Persecution strengthens the Church

The life of the great Apostle St. Paul has always been a great source of inspiration for Catholics all over the world, and this is particularly the case in our times.  What is remarkable in the writings of St. Paul, it is the fact that he doesn’t beat around the bush, but always goes straight to the essential to be a Christian not only by name, but with the full extent of the meaning of that name, that is to say, a true disciple of Christ.

St. Paul travelled extensively and established Christian communities mostly in Greece and modern-day Turkey.  He also trained young men, who were going to carry on after him with the task of the apostolate among the Gentiles.  St. Timothy was one of them; a beloved disciple that St. Paul entrusted to special missions among Christian communities.  The Catholic Bible keeps two letters sent by St. Paul to Timothy.

At the time of the Second Epistle to Timothy, St. Paul was in prison in Rome, waiting for the final sacrifice of his life by which he was going to be a perfect imitator of his master Jesus-Christ.  In that letter, Paul wanted to give to his young disciple his final recommendations for the apostolate. 

Even though this letter was written in 67AD, we are struck to see the similitude of our times with what St. Paul witnessed.  This is particularly true when he speaks about persecutions, and what he suffered for Christ’ sake: 

“Persecutions, afflictions: such as came upon me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra: what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord delivered me. And all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution.”[1]

The word persecution seems to be of a foreign language to the man of the 21st century, when the comfort of modern life is making all human actions “safe and secure”, at least for the body.  At the same time, it is scary to see how the good of the soul is threatened from so many directions.

As a matter of fact, more than ever Christians are being persecuted for the faith.  According to a report recently released by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN): “in terms of the numbers of people involved, the gravity of the crimes committed and their impact, it is clear that the persecution of Christians is today worse than at any time in history.  Not only are Christians more persecuted than any other faith group, but ever-increasing numbers are experiencing the very worst forms of persecution.”

Reading this report in our comfortable homes, we may think that the persecution of Christians is something foreign to us, but rather limited to some remote Islamic or Communist countries, while we are safe here in our Western countries.  This pious wish may not be true for long in Canada and let me illustrate with a recent example.

During the Month of January, it was reported in the news that the Federal Government of Canada made changes to their youth summer jobs program, which provides grant money to various employers to hire students.  When they complete the online application form, applicants must agree with the “reproductive rights, along with other human rights", which means “abortion and gender rights.” Now, unless the electronic form is checked, the applicant organization will not receive funding. Basically, the government is asking non-profit organizations begging for Caesar’s manna to offer a pinch of incense to the modern-day pagan gods, symbolized by the “human rights.”

This is really a modern-day version of persecution from the state, and we will never compromise our faith for the sake of grants to be received from the government. 

In his book Why Bad Things Happen to Good Catholics[2], Fr. Morice explains that, “while the Church has no weapons with which to resist violence, it seems that God should have set her under the safeguard of civil power. ‘If the action of the Church were favored by the governments of the world, if she had at her service the great forces of finance, press, and politics, how rapidly she would spread. All infidels would be converted in a short time. She would create concord and harmony between all nations, and human society would be a universal brotherhood.’

But this is a childish illusion, a utopian dream. How many Caesars have wished their services repaid by making the Church a tool for their ambition! How many Christians, seeing the Church so pros­perous, have failed to fight for her!

On the other hand, in the days of trial, the true servants of Christ work and wrestle for the defense of their Faith. They want to serve Him for those who forsake Him.

The history of His Church is a via dolorosa, a veritable Way of the Cross. She is always in agony; at times she seems to be dying; her exulting enemies say among themselves that her end is in view. But their thought of triumph comes too soon; what they take for the death knell is nothing else but the glad­some chiming that brings the tidings of a resurrection.

We now see why God’s Providence chooses means that seem contrary to the end in view. It is because, in fact, such means are best. The way to Heaven lies along the brink of a precipice. Every moment we may fall; we are safe only if we are upheld by God’s hand. To distrust ourselves and to trust in God’s grace must be our disposition. And if so, since so, how good is God to keep us close to danger.”

Father Dominique Boulet

[1] 2 Tim. III, 11-12

[2] Why bad things happen to good Catholics, Fr. Morice, Sophia Institute Press