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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Persecution and Prayer


There is resentment toward people of faith, toward our Christian heritage, and especially toward the Catholic Faith. In this picture, we see fury unleashed on a public statue of the first great missionary to California. He came to bring the Gospel of Peace, but now is a sign of the brutal hostility that lives in what is left of our culture and society. The red paint might anticipate blood that the Lord will permit be shed in our own times, martyrs for Christ on American soil again, and this to lay bare the hearts of many. The red also bespeaks that Blood that has already been shed that we might at last find true freedom to pray. Political leaders and news media keep reporting how peaceful the protests are. This defaced statue tells another story. We see Junipero Serra as a witness, not to our enlightened society or the glories of a technological culture - but instead to the empty vacuum, filled with rage, that our soul-less technocracy has created. Ignoring the religious dimension of man always leads to violence ... neglecting our spiritual life, always causes death. Without the healing presence of God, men are damned to rage or despair, and are cut off from everything that is most dear and wonderful about humanity. Prayer makes space for the presence of God - even in the face of complete catastrophe. It is indeed a time of great unrest -- and yet in the midst of unrest and in the face of religious hatred, Christians are called to pray. Righteous indignation does not convert hearts. Bitter polemics do not assuage the misery that haunts human existence. Charged rhetoric does not bring a soul to repentance. But a word of truth spoken with love and aflame with prayer can pierce through confusion and re-establish those who have been trampled down in rage. Instead of joining the cacophony of the moment, people of faith are invited to raise up praise of such glory that it opens beyond time and space and all hostility -- helping humanity find a foothold in a peace that this world cannot give. This praise of glory that we must find a way to sing can only be summoned by those who are willing to enter into the silence of God and humbly welcome the treasures of love that He longs to give. This pathway of true prayer requires repentance, humility, gentle kindness, and the courage to believe that what is good and noble in the hearts of humanity comes from God, and therefore is more powerful and enduring than anything that contradicts it - no matter how violently. So a hymn is born in those who believe - the same hymn as those who right now are gathered around the Throne, crying out before the Lamb that was slain, "Holy, Holy, Holy."

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