Many of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world have been suffering terrible, often deadly, persecutions. On a glorious day of canonizations–including the canonization of the first Indian woman Saint–he Holy Father issued a reminder for us to keep them in our prayers, especially those in India, Iraq, and the Congo. (Emphases mine)
.- Following the canonization Mass for four new saints, Pope Benedict XVI greeted the pilgrims present inviting them to rejoice in the saints canonized today and to pray for the victims of religious persecution in India, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Directing his words toward English-speaking pilgrims, in particular the Official Delegation from India and those who came to celebrate the canonization of Saint Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Benedict recalled Alphonsa's heroic virtues of patience, fortitude and perseverance. In the midst of deep suffering, he explained, they remind us "that God always provides the strength we need to overcome every trial."
Addressing the violence against Christians in India, the Pope continued, "As the Christian faithful of India give thanks to God for their first native daughter to be presented for public veneration, I wish to assure them of my prayers during this difficult time.¨
He went on, ¨I urge the perpetrators of violence to renounce these acts and join with their brothers and sisters to work together in building a civilization of love. God bless you all!"
Turning to address the Italian-speaking pilgrims, Pope Benedict recounted that October is the month of the Rosary. He appealed to his audience to pray for the people of North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and for Christians in Iraq and India. He concluded by invoking the protection of Mary, Queen of Saints, over the work of the synod of bishops.
There has also been trouble in Vietnam and continued trouble in China. One of the many things in my life that has changed since my reversion to Catholicism is that places like India, Iraq, the Congo, Vietnam, and China don't seem nearly so far away as they used to. There is a bond in our faith that is stronger than physical blood, stronger than distance, stronger than time. All Christians are on pilgrimage to one Kingdom, and while our lives may be vastly different, our experiences are the same in many ways, and we are drawn to solidarity with our brothers and sisters everywhere.
Lately, I've felt very compelled to pray… for the U.S., and for our brethren who are suffering persecution elsewhere in the world. I've been especially felt compelled to pray the Rosary and seek the intercessor of our Queen Mother in Heaven. Especially given Pope Benedict's request, I don't think any of that was mere coincidence. Sometimes, I just feel like I'm being called or urged to pray or do something. It may be something I do anyway, but sometimes I just feel so strongly compelled. I don't always know why at the time, but it always makes sense sooner or later.
And then, sometimes, I look at all these stories of Catholics and Christians being persecuted, and I can't help but ask myself, "Could we be next?" I usually shake my head and think, "No, that couldn't happen. That's impossible." But is it? I pray not, but I'm sure that all Christians make the same prayer. Christ Himself made it in Gethsemane, and He was not spared.
You'd think that might give rise to despair, but, as much to my own surprise as anybody's, it really doesn't. Despair has become less and less a part of my life over these last several years. I'm not completely immune to it, but even at times when I feel despair creeping in, I tend to catch it and scrutinize it and realize that it's absurd. I don't have time to give to despair! God is too good, and life is too precious. And I know that even when I do have to face hardships, even if I do have to face life-threatening persecution one day, God will be with me, and He will provide me every grace that I require in those instances. Special graces that I don't currently have; therefore, there's no sense in my worrying or trying face bad circumstances down before they arise.
My dad has always told me that it is silly to worry about things, because worrying cannot ever change anything. Finally, with God's help, I have come to understand the truth of that.
For now, I do what I can and what I am called to: to pray and make offerings for those who are suffering terrible circumstances, to be in some measure of solidarity with them, to pray for my own country, to be grateful for every moment I have, and to keep my face turned to the Bright Kingdom that beckons me.
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