Monday, September 25, 2006

Under the section titled The twofold symbolic weight of the killing of sister Leonella
As seen in the history of the Christian persecutions, this time as well the method was chosen of striking others in the place of the one who was indicated by so many voices in the Muslim world as the main target, namely Benedict XVI, and not only because the Italian religious sister was an easier victim The explanation is found in the memorable pages of the Japanese writer Shusaku Endo, which narrate the persecution of the Christians in Japan in the seventeenth century: some Jesuits, although they were ready to die to bear witness to their faith, were forced to commit apostasy by having the Christian country people subjected to torture before their eyes. A Christian can dispose of his own life, even to the point of martyrdom – and the countless Christian martyrs of the past century demonstrate this – but not of the lives of others: the killing and torture of other Christians paralyzes the real target of the aggressive action, it gags him, it prevents him from saying and doing what would be right for himself, until it impedes him from martyrdom. The Japanese case is the most sensational, but there have been other, similar cases, if one only reads attentively the lives of the missionaries of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: it’s enough to recall the Combonian missionary sisters who were held prisoner by the Mahdi in the Sudan at the end of the nineteenth century.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with my daughter when she was just a small slip of a girl. She kept asking me "do you love me more than..." Each time she asked the question, she raised the stakes until she finally asked if I loved her more than God. I don't think that she was surprised by my answer but a part of her was disappointed.

She pressed the issue and proposed the following scenario: Assumiing someone was going to kill her if I didnt say I loved her more than God, would I say I did or would I let her die. I told her that I'd watch her die. I also told her that, if our positions were reversed, it would be absolutely necessary that she confirm her love of God. I think she understood when I explained that this path was the only way we could be happy together in heaven.

I pray that if the time ever comes, we will have the courage of conviction. The really frightening aspect of martyrdom is that we might fail to be martyrs.


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