As we prepare to celebrate the great Solemnity of All Saints, we are reminded that every day new Saints are being added to the number of those in heaven. Most of them are ordinary people, but today, many of them are martyrs who shed their blood for Christ and the Church.
In many places Christians are jaded and bored. One of the problems we have in Ireland, for example, is that people like short, quick Masses - they do not want to hear homilies, they like their priest to crack a few jokes, fly through the Eucharistic Prayer, give them Communion, and send them out to their planned activities all within half an hour on a Sunday morning.
And then I think of fellow Catholics in Pakistan, China, Iraq and many other places who cherish that hour on a Sunday when they can attend Mass, hear the Word of God, learn from the homily and then enter into the great miracle of the Eucharist which reaches a personal climax in the reception of the Body and Blood of the Lord in Holy Communion. Today Catholics are literally dying in defence of that. Each Sunday as they pray at Mass they are aware that this could be their last Mass and that during the days to come they may be put to death for their Catholic faith. How I wish more people in the West could see things as our suffering brothers and sisters see them. How I wish so many of us, myself included, did not take the faith for granted, but see it as a gift to be cherished: to see the Holy Mass for what it really is.
That said, as we prepare for tomorrow's celebration, an article on one of Christianity's latest martyrs - a Coptic teenager beaten to death for wearing his crucifix. From Catholic World News:
Ayman Nabil Labib, a 17-year-old Coptic Christian student, was murdered by Muslim classmates after refusing to remove a crucifix he was wearing, the Assyrian International News Agency is reporting.
The murder, which took place on October 16 in the central Egyptian town of Mallawi, took place after a teacher asked Labib to cover up a tattooed cross on his wrist. Labib refused, instead uncovering a cross necklace.
“The teacher nearly choked my son, and some Muslim students joined in the beating,” said Labib’s father.
“They beat my son so much in the classroom that he fled to the lavatory on the ground floor, but they followed him and continued their assault,” the victim’s mother added. “When one of the supervisors took him to his room, Ayman was still breathing. The ambulance transported him from there dead, one hour later.”
Let us also remember the forty-two Catholics martyred in their cathedral in Iraq last year. We also remember Asia Bibi still on death row, and the Christian pastor, Youcef Nadarkhani who faces a similar sentence for converting to Christianity from Islam. There are many more, all of them voiceless as the governments of the world who never stop speaking about human rights and equality, wilfully ignore their plight.
Indeed as Anne Widdecome correctly points out, these governments even support the regimes which are presecuting Christianity. Our own government is among them: our Prime Minister gave succor to the Chinese government in their persecution of the Church through his ill-tempered rant in the Dail last July.
May these news martyrs pray for the renewal of the Church in the West, and through their intercession, may God touch the hearts of their persecutors and the governments who support them either actively or through wilful silence.