Back in 2011, the British branch of the organization Aid to the Church in Need published a report entitled “Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their faith.” The report claimed that 75% of the religious persecution taking place in the world today was directed squarely at Christians, with most of the life threatening instances taking place in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Obviously we’re not being killed off here in the States yet, but considering the growing hostility of the American government towards religious institutions here in the Land of the Free (unless you actually believe what the Church teaches), that 75% is a pretty easy figure to accept.
So, they’re out to get us. But, as Pope Benedict XVI reminded us back in 2010, “Today we see in a truly terrifying way that the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from enemies on the outside, but is born of the sin within the Church.”
Now, after watching that short, a person might be tempted to ask, “So, is Georges Melies suggesting that Satan invented liturgical dance and puppet shows?” Wellll… maybe, but that’s beside the point. The main thing to remember is that we must always be on guard against Satan attacking us, even from within our own walls. To maintain such vigilance, His Holiness remarked, “The Church has a deep need to learn to do penance, accept purification, and to learn to ask forgiveness.” Which sounds an awful lot like what we’re supposed to be doing during Lent anyway, right? Hey, just because the new elect preparing to join the Church on Easter are undergoing the Scrutinies during Lent doesn’t mean they’re the only ones who need to be taking a long look at themselves.
Ultimately, Lent is about each and every one of our own ongoing conversions which, as the Catechism reminds us, “is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right, by the admission of faults to one’s brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, [AND YES] endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness.”
Yeah yeah, I know, they just had to throw that last little bit in, didn’t they? Unfortunately, sometimes, it’s just part of the package, something we have to go through as we grow closer to God. But as bad as the persecution gets (and we’ve got a long way to go before we’ve seen the worst), just like in the short, things can still turn out okay in the end. “We can expect that evil will always launch attacks from the inside and the outside” the Pope said, “but the forces of good are also always present, and in the end, the Lord is stronger than evil.”