The Perseverance of the Saints (saints)
2 Timothy 4: 7, “I have fought the good fight to the end, I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith;” (St Paul writing from prison in Rome)
Song – “Walk the talk” by Garth Hewitt
Let’s have a look at the cartoons, “Portrait of a Catholic” and our old friend – “Fred” on page 52 of the book “How to Survive being Married to a Catholic”.
What does this tell us about how we persevere in our ordinary Catholic lives?
What happened to the apostles?
|Apostle||Mission||Manner of Death|
|Peter||Jerusalem, Samaria, Lydda, Jaffa, Caesarea,
Pontus, Galatia, Bithynia, Cappodocia,
|Martyred in Rome, crucified AD 64|
|Andrew||Jerusalem, Greece, Scythia, Epirus, Patras in Achaia||Martyred in Achaia
Crucified AD 60
|James||Jerusalem, Spain?||Martyred in Jerusalem
AD 44 beheaded by sword
|John||Jerusalem, Samaria, Parthia, Patmos, Ephesus||Imprisonment , exile, torture under Domitian, escape
Lived to old age
|Philip||Jerusalem, Samaria, Azotus, Caesarea, Phrygia, Hierapolis||Martyred, possibly crucified, in old age|
|Bartholomew||Jerusalem, India, Armenia||Martyred in Armenia, flayed alive and then beheaded|
|Thomas||Jerusalem, Edessa, India||Martyred in Malabar by spear, buried in Mylapor near Madras|
|Matthew||Jerusalem, Persia, Parthia
|Martyred by spear, sword or halberd|
|James son of Alphaeus||Jerusalem||Martyred, Sanhedrin sentenced him to death by stoning, was then clubbed to death|
|Simon the Zealot||Jerusalem, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia||Martyred in Persia, crucified or by sword|
|Jude Thaddaeus||Jerusalem, Mesopotamia, Persia||Martyred in Persia, clubbed to death|
|Matthias||Jerusalem, Judaea, Greece, Cappodocia, Caspian Sea, Ethiopia?||Martyred, death by axe or halberd|
This puts paid to the idea that the apostles were out for personal gain because religion is “a money making racket” – as some would say.
But that’s enough about the men, what about the women.
The first Christian women martyrs were St Perpetua and St Felicity who were martyred for their faith in Carthage in 203AD under the reign of the Roman Emperor Septimus Severus, who had forbidden fresh conversions to Christianity. They died in the arena by the sword after wild animals had failed to kill them.
Cue for some Culture – you tube clip from the Opera “Dialogues des Carmelites”
This about a group of Carmelite nuns who refused to give up their vocation and were executed by guillotine during the Terror, a particularly bloody phase of the French revolution, in 1794. Although fictionalised in the Opera “Dialogues des Carmelites” they did go to their deaths singing the “Salve Regina” and “Veni Creator Spiritus”.
Of course not all Saints were martyred and although in some parts of the world Christians are being killed for their faith, this may not happen to us. It may be that the only persecution we will suffer is mild ridicule and indifference.
Then this happened;
BBC News 2.8.16
French priest funeral: Jacques Hamel mourned in Rouen
Thousands have attended the funeral in Rouen cathedral in Normandy of French priest Father Jacques Hamel, who was murdered in his church by Islamist extremists last week.
A public ceremony was led by the city’s archbishop, after which Father Hamel was to be interred in a private burial.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and senior Roman Catholic clerics attended the service.
Father Hamel was killed when two men stormed his church during Mass.
In the homily, Rouen Archbishop Dominique Lebrun said: “As brutal and unfair and horrible as Jacques’ death was, we have to look deep into our hearts to find the light.” He called for forgiveness, quoting the New Testament command to love your neighbours.
Shockwaves have reverberated across the world about this, such that the police in Scunthorpe have had discussions with local churches. It is unlikely that such an event would happen here, but we could be regarded as a soft target.
It does come as a shock that this can happen in the west where previously the worst persecution we had to suffer as Christians was mild ridicule or indifference.
For myself I would pray for the courage to proclaim that, “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”, (Phillipians 2: 11 and Romans 10: 9-13), and to follow the way of love to the end, resisting the temptation to meet violence with violence. Because we are called to be different and to make a difference.
Does this mean we are to be a push-over or a doormat? No it doesn’t. Jesus says to his disciples, “Remember, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; so be cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves.” Matthew 10: 16
And John says, “Our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active.” 1 John 3:18
St. Paul’s attitude to martyrdom is this;
Philippians 1: 20-26
In summary Paul is saying that though death means being with the Lord, he is prepared to live and remain here to help others. So Paul is not seeking the martyr’s crown though he is aware it may come to him.
We can daily take up our cross and follow Jesus (Luke 9: 23) and accept whatever sacrifices are involved in that. When we come to mass we offer those sacrifices, the sacrifice of the Christian life, alongside Jesus’s final and everlasting sacrifice.
“Pray brothers and sisters that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the almighty Father”
It seems totally amazing to me that we can do this as our sacrifice seems such a little thing compared with that of Jesus.
Song – youtube – “Selah” People of the Cross
We are the People of the Cross.
We aren’t promised an easy time, but we are promised a blessed time and an eternal destination.
We pray for the Church across the world, for its steadfastness in the face of adversity.
For the constancy of its witness and its message in all circumstances.
For the presence of the Holy Spirit in all the believers bringing peace and courage.
For vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.
For us all to do our part, no matter how small for we are a missionary Church.
All this we ask through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.
Let us pray together the prayer of St Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me show love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, union;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
For thy mercy and truth’s sake:
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love,
It is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May he look upon you with kindness and give you his peace.
May almighty God bless you,
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen
Drawing a Line and Reconnecting with our Baptism
From the Letter of St Paul to the Philippians Ch 3 vs 13;
…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,…
Within the Church there are a number of opportunities to draw a line and start afresh;
Each time we receive the sacrament of reconciliation.
Each time we come to mass.
When we take up our cross daily and follow Christ.
When we renew our Baptismal promises at the Easter vigil.
Renewal of Baptismal Promises
- Do you reject Satan?
R. I do.
V. And all his works?
R. I do.
V. And all his empty promises?
R. I do.
V. Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth?
R. I do.
V. Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?
R. I do.
V. Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?
R. I do.
V. God, the all-powerful Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has given us a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and forgiven all our sins. May he also keep us faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ for ever and ever.
13th March 2018