As we continue to hear from the first letter of Peter today, we hear about what it means to live out our Christian faith in a hostile world and we hear advice to those who face persecution. When we hear of the martyrs in the early Church or other those Catholics who were persecuted by the Nazis in WWII or of those in Africa or the Middle East who are being persecuted for their faith, it seemed so far away. But, I can tell you, I have face hostility as a Catholic priest here in the Bible Belt of Mississippi. And I think when some of us see the direction the government and society is going, with an emphasis on the secular and a diminishing of the religious, we can be frightened as to where all of this might go. There is a famous quote from the late Cardinal Francis George regarding persecution in a secular society that has made the rounds of the blogs on the internet for some time. Cardinal George made this comment while speaking to a group of priests. It was recorded on someone’s smart phone, and the rest is history. Cardinal George said this: "I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history." And, yet, there is always a message of hope in our faith. Mary is one of figures in our faith that always gives me courage and hope. I think of the Sorrowful Mother who stood by her son on the cross, accompanying him and praying for him. I think of Mary as Our Lady of the Pillar, who appear to St James in an apparition to give him hope and encouragement when his missionary work in Spain seemed to be a failure. Here is a prayer to Mary, the Light of Hope, taken from St Pope John Paul II’s consecrating of the entire world to Our Lady of Fatima on May 13, 1982.
Immaculate Heart of Mary,
help us to conquer the menace of evil,
which so easily takes root in the hearts of the people of today,
and show immeasurable effects already weigh down upon our modern world….
Accept, O Mother of Christ, this cry laden with the sufferings of whole societies.
Help us with the power of the Holy Spirit to conquer all sin:
individual sin and the “sin of the world,”
sin in all its manifestations.
Let there be revealed once more in the history of the world
the infinite saving power of the Redemption:
the power of merciful love.