July 9th is the feast day of the Chinese Martyrs.
It was October 2000 when Saint Pope John Paul II canonized 120 martyrs in China. As Alejandro Bermudez noted in his recent piece, “87 were Chinese laypeople and 33 were missionaries.”
Bermudez says, “The feast is an occasion for the Chinese Catholic diaspora, and for the Universal Catholic church as a whole, to pray for Christians currently persecuted in Communist China, especially those Catholics who despite being a minority in Hong Kong, constitute the backbone of the freedom movement and are currently being jailed such as Catholic convert Jimmy Lai, owner of the pro-democracy paper Apple News; or those forced to exile, like pro-democracy Catholic leader Joseph Cheng.”
In his homily, John Paul II said the, “martyrs are an example of courage and consistency to us all, and that they honour the noble Chinese people.”
The stories of these modern martyrs are captivating and it is important for them to become accessible and familiar so to bolster the faith and tenacity of Christians and people of good will worldwide.
“If what Christians say about Good Friday is true,” said Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, “then it is, quite simply, the truth about everything. I have written this for people who are convinced of that truth, for people who are open to thinking about whether it may be true, and for people who are just curious about why so much of the world thinks Good Friday is the key to understanding what Dante called ‘the love that moves the sun and all the other stars.'”
Fr. Neuhaus devoted an entire book to meditating on Good Friday and, accordingly, came to a deep sense that “Good Friday is not just one day of the year.” Rather, Good Friday is the central event around which history pivots; it is also the basis for the words “crucial” and “crux.”
A friend of mine shared this evocative quotation with me spoken by the protagonist in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s novel Cancer Ward:
“Come on, tell us, what are you most afraid of in the world now? Of dying! What are you most afraid of talking about? Of death! And what do we call that? Hypocrisy!”
It may take reading those lines over a few of times in order to be startled by them.