A couple weeks ago at Steubenville West, Fr. Louis Merosne opened up his homily by asking us if we were ready to die as martyrs for our faith. Hopefully, all practicing Christians would be unified in their response of a heroic ‘yes’.
It’s easy to think of the saints and martyrs who gave up their lives, because of their Christian faith, as a thing of the far past. It’s easy to get caught up in the ease and safety of America in the 21st century. Going to Church whenever and without any consequences. We don’t give a second thought about asking ourselves daily, “am I willing to die for Christ and Holy Mother Church today?”
Fr. Louis’ question really hit home for me because it’s a reality for many Christians today. A reality not so much for those of us living in the West, but for many Christians living elsewhere throughout the world. Due to a lack of media coverage, you may be surprised to learn that there is a serious persecution of Christians in the Middle East right now.
You may be thinking, “wait, I thought being persecuted for my Christian faith just happened at my high school”. The persecution we undergo amongst our friends and peers is a cross in its own way, but the physical persecution resulting in the deaths of Christians across the world is far from being ‘a thing of the past’.
The painful truth is more people are being persecuted now for their faith than ever before. Vatican spokesman Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi says that more than 100,000 Christians die every year for their faith. In Egypt, churches and convents are being burned to the ground. In Saudi Arabia, Christians are forbidden from building churches, or practicing their faith in a public way. In Iraq, the radical Muslim group called ISIS, are brutally murdering and persecuting Christians. In the city of Mosul in Iraq, where Christians have been living for over 1,600 years, an ultimatum has been forced upon Christians to convert to Islam, pay a large fine, leave the country, or die for their faith. This isn’t just happening in the middle East; Islamic radicals have been attacking Christians in India, Indonesia, Philippines and Africa.
With all this going on it’s hard to think of what we can do to help. Yes, sure this is all happening thousands of miles away from us; but as Christians all together we function as a living organism. Are we not the Body of Christ? Are we not a Universal Church?
“For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another” (Romans 12 4:5).
If one part of the body is hurt, does not the whole body feel its pain? We must use this as an example, for our brothers and sisters in Christ across the world. We must feel their pain, and as their fellow Christians we must unite in solidarity for Holy Mother Church.
How can we, as the Body of Christ, unite in solidarity? Solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace. We must promote peace in a world surrounded by violence and conflict.
And there are many ways in which we can help promote and pray for peace. The three most effective ways that the Church teaches us is through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
Go to Mass and offer up the Eucharistic celebration for our dear brothers and sisters in Christ. My friend brought up a great point “When we receive the Eucharist we are receiving the same Eucharist the martyrs in Iraq are receiving.” We must unite ourselves with our Christian brethren in the the Blessed Sacrament.
Also, as hard as it may be, we should pray for the persecutors. Pray that they like Saul on the road to Damascus, may abandon their persecution of Christ and experience a conversion of heart.
Offer up a Rosary or at least three Hail Mary’s everyday.
Another way we can help through prayer is by offering a Holy Hour at your parish. Ask your parish priest, or youth minister if it would be possible for you and your youth group to put on a holy hour and invite the whole community of your parish. Or make time out of your schedule to visit Him in the tabernacle. Nothing is more beautiful and pleasing to Our Lord then when he sees His children imploring and asking for the aid of their fellow brethren.
In order to be in solidarity with others it requires sacrifice. Try to go throughout your day making small sacrifices. Whether it’s going without snacks between meals, a smaller meal than usual, taking a break from social media for a day, etc.
“Giving alms to the poor is a witness to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God” (CCC 2462) .
Research and lookout for charity organizations that financially aid and support the persecuted Christians. Consider donating to them.
One more thing to consider, promote awareness of the situation through social media. If there is one thing we teens are all good at it, it’s social media. Tweet about it, share a link about on Facebook, post a picture on Instagram, make the “nun” symbol your profile pic (more info on it here), etc. We’re are the Church. As young individuals in today’s society we can make a change. I know it’s hard to believe considering the negativity the culture places upon us teens; but honestly that is so far from the truth. We all have voices, and with our voices we can make a change. We must make the people around us aware of current situations that threaten our Church, and religious freedom. Let us look upon the courageous example of our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq and across the world as an inspiration to live our faith to the fullest. Let their heroic virtue and love for Holy Mother Church, inspire us to grow, and dive more into our faith. And we ask that that through their witness, we may be given the strength to stand up for our faith when it is put to the test.
“For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14 8-9).