E-mail from Heaven: Is your computer on?
The pope chose Christ Our Hope as the theme for his U.S. visit, and hope is certainly a much-needed virtue for our disintegrating culture. During the most evil times, hope is especially necessary to maintain faith and help souls persevere. Let us see how our spiritual brethren faced the evils of their own times and trusted that Jesus would “overcome the world.”
St. Maximilian Kolbe: The Saint of Auschwitz put his hope in God and in the Blessed Mother to whom he had great devotion. From early childhood he knew he would be martyred because Mary appeared to him and offered him two crowns, the white crown of purity and the red crown of martyrdom. The boy chose both. When Fr. Kolbe was arrested by the Gestapo in early 1941 with several companions, he faced his persecutors calmly. He encouraged his fellow monks saying, “Courage, my sons. Don’t you see that we are leaving on a mission? They pay our fare in the bargain. What a piece of good luck! The thing to do now is to pray well in order to win as many souls as possible. Let us, then, tell the Blessed Virgin that we are content, and that she can do with us anything she wishes.” Fr. Kolbe died before the year ended, offering his life as a sacrifice for another. His body would burn in the crematorium at Auschwitz fulfilling a wish he had stated years earlier, “I would like to be ground to dust for the Immaculate Virgin and have this dust be blown away by the wind all over the world.” Let us demonstrate the same hope in Our Lady that St. Maximilian showed by telling her she “can do with us anything she wishes.”
Blessed Ignatius Maloyan, Archbishop of Mardin: As Adolf Hitler poised to attack Poland in 1939 he promised the total destruction of the people, including women and children, to create “lebensraum” for Germany. In the course of that cruel statement he said, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” Who indeed?
Armenia was a Christian minority country in the Islamic Ottoman Empire (now Turkey). From 1915-1923 virtually the entire Armenian population was massacred in a brutal genocide by the Islamic majority. Archbishop Maloyan, consecrated for the diocese of Mardin in 1911, served the suffering Church in Armenia until his death. As the persecution increased, he gathered his priests and told them, “Put all your hope in the Holy Cross set on the rock of St. Peter. Our Lord Jesus Christ built up His Church on this rock and on the blood of martyrs. As for us, poor sinners, may our own blood be mixed with that of the pure and holy martyrs… Our desire is that you place your hope in the Holy Spirit.” Archbishop Maloyan had no illusions about the future. Arrested with many of his flock in 1915, he was tortured and ultimately the group, about 450, endured a forced march during which many were taken aside and murdered.
Pope John Paul II described the final scene during the bishop’s beatification Mass: “The bishop encouraged his parishioners to remain firm in their faith. Then all knelt with him. He prayed to God that they accept martyrdom with patience and courage. The priests granted the believers absolution. The Bishop took out a piece of bread, blessed it, recited the words of the Eucharist and gave it to his priests to distribute among the people. One of the soldiers, an eye witness, recounted this scene: ‘That hour, I saw a cloud covering the prisoners and from all emitted a perfumed scent. There was a look of joy and serenity on their faces.’” A short time later Archbishop Maloyan watched his little flock murdered before his eyes. Then the Turkish officer gave him one last chance to convert to Islam. The Archbishop refused and the furious officer shot him. As the archbishop died he echoed the words of His Master, “My God have mercy on me, into Your hands I commend my spirit.” If those who suffer grave persecution can maintain such hope in God, how can we do less?
St. Vincent de Paul: The great saint of charity knew that trust in God offered the quickest route to holiness. “We are firmly convinced that the truths of faith cannot deceive us, and yet we cannot bring ourselves to trust to them; nay, we are far more ready to trust to human reasoning and the deceitful appearance of this world. This, then, is the cause of our slight progress in virtue, and of our small success in what concerns the glory of God.” Hope and trust are the antidotes.
St. Gertrude: This pious Benedictine mystic lived in the second half of the 13th century. At the age of twenty-six she began experiencing visions which continued for the rest of her life. In one Jesus told her, “When anyone has complete confidence in Me and believes that I have the power, the wisdom, and the desire to aid him on all occasions, this ravishes My heart, and does Me such violence that I cannot help favoring such a soul, on account of the pleasure I experience in seeing it so dependent upon Me, and to satisfy the great love I bear to it.” How can we resist such an invitation to trust our beloved Lord?
St. Ambrose: The great teacher of St. Augustine lived during a time of turmoil during the collapse of the Roman Empire and the barbarian invasions. He stood against the Arians, defended the poor, and even melted down the gold vessels of the Church to ransom captives. Often threatened, Ambrose was fearless. His advice: “When we find ourselves in any danger, even a grave one, we ought not to lose courage, but to trust much in the Lord; for where the peril is greater, there also is greater aid from Him who chooses to be called the Helper in dangers and tribulations.” Hope, trust, confidence: they put us on the fast track to intimate union with our Savior. After Jesus Himself, of course, our greatest hope is the Blessed Mother. Let us call on her frequently, “Our Lady, hope of Christians, pray for us.”