Category Archives: persecution

Good Friday

The day we are commemorating seems far away, yet actually it did not begin in history and has never come to an end. For it began with history itself and is still present in our own life today. For what finally comes to light in the darkness of the first Good Friday is, in the words of St. Paul, the ever-valid and ever-new scandal and folly of the cross, though the apostle adds at once that this is the wisdom and power of God for those who believe. True, we do not always feel this. It is even a good thing that we realize our condition only rarely, else we should not be able to bear it.

But on this Good Friday we ought to consider of our own free will the terrors of life, so that we may stand fast when we must face the abyss and endure it. For we all are gathered round the cross of the Crucified, whether we look up to him or try to look past him, whether we are at the moment quite gay and happy (this is not forbidden) or frightened to death. We are standing under the cross, being ourselves delivered to death, imprisoned in guilt, disappointed, deficient in love, selfish and cowardly, suffering through ourselves, through others, through life itself, which we do not understand.

Of course, if we are quite comfortable we protest against such a pessimistic outlook which wants to take away our joy in life (which is quite untrue); when we are vigorous in body and soul we refuse to believe that this will not last for ever. Yet we are always under the cross.

Would it not therefore be a good thing to look up to him whom they have pierced, as Scripture expresses it? Ought we not to admit what we have suppressed and to want to stand where we actually do stand? Surely we ought to have the courage to let our heart be seized by God’s grace and to accept the scandal and absurdity of our inescapable situation as “the power of God and the wisdom of God” by looking up at the Crucified and entering into the mystery of his death.

Many certainly do this without being aware of it by their way of life which accepts death in silent obedience. But we may also fail to do this. Hence it is better expressly to celebrate the Good Friday of the Lord by approaching his cross and speaking his last words with him. They are quite simple; everyone can understand and say them with him. This is the abyss of existence into which we fall. And we believe that there dwell love and life themselves. We say, Father, into your hands I commend myself, my spirit, my life and my death. We have done all that we could; the other, the ineffable that is salvation, will come too.

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Of Gods and Men

The Award-winning Of Gods and Men is powerful. I won’t soon forget this film based on a true story. Set in Algeria, the film depicts a small Trappist monastery in an area plagued by Islamic terrorists who slowly encroach on the monks’ quiet life.

Much of the film revolves around the question of whether the monks should leave. Should they go back to France? To another monastery in a safer place? The film focuses on the monks’ life and place in the community where they humbly and respectfully provide medical services and companionship to their neighbors.

A very compelling film. A must-see.


What to say?

As I’ve mentioned I lived for awhile in Indonesia where Christians are a persecuted minority in many places.

A while ago a friend responded to an email request that he just give the $40 he owed me to a church that was rebuilding in Makassar. He lives in Indonesia and could easily transfer that amount. Other friends I’ve been asking live outside Indonesia. If you send a check it’s very hard for someone to cash it. Banking and financial transactions are just primitive there.

Well, this guy, who I knew wasn’t a believer, but described himself as a peaceful secular humanist responded with a tirade. He asserted that he wanted all churches out of Indonesia, that that’s what the country needed. Whoa, where’s the peace?

I knew that responding immediately would be foolhardy. This man was furious. I also saw that he’s clearly troubled, my guess the trouble is spiritual. He’s from France and has gotten this straw man view of the church as only bad into his head.

Time has passed and I think I should say something.

Growing up as a Catholic, I wasn’t encouraged to talk about faith with non-believers. Live and let live seemed to be what was required. Well, I just think that’s odd and wrong. After 11 years in Catholic schools, I have no clue how to start this or any conversation. As an adult, I should be able to address such situations.

Any thoughts on what to do?


Christians in Indonesia

I lived in Makassar Indonesia from 2007 – 2008 and admire Christians living there because they face discrimination and violence all the time. When I first arrived, I asked my supervisor where the Catholic church was. She said there was one not far from school, but it had been burned down. They still had mass on the site. There was also a cathedral in town.

Needless to say I attended the cathedral just to be safe.

The Indonesian constitution does provide for freedom of worship, but life is still hard for minority religions. Even when I wanted to open a bank account, I was asked to state my religion. It’s illegal to marry someone of a different faith there and to build a church you have to get 90% of the neighbors to sign a statement saying it’s okay with them. Considering that the country is 90% Muslim this poses a big obstacle.

In the U.S. Christians don’t face this level of threat. I will say I was profoundly disappointed that when I wrote to three churches I have attended in the U.S. asking for donations for the Catholic church to be rebuilt in Makassar not one of the pastors responded to my letter. Alas, Indonesia just doesn’t register since few Americans know much about it. Still I hoped for more.