"The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) is a global day of intercession for persecuted Christians worldwide. Its primary focus is the work of intercessory prayer and citizen action on behalf of persecuted communities of the Christian faith. We also encourage prayer for the souls of the oppressors, the nations that promote persecution, and those who ignore it. We believe that prayer changes things. Exactly what happens is a mystery of faith. God invites us to present to Him our requests and to pray without ceasing. Persecuted Christians often plead for prayer to help them endure. The most we can do is the least we can do — pray."
The IDOP is the largest prayer event of its kind in the world (so the website says but I'm thinking they probably aren't taking something like the World Youth Day in Rome or Manila into their calculations. In any case, WYD isn't an annual event) Over 100,000 local congregations in 130 nations take part. This is an event that few Catholics participate in but we can and should. Think how much larger it would be if Catholics, who make up 51% of the Christians in the world, participated? This would be a really useful form of ecumenism.
I like this FAQ from their website:
Why doesn’t the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church pray for all persecuted people regardless of their religious, political, or social affiliation?
As a human rights issue, the persecution of Christians dwarfs all other forms of religious injustice. It is beneficial to take advocacy for fellow believers who suffer for their faith as a starting point, as Christians living in free societies have been largely unaware of or silent to this increasing tragedy. As we gain a deeper understanding of the plight of our Christian family, we can also grow in knowledge about human rights issues affecting all people. A Christian’s compassion is not reserved only for fellow Christians, but is to be given to all who suffer injustice and oppression (Luke 12:29) and to those whose dark consciences press them to perpetrate evil (Matthew 5:44). Christians are encouraged to “do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10).
As part of this day, Brother Andrew (well known in evangelical circles but almost unknown among Catholics) will be hosting a video broadcast called Secret Believers about secret Christians in Muslim countries. It is being broadcast through the Church Communication Network (to local evangelical congregations) and alas isn't being streamed on the internet as far as I can see. But it would be worth watching if you can catch it because Brother Andrew is a man who has spent his life walking on water and through walls.
Brother Andrew began taking Bibles to Christians behind closed borders in 1955. His international best-seller, God's Smuggler, chronicles the early days of life and ministry, detailing dangerous border crossings, KGB pursuits, and his courageous journey toward living radically for Jesus Christ. That work has since become Open Doors International, a ministry to the Persecuted Church in over 60 countries, providing literacy/vocational training, Bibles, and economic relief in some of the most dangerous countries in the world. Brother Andrew remains among the few Western leaders to travel to the Middle East as an ambassador for Christ, holding private meetings with leaders of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. In 1994, he was knighted by Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands. (Brother Andrew is Dutch.) In 1997, he was the recipient of the World Evangelical Fellowship’s Religious Liberty Award.
Aid to the Church in Need is the pontifically sponsored Catholic equivalent of Open Doors and a wonderful ministry to support.
In June of 2004, they sponsored "Forty Hours for the Suffering Church" in Rome Basilica of St. Anastasia. The “Forty Hours” will open with a Celebration of the Eucharist in the Greek Catholic Rite and close with a Celebration of the Eucharist in the Copt-Catholic Rite. In between, for forty consecutive hours there will be adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, readings from Holy Scripture and meditation. Priests, religious and faithful from many different parts of the world are expected to gather for the prayers which in three-hour cycles will be dedicated to the Church on the different continents with meditations taken from Pope John Paul II’s relative post-synodal exhortations commented by ACN benefactors and collaborators.
What a wonderful idea! Why couldn't US Catholics do something similar in conjunction with the IDOP?
Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. Hebrews 13:3
I am having trouble sleeping tonight, so I began thinking about friends, relatives and fellow Dominicans who have died, and whom I pray are with Jesus in glory. I continue to be blessed by their prayers and love, and I thought I might offer a brief litany of thanks to God for them.
Thank you, Lord, for Fr. Bernie, who remembered me and my classmate, Jose, in his daily Mass throughout my formation as a Dominican. He gave me my first priestly stole four years before my ordination, because he knew he would not live to see it. Is it merely a coincidence that Jose and I were the only two from my class of nine who were ordained?
Thank you, Lord, for my lay Dominican sister, Virginia, who kindly accepted my naive invitation to comment on my homilies, and then gave me brutally honest feedback wrapped in love. She had such a great devotion to the saints and to her friends that the saints were her friends, and her friends were encouraged to be saints. Was it merely a coincidence that she went to heaven on the feast of her favorite, St. Aelred, the patron of friends?
Thank you, Lord, for my Dominican sister, Kathleen Rose, whose laughter and love for ministry sustained her as she battled with breast cancer. Was it simply luck that gave us a sunny two days in the 70 degree temperature range on the Oregon coast in December the last time I saw her alive?
Thank you, Lord, for Granny Fones and Nana Simpson, the only grandparents I have any real memories. Granny served the sick in hospitals by cooking for them; she taught me how to play King's Corners, and I loved her easy laugh, and the clicking sounds her dentures made occasionally when she talked. I remember Nana bent in half as she picked dandelions in the yard, doing something to show her gratitude for living with my family for months at a time. She impressed upon me the importance of Scripture at an early age simply by reading her Bible in the blue chair in the living room sunshine.
Thank you for Fr. Antonio, who patiently dealt with my skeptical scientific mind as he taught me the way the ancient Greeks saw the world. I hope I never forget (and someday share) his childlike wonder at the beauty of the God's creation and the inspired creativity of God's human creatures.
I rejoice that for them, life has changed, not ended, and that their love for me is even greater now than it was during their earthly life. I rejoice that through Jesus in the eucharist we are still united, and I hope to be able to see them again, but with a love purified of selfishness, so that I can love them with and in the love of Christ.
For whom are you thankful today, among your brothers and sisters in Christ have gone to their rest? How have they inspired you? How will you remember them - and pray for them - on this feast of All Souls?
Catherine Jarrige is one of my favorite heroines of the faith because she was so unpretentious,creative, and fearless. Catherine was not a "catechist" in our normal sense of the word - one who teaches catechism lessons to small children. But what do you call a lay woman who created an underground for priests and carried the entire weight of Catholic religious life on her shoulder for several years during the French Revolution. Parish life director, indeed!
Here is an article that I wrote year ago about the charism of service, using Catherine as an examplar.
This July 4, American Catholics will have something more than independence and fireworks to celebrate. It will mark the first celebration of memorial of Blessed Catherine Jarrige, who was beatified last November.
By any standards, Catherine, a French peasant and lay Dominican who outwitted a revolutionary government in order to keep Catholic life alive in a time of oppression, is a remarkable women. But more remarkable is the fact that her exploits seem to have been empowered by a gift that we consider one of the most ordinary and unremarkable - the charism of service.
The charism of service empowers a Christian to be a channel of God’s purposes by recognizing the logistical gaps or unmet needs that can prevent good things from happening, and by personally doing whatever it takes to solve the problem and meet the need. Christians with this charism see what the rest of us can so often miss—the organizational roadblocks and practical gaps that keep good things from happening. They are gifted with a kind of radar that seeks out and anticipates potential logistical problems.
Those with a gift of service are also energized by the challenge of taking personal action to solve the problem they have recognized. These are the people who will set up chairs without being asked when the facilitator of a meeting falls sick, or will spot a vacancy in the schedule of ushers and voluntarily fill in for the missing person.
People with the gift of service really know what it takes to get a job done and are personally willing to do whatever is necessary. Usually able to turn to their hands to most any practical task, servers are the hard-working backbone of any community. They are usually deeply involved in their local parish or Christian community because they find it intolerable that things should not be done for want of a little “common sense” and elbow grease.
Of course, their sense is anything but common. Catherine Jarrige, for example, was shrewd, fearless, and absolutely ingenious. During the French Revolution, all Christian churches and monasteries in France were closed and priests who were caught were routinely executed.
Catherine set up an underground for hunted priests, hiding them in robber’s dens and provided them with food, shelter, safe passage, and false papers. In her region, no babies went unbaptized or the dying without last rites. The entire religious life of the area rested on her capable shoulders for several years.
Catherine also helped restart parish life after the Revolution. There is real evidence that Catherine is still busy coming to other’s aid today. Attending her beatification ceremony in St. Peters last November was a man who had been miraculously healed at the age of six through Catherine’s intercession
I must not forget to mention that Catherine was a lay Dominican as well.
The November Lausanne World Pulse e-zine has arrived and it contains an article most pertinent to the Feast of All Saints.
The most severely persecuted Christians in the world live in North Korea and the little news we have from that country is amazing. Despite terrible oppression, Christianity is growing with great speed. No one knows exactly how many Christians survive in North Korea but it is estimated that one in five are in prison for their faith.
"Despite these statistics, God is growing his Church in this land. In 1989 there were an estimated eleven thousand Christians in the country. By 2004 this number had risen to as many as 100,000. By 2006 the estimate was somewhere between 200,000 and 400,000 Christians.
For many of these Christians, five principles of faith are daily recited: (1) our persecution and suffering are our joy and honor, (2) we want to accept ridicule, scorn and disadvantages with joy in Jesus’ name, (3) as Christians, we want to wipe others’ tears away and comfort the suffering, (4) we want to be ready to risk our life because of our love for our neighbor, so that they also become Christians and (5) we want to live our lives according to the standards set in God’s Word."
According to the World Christian Database, it is estimated that there are about 40,000 Catholics in North Korea.
A member of the Roman nobility, Melania convinced her mother and husband to abandon their luxurious lifestyle and beome part of a Christian community of thirty families. Against family opposition, she sold her vast properties and gave the money to the needy while purchasing the freedom of eight thousand slaves.
Melania knew St. Augustine, founded double monasteries for her former slaves, and finally settled in Jerusalem close to St. Jerome. Melania was venerated in the east but almost entirely unknown in the west until her biography, based upon a ancient manuscript found in the Vatican, was published in 1905.
Joseph was a brilliant young physician in Naples who was well known for his heroic efforts to say his patients during the 1906 eruption of Mount Vesuvius. and the terrible cholera epidemic of 1911. Moscati was considered a master of using autopsies as a way to advancing medical knowledge.
The former Director of the Pathological Anatomy Institute had placed this sentence at the entrance of the room where autopsies were done in front of medical students as a teaching device: "Hic est locus ubi mors gaudet succurrere vitae." ("This is the place where Death likes to help Life"). But in that Room, as Prof. Nicola Donadio writes, "there was no trace of religion, the place was severe but desolate."
Prof. Moscati thought to put on the top of a wall in that room, dominating the whole place, a Crucifix with this most happy sentence: "Ero mors tua, o mors" (= "Oh Death, I will be your death"), quotation of the Prophet Osea (Os 13, 14).
Joseph was convinced that the health of the body was dependent upon the health of the soul and he regularly encouraged his patients to draw nearer to God and to return to the sacraments. He gave free medical care to the poor, homeless, and to religious and had a gift for diagnosis that seemed to his colleagues to border on the miraculous. Moscati also served as Blessed Bartolo Longo's primary physician.
Bartolo Longo's incredible saga began when he was "ordained" a Satanic priest during his university days in Naples. Bartolo later wrote that on the night of his ordination by a satanic bishop, the walls of the "church" shook with thunder while blasphemous, disembodied shrieks knifed the air. Bartolo fainted with fright and for a while afterwards was deeply tormented and physically ill. Despite this depression and nervousness, he exercised his satanic priesthood by preaching, officiating at satanic rites, and publicly ridiculing Catholicism and everyone and everything connected with it.
Bartolo was brought back to the Christian faith by the prayers of his family and the witness of a friend who introduced him to the Dominican priest who was to become his friend, confessor, and spiritual director and who helped Longo withdraw from the Satanic cult. Fr. Radente said to him: "If you are looking for salvation, propagate the Rosary. It is the promise of Mary. He who propagates the Rosary shall be saved."
Bartolo became a professed Third Order Dominican and one of the greatest modern apostles of the Rosary. He build a magnificent church in Pompeii dedicated to the Virgin of the Rosary. A respected lawyer, Bartolo and his wife spent much of their time and income caring for many orphans, especially the children of prison inmates, and paid for the training of forty five seminarians.
Oh - and just because you can't mention the city of Pompeii without thinking of its ancient history, here is a You tube bit from what looks like a very fascinating BBC recreation of the Last Day of Pompeii.
Consider the moving story of Blessed James Duckett. (d. 1602)
Raised as a Protestant and apprenticed to a printer. After reading a book "The Firm Foundation of the Catholic Religion, James stopped attended Anglican services and was sentenced to prison twice. Finally, his employer revoked his contract for apprenticeship upon which James asked a priest, imprisoned in London, to instruct him in the faith and receive him into the Church.
After that, James made his living by printing and deal in Catholic books. He was arrested so often for this daring activity that he spent nine of his twelve years of married life in prison. Betrayed by a fellow Catholic, and sentenced to death for binding a book of Catholic apologetics, James was driven to his execution in the same cart as his accuser, whom he publicly forgave. After the rope was placed around their necks, James kissed his betrayer in a final gesture of forgiveness.
Forty two years later, a Fr. John Duckett, a relative of James, was betrayed at this spot near Wolsingham, and was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn.
In honor of all Saints Day, I thought I'd share some of the remarkable and little known stories of lay "patron saints" (canonized or not) that we routinely tell in the course of our Called & Gifted workshops. Of course, there is no official list of "patron saints" for certain charisms, as we make clear to those who attend, but I've written up a lot of short lives of great Catholics who manifested certain charisms during their lifetime. We encourage participants to take a "saint" as a patron and model for their discernment process. The complete set of bios is available in our Catholic Spiritual Gifts Resource Guide.
Under the rubric of the charism of Administration, I have
Venerable Pauline Marie Jaricot (1799-1862)
A gifted administrator, Pauline organized a brilliant method for collecting money for missionary work (which gave rise to the Society for the Propagation of the Faith) and also founded the Association of the Living Rosary. Her remarkable success aroused jealousy (especially in men who refused to acknowledge the gifts and inspiration of this young woman)and when the funds for one of her projects were embezzled by a trusted advisor, many of the Pauline's supporters turned against her and she spent the rest of her life in poverty, trying to pay the donors back. She was a friend of John Vianney, the Cure d'Ars.
St. Margaret of Scotland (1045-1093)
A member of the former Anglo-Saxon royal family (who left England after the conquest by the Normans), Margaret married the illiterate warrior King of Scotland, Malcolm III. Margaret was happy in her marriage and a gifted administrator who was enormously influential for good in her adopted country. Margaret reformed the law courts in the favor of the poor, ransomed slaveds, forbade royal soldiers to loot Scottish homes, founded churches (such as Dunfermline Abbey when she is buried) and organized church synods. Her eight children were all known for their faith and virtue. Here son David inherited the Scottish throne and built this little chapel, now the oldest part of Ediburgh castle, in memory of his mother
Margaret carried an exquisite little book of the Gospels with her everywhere and it now resides in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Listen to this delightful little BBC audio report on Margaret's Gospel Book