The Servant of God, Fr Christian de Cherge, leader of the "Atlas Martyrs"
There is little doubt that the age of martyrdom has returned to the Church - if it had ever left us. Apparently every day numerous Catholics, among other Christians are put to death for their Christian faith. Indeed every day followers of Jesus Christ are persecuted and discriminated against in many countries in the world, including the so called "free nations" of the West. Secular intolerance and the growing power and influence of militant gay groups ensure that Christians are being denied their basic human rights and are sidelined in countries they have actually built and support.
Tomorrow evening at our film club we will watch Of Gods and Men, the story of the Cistercian monks put to death for their Catholic faith - men who may be declared martyrs by the Church and beatified at some time in the future (the "Atlas Martyrs"). These holy men made the decision to stay in community and face whatever was to come. They did not want to abandon the local people whom they loved, many of whom were Muslim, nor renounce their vocation of witnessing to the Gospel through their religious life.
These martyrs give us all courage. They also remind us that even in the face of trial and persecution, we must remain firm and trust in the Lord. Faith, hope and love are all very well when things are great, but when things get tough, that's when we are tested and the Lord wants to see if we will stay faithful to him. If we do, we will be given the graces we need, and we will be sanctified: remember Saints are heroes. Like Blessed John Paul II I believe all of us are called to be Saints, and God offers us the means to sanctification every day, we need only say "Yes".
These martyrs, and Saints in general, are our helpers - from heaven they look down with love and seek to help us every step of the way. The whole concept of the patronages of Saints reveals this truth. Given recent events in New York and the diabolical attack on the Church from militant gay groups, we need to call upon the Saints who have a special mission to help in this area. One of these Saints is St Maria Goretti whose feast falls on the 6th July - patron of purity and innocence, she is a tough cookie who can obtain many graces from God for those in need. The novena in preparation for her feast begins tomorrow, so you might join me in praying for help in these times.
Powerful with God, a mighty ally: St Maria Goretti:
she may look cute, but she packs a punch!
Novena to St Maria Goretti
Blessed Maria, faithful witness to Christ, patron of purity,
we turn to you now and ask your powerful intercession
as we face the difficulties and temptations of our daily lives.
You offered your whole life in witness to grace,
preferring to die rather than sin.
Help us in these times to witness also to this purity of heart;
defend us in the face of attack by your example and fidelity.
Watch over our Mother the Church, our Holy Father the Pope
and all our priests and religious.
Keep our young people close to your heart and guide them,
through your prayers win them for Christ.
In this novena, we offer you our own prayers __________
and ask you to intercede for them.
Stay close to us, dear sister in Christ, help us to remain faithful,
joyful and pure,
joyful and pure,
witnesses of hope and light of the world, as Christ our Saviour intends.