst offering an anchor in times of heavy storms. Our answer today therefore must be to live he Gospel in full. Living the Gospel starts with prayer. This centuries’ old prayer by St. Francis of Assisi will be a good start:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
At the ITI, we already pray daily for our persecuted Christian brethren around the world, and for their persecutors as well. We will intensify this effort, as we will be asking students to devote a special weekly Holy Hour for this intention. We will also pray especially, as Pope Francis has asked us to do, for our Coptic Christian brethren, and all Christians, in Egypt.
May the souls of our martyred fellow Christians rest in peace, may their families receive consolation, and may those that killed them see the light of Christ the Savior.
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