Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Blessed are these...


I just finished watching the documentary that EWTN1 just ran on the Christians in Iraq. What a beautiful and moving piece of work! Bravo EWTN. This film traces the history and roots as well as the modern problems faced by the Catholic and Orthodox Christians who still remain in the region today2.

It is films such as these which brings to my mind the sharp contrast between the lives of Christians in the "developed" West and the turmoil and tumultuous lives that are lived by Christians in the so-called third world. From my comfortable temperature controlled living room with all the amenities that America has to offer, my conscience cries out against me as every minute unfolds the powerful drama that these our brothers and sisters in the faith endure day by day for the simple label of being called "Christian." My heart broke and I could not help from breaking down watching and hearing the small crowds of the courageous children, women and men walk down dirty streets singing hymns of praise, not knowing if a blast could take out dozens of families at any moment. In the face of the tired and depressed young widow who recalls the story of how her young husband told her to get back in the house when accosted and then shot I see the face of my wife. In the faces of the old gathered at holy day celebrations I see my grandparents. In the faces of the little girls dancing at a wedding I see the faces of my daughters.

Beloved, what does our King and Master promise us in His Holy Scripture?

"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matt 5:11-12).

This same promise is recorded by St. John (John 15:20), St. Paul (1 Cor 4:12) as well as the testimony of the early Catholic Church which was violently persecuted by the Roman Empire, and the Jews. Eusebius the historian records all these events in his Ecclesiastical History.

The Patristic Fathers as well tell us how in the hour of death even the "weaker sex" and children never showed fear or pain despite the most inhumane forms of torture and death, for they were convinced that Jesus Christ would manifest himself and give them the grace to endure these things in a supernatural way.

On the other hand we are called to help our brothers and sisters in the faith in times of need for they along with us are the Body of Christ. We are commanded in Scripture to feed, clothe and give aid too eachother, especially in desperate times of need. Please pray for our brothers in the middle-East and if anyone knows any links to legitimate sites that offer services/donations to help our brothers feel free to add through comment.

_______________

[End Notes.]

1. Catholic television network whose programs can be viewed on-line here, - http://www.ewtn.com/

2. Due to the immense persecution of Christians there has been a sort of mass exodus. Details can be read here - http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,270377,00.html

14 comments:

~Joseph the Worker said...

Sometimes I wish that I was "lucky" enough to face this type of persecution, but I'm afraid in my deepest heart that I couldn't do it. What Saints we have living among us!

George Weis said...

Brother Rick,

Oddly enough I watched this last night (I don't know that I watched the whole series or not, but what was available when I turned on the live streaming video last night. I loved that special, and felt much of what you are saying.

My wife and I both grow more and more disenchanted with this western world, and we long to be beside those who need encouragement and much much more.

I got a sense of the past through the churches there, and I enjoyed the words the Bishop had to say about the "utopia" there. How important it is for them to stay even though they are easy targets.

Thanks for the post. Much love to you my friend!

-g-

R. E. Aguirre. said...

@ Joe, courage to face these type's of things must be supernatural, so fear not my friend.

@ George, you are right it is so uplifting to watch these people.

George Weis said...

I would love to watch more about places like this. I do enjoy the old historical buildings to. The artist in me loves this stuff. Even though, it is yet another thing I doubt in my heart as being a distraction.

-g-

Rene'e said...

I realize that the topic was regarding Christians being persecuted in other countries and I do not want to take away from their courage in the face of persecution, but I wanted to comment on the “Illusion” (my word) that we who are blessed as Americans are more prosperous than others in the world for simply being Americans.

Not all Americans are prosperous, most Americans who are prosperous, have worked very hard for what they have and they help others with their time, money and support.

The point I want to make is that there are Americans who die here in America everyday, for being black, Hispanic, white, gay, children, women , handicap and elderly. They are killed by peers, crime, racists, bigots, parents, abusive husbands, neglect, fear, and perceived “mercy”. There are people living here who need us just as much as those in other countries. Young kids in gangs, children with disabilities, women in crisis marriages and pregnancies, those who have no one left to care about them when they are old, children suffering neglect and abuse from their own parents, and the unborn, the homeless and the hungry. The lonely, the different, the ill and the dying. These are the people of America too. Too often are they forgotten.

The Lord wants us to take care of all the worlds suffering people. The people of America should not be left out just because they are Americans and our country is richer than some others in the world.

We should help those in our own Country who need us, then go out to other countries help others.
It seems that people forget that for whatever reasons. I guess it is more worthy to take care of the other countries poor, because our people are Americans and do not need us, they have America.

Maybe if more Americans took care of our own, then the rest of the world would unlearn the truth about our country, that we are just a Grand Illusion.

Catholic Charities, the largest charity organization in the world, takes care of Americans as well as others around the world. God Bless Them, may we all continue to support their mission.

We have Saints here in our country.They prefer to remain anonymous.

Ashley Weis said...

The homeless in America have homeless shelters. The disabled have waivers and support and doctors searching to cure them. The pregnant woman in a crisis has a support network, health coverage through the state, etc. The dying have hospitals. The "poor" have clothing, clean water from a fountain at a nearby park, and because I have known many homeless, I can assure you that they make at least $80 a day (on a good day) standing outside and begging for money. In Ethiopa that's almost what one person makes in a year.

America has help. And America is not poor in the poorest sense of the word. Meaning they have heard the name of Christ many times. As I've said before, they make that known by the 100's of movies produced each year with Jesus' name in vain.

There are poor in third world countries, poor who haven't heard the name of Christ. Those, as my husband has reminded me, are poorer than the Christian children in Africa dying because of unclean water.

So, I'm sorry but I cannot agree with you. There are places in this world that need Christ who have never heard Christ preached. Those people are in far greater "need" than those in America who spit on Him daily.

Not to mention, there are plenty of Christians in America who should/could step up and serve those in need. There are plenty of Christians here to evangelize to the homeless person on the corner. But there are few who are willing to risk their lives in order to reach the people in this world who are suffering the greatest poverty of all--the poverty of Christ.

There are some who may never hear His name or His purpose or the salvation that comes through Him and Him only. Those are the poorest. And they are not Americans.

George Weis said...

Ma,

so glad to run across you on the blogosphere again!
Surprised at my watching more Catholic Television?
:)

I agree and disagree. Yes indeed there are many people in America who are in need, however the oppression in some parts of the world are purely focused on those who profess Christ. There in Iraq are Catholic Christians who are killed just because they are a Christian and are non-violent. In China, there is an underground Church that faces torture and death at the hands of an insane government.

Beyond situations like that, there are many with no way of helping themselves. At least in America, there are many avenues a person can take to receive help. This is the land of opportunity, and it is much safer here than in other remote places.

We do need continuing work here, but the labor in the world is so great, and America, so blessed. There is a shortage of willing souls who would love to be where the most estranged and needy people are. That is where my heart turns.

On the top of that list are those who have never even heard the name of Christ. They are in spiritual poverty... the worst kind of position a person can be in. These people need others who are willing to be persecuted for the sake of the gospel... to have blood spilled if necessary so that they can have the seed of faith planted in their fertile hearts.

So few are willing to answer the call of Christ "GO". Christ Himself was the ultimate missionary, who left the splendor and glory He had with the Father. He came down to this filthy place to serve and ultimately to die. We all know that well and good here. If we take up His cross, we may very well follow in this same pattern. America is heaven on earth to many. It is plentiful and in no need of want... My heart is to depart from here if God wills it, and carry His grace and love to all who might receive it. There is no greater calling than to Love God with our total being, and in turn give our lives as a living and a possible dying sacrifice. He is worth it... all of us including myself would naturally choose the easy life, but He is calling us. It is scary, and it is not a glorified calling, but one full of blessing.

To be counted among the martyrs around the throne in heaven saying "how long oh Lord..." would be an honor.

I think ultimately what Rick is speaking of is becoming disenfranchised with the American comfortable lifestyle.

Bless you all, and may Christ richly dwell in your hearts for the sake of his glory and Kingdom!

-g-

Rene'e said...

http://www.cg.its.tudelft.nl
/~rafa/pl/mtheresa.html


Mother Theresa Confronts America

Tim A. Troutman said...

I agree that America and Americans cannot generally fathom the poverty many people are stricken with. What is far worse I'm afraid, is that America cannot fathom her own spiritual poverty which is both more severe and more important than the financial poverty overseas and to some mild extant, here as well.

I have to agree with Ashley, the poor here live like kings compared to many other parts of the world. I have seen a lot of poverty in the
Philippines when I visited there.

But to be fair to America, as a nation - she has been extremely generous - more generous than any other nation in the history of man kind. When I did walk down the most impoverished streets in the Philippines what charities were there helping the poor? German? Japanese? Russian? French? No, all American or Catholic.

George & Ashley, I admire your courage to go overseas and serve alongside the poor. That is true charity and true religion.

Rene'e said...

Even though it may appear that I am being insensitive and under appreciating missionary work, I am not actually doing so.

I do admire those who serve and I do understand the extreme proverty which those in other parts of the word live, both spiritualy and materially.

I have been called by God to raise and care for an Autistic child who requires one on one supervision 24/7. Who is incapable of knowing precieved dangers and who is basically non-verbal. She requires the services provided by this country to have a semi-normal life.
Basically, she can never be a missionary.

God is calling her only sibling to care for others outside of this country. I was depending on this person to be her sisters guardian if needed in the future if she were to find herself alone without both parents.

Unfortuately, God is calling me and my family in two opposite directions. This has caused me a crisis of faith at times, but.....I try to remember He has a bigger plan.

Joseph said...

Yikes, Renee...

Tread lightly. We aren't being tracked down and killed by sanctioned persecutors in this country yet. The Chaldean Catholics have also been in the region (Iraq) since the Apostolic age. They are now being "cleansed" without any apparent aid from anyone.

Honestly, when our lives are threatened for our faith (which may be on the horizon... who knows?) then I will start making the comparison between our persecution and theirs. By all means, we deserve a purge more than they do. We, you and I, are Catholics who don't know the meaning of temperance and modest living on the scale of poverty that even our closest neighbors in Mexico know. It is because of our weakness and balancing the world with our faith that we deserve much worse than these people.

On the other hand, I agree that there exists poverty in our country as well, but, as everyone has pointed out, the help is much more available. That doesn't mean we shouldn't do anything about it, however.

It's also good to avoid such a nationalistic view, in my opinion. The Church transcends world governments. We are all part of One Body no matter where we live. It is true that the community closest to us should be helped when help is needed, but when a part of the Body cries out for justice like our brothers and sisters in the Middle East do, we need to help them if we can.

Rene'e said...

Rick,

I would like to add one more thing to my previous post, if I may.

What God takes away, He replaces.

Because it was implied by my non-Catholic family members, that guardianship would only be possible if I were to agree on allowing my daughter to become a missionary also, my own sister who is Catholic, and would be considered to be a non-practicing Catholic and who has her own son with Cerebal Palsy, has offered to become my daughters guardian if needed.

Being Catholic truly means more, than just a Church that we attend.

Thank God...for the Catholics and the Catholic Church all over the world.

God Bless them all.

R. E. Aguirre. said...

Everyone has had some good points thus far. Joe however has hit the problem on the proverbial head.

What the Iraqian Christians are experiencing is systematic destruction on a horrendous scale. Nevertheless a few have persisted in the face of such a menace.

Rene'e said...

Joseph ,

I agree with everyone on all points. I would never compare being murdered as an equal to other injustices against Catholics, especially those in America. I was mostly commenting on Rick’s comment of our duties to care for each other, and comments of how blessed we are as Americans. There are people murdered here in Baltimore each day. Mostly young children and teenagers, killing each other.

I just wanted to point out that there is always someone who needs our help. Sometimes they are right next to us. In America although we are not killed for being Catholics, we as Catholics are spiritually attacked from almost every direction on a daily basis. Whether it being by Non-Catholics, the media, consumerism, etc.

Living as a Catholic in America is not spiritually easy. Satan seems to control most of this country. Every temptation known to man, is available in this country. American is looking more like the Empire of Rome in early history. We need God here also. America needs Catholic Evangelization. Though we are not being physically murdered, we are slowly and more subtly being spiritually killed, little by little.

We need to help our brethren in other parts of the word, but we need them to help us too. We need their prayers, their example and their courage.

While our backs are turned , Satan is coming in our back door.