Remembering Christ's martyrs


During the millennium celebrations of 2000, Pope John Paul II went to the Colosseum in Rome and remembered Christ's martyrs:

Cardinal François-Xavier
Nguyên Văn Thuận

"In the century and the millennium just begun, may the memory of these brothers and sisters of ours remain always vivid. Indeed, may it grow still stronger! Let it be passed on from generation to generation, so that from it there may blossom a profound Christian renewal!" He cited the eight principal groups of modern martyrs: victims of Soviet totalitarianism, of communism in other countries, of Nazism, of Islamic ultra-fundamentalism, of violent religious nationalism in Asia, of tribal and anti-missionary hatred, of aggressive secularism, and of organized crime.

Chesterton said: "Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die." A recent example was Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên Văn Thuận of Vietnam, who died in 2002. He became Coadjutor Archbishop of Saigon in 1975 and was imprisoned for 13 years, nine of those in solitary confinement. His serene witness seemed to have converted some of his guards. Those who are persecuted by those who hate the faith ("odium fidei") have great power from Heaven to strengthen the Church on earth. In 2009, a seminarian named Joseph Nguyen, whose parents had immigrated to the United States and had personally known Cardinal Nguyên Văn Thuận, contracted pneumonia complicated by swine flu. He lay in a coma for 32 days, after his heartbeat had dropped nearly beyond recovery and his brain activity ceased. His parents prayed for the intercession of Cardinal Nguyên Văn Thuận. The young man regained consciousness and said that while in the coma, he had two visions of the cardinal. He is now well and back in seminary.

The courage of Christ's witnesses is an embarrassment to those for whom Christ is not a holy mystery but just an enigma. This past week, the media cast a blind eye on the murder by jihadists of a 33-year-old Polish priest, Father Marek Rybinski, who ran a Salesian school in Tunisia. In Kabul, Afghanistan, after six years of torture and deprivation in prison, Said Musa was sentenced to public execution under sharia law for converting from Islam to Christianity. The father of six children, one disabled, had been working with the Red Cross since losing a leg to a landmine while serving in the Afghan army. Save for the Wall Street Journal, our newspapers have been uninterested in this. In 2006, the intervention of President Bush saved another convert, but there has been no similar executive appeal so far in the instance of Said Musa. Indeed, the post of Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom still remains vacant in the present administration.

The courage of those who suffer far outweighs the weakness of those who do nothing, and it greatly strengthens the Church. "For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21).




Father George William Rutler. "Remembering Christ's martyrs." From the Pastor (February 26, 2011).

Reprinted with permission of Father George W. Rutler.


Father Rutler received priestly ordination in 1981. Born in 1945 and reared in the Episcopal tradition, Father Rutler was an Episcopal priest for nine years. He was received into the Catholic Church in 1979 and was sent to the North American College in Rome for seminary studies. Father Rutler graduated from Dartmouth, where he was a Rufus Choate Scholar, and took advanced degrees at the Johns Hopkins University and the General Theological Seminary. He holds several degrees from the Gregorian and Angelicum Universities in Rome, including the Pontifical Doctorate in Sacred Theology, and studied at the Institut Catholique in Paris. In England, in 1988, the University of Oxford awarded him the degree Master of Studies. From 1987 to 1989 he was regular preacher to the students, faculty, and townspeople of Oxford. Cardinal Egan appointed him Pastor of the Church of Our Saviour, effective September 17, 2001.

Since 1988 his weekly television program has been broadcast worldwide on EWTN. Father Rutler has published 17 books, including: Cloud of Witnesses - Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive, Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections, A Crisis of Saints: Essays on People and Principles, Brightest and Best, Saint John Vianney: The Cure D'Ars Today, Crisis in Culture, and Adam Danced: The Cross and the Seven Deadly Sins.

Copyright © 2011 Father George W. Rutler

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