Friday, June 3, 2011


Today we have a Memorial Day for Charles Lwanga, of the "White Fathers" (Society of Missionaries of Africa) and his companions. This saint, along with twenty-two others, were brutalized and killed in 19th century Uganda. So atrocious was the resentment to the faith that one of the executioners was ordered to kill his own son:
"He commanded that the group be taken on a 37 mile trek to the place of execution at Namugongo. The chief executioner begged one of the boys, his own son, Mabaga, to escape and hide but Mbaga refused. The cruelly-bound prisoners passed the home of the White Fathers on their way to execution. Father Lourdel remembered thirteen-year-old Kizito laughing and chattering. Lourdel almost fainted at the courage and joy these condemned converts, his friends, showed on their way to martyrdom. Three of these faithful were killed on road."

Tertullian tells us that the "seed of the church is the blood of the martyrs". Like our own United States, the advantages and liberties of our faith was hard won by those who made the ultimate sacrifice. We tend to speak of persecution in our own country, such as the employee who is told to take the cross off of her desk or the child who is not allowed to tell the story of Moses in his literature class. While there is something to be said of a disparity in allowing for religious expression, we in this country and this region are blessed to be able to freely be Christian without persecution.

Recently, a woman who has lapsed from the practice of the Catholic faith informed me of her spiritual "journey":
Dear all,
When we think of "church" in America, we think of going to meet at a building, singing, praying and hearing a message from a Pastor or teacher. But in many places around the world, "church" meets in a home, an apartment, even in secret. These small groups of Christ-followers often meet for many hours in study, prayer and fellowship, as it is dangerous to travel to "church" and they want to make the most of their time together.
Secret Church is happening in Oxford this summer.  We will meet periodically for an intense time of Bible study--lasting 4-6 hours--and prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters across the globe. This is not for the uncommitted or faint at heart. But if you desire to know God more deeply through His Word, and know His Church more fully around the world, then please join us for Secret Church.
God will use this focused time of study to enrich our knowledge of His Word as we gain understanding of the state of His Church and our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. The objective of Secret Church is for you to pass along what you learn to others, so that you can make disciples of Christ--both locally and globally.

For those who are interested in learning more about Secret Church before May 23, read Radical by David Platt available at Square Books and Promises and Praise.  Secret Church is open to anyone (any denomination) who would like to come and participate in intensive bible study and prayer.  Please eat dinner prior to our meeting and make arrangements for childcare, as babysitting will not be provided.
Bring your bible and a pen and wear comfortable clothes.
I understand that this movement is appealing to evangelicals. The adherents are asked to put down their cell phones, not to bring their purses or wallets, to not engage any media over a period of time and pray for the persecuted around the world. Sounds good but somehow misses the concept that the Catholic faith bore the martyrs and celebrate them. We also have never forgotten fasting as a form of mortification and solidarity. Ever.

More than praying and reading scripture for a few hours in comfortable clothes, Catholics have stood in the face of kings, tyrants and, as the story goes, family members in defense of the faith, not the least of which is protecting the sacraments. Secondly, and more radically, Catholics align with anyone who seeks peace. Which is why now I point this out:

Catholics, universal, are still being persecuted world wide. In the Mid-East, Christians (Catholic and Eastern Orthodox) are uniting with peaceable Islamists to protest against the oppressive regime. Recently, a thirteen year old boy, the age of the above mentioned Christian martyr, Hamza al-Khateeb, was brutally tortured and executed by the Assad regime in Syria. Christians, who should be afraid, along with moderate Muslims, who also have much to fear, are in revolt. If you dare, you may read more about it here. The heart-breaking scene of the return of the boy's mutilated body is here. I warn you, it is terribly graphic. However, as any blood letting done in the name of tyranny, a strong seed is being sown. Social media is helping with the growth. If you want, you can read and sign up as one of al-Khateeb's Facebook friends.

Hamza al-Khateeb
 If you are so moved, use this Friday as a day of abstinence and align yourself to the truly persecuted. Christian or not, our Lord was tortured and killed for the peace of the Kingdom for all of us. Do something for peace today, even if it is as simple as educating yourself on the ways of the world. And you don't need comfortable clothes to do it with.

Martyrs of Uganda, pray for the faith where it is danger and for Christians who must suffer because of their faith. Give them the same courage, zeal, and joy you showed. And help those of us who live in places where Christianity persecution in other parts of the world. Amen