In the first months of this New Year, some pray for good health, prosperity, success, happiness, contentment, and a long life. However, these are not the greatest blessings we could attain. Our prayers for this year should be directed not only to temporal things, but primarily to the eternal. When we consider that our time here on earth is short and our time in Heaven is forever, then our prayers should be fixed on our eternal reward. Perhaps there may times to come when it feels like this world is hostile to our Catholic faith. We should not worry as we only need to look to history to see that Holy Mother Church is always triumphant.
In the last part of the 18th century, many of you may be aware of the French Revolution in which the public intention was stated to “destroy the Catholic Church.” To accomplish this, the rebels published a number of books wherein they derided and blasphemed everything that is venerable and sacred to the Christian faith. They denied the Divinity of Christ. They exalted vice as virtue and placed the happiness of humanity in the gratification of carnal lust. Their efforts were successful as eventually the churches were profaned, and altars demolished. The images of saints were defaced and those priests who did not deny the faith were put to death. The removal of Catholic institutions and their personnel, however, simply forced religious worship into the private sphere and increased the involvement of the laity, trends that would also mark the religious revival that took place in France in the nineteenth century. The Church endures.
Consider the Catholics of Ireland in the middle of the 17th century, at the time of the Irish Rebellion and the institution of Penal Laws. The practice of the Catholic religion was strictly prohibited. Catholics were deprived of their churches. Convents and monasteries were secularized. Bishops and priests were banished or put to death. There was not a single Catholic school throughout the country and parents were forbidden to have their children instructed and educated in foreign countries. The property of Catholics was confiscated, and they were only permitted to rent their own land. The oppression lasted for three hundred years. One might think that the Catholic faith would have entirely perished in Ireland, but the faithful Irish remained firm and immovable in their faith, trusting God throughout all of their trials. The Church endures.
We can take consolation in that fact that the Catholic Church can never perish, for Christ has promised that the gates of hell shall never prevail against her. We should not worry about the Church. However, each of our souls may be in jeopardy as it can be easy for one to lose his faith, despite reception of the Sacraments and Catholic education for many years as so many others have. We cannot take our faith for granted. Even in the face of persecution, we must continue to remain faithful, calling upon the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Peter to protect us.
-Fr. Doug Brown
Fr. Doug Brown is Pastor of Mary Queen of Peace Parish in Cleveland, Chaplain to AM 1260 The Rock, and Chaplain to the Cleveland Police