Almighty God through his holy Mother is to raise up great saints who will surpass in holiness most other saints as much as the cedars of Lebanon tower above little shrubs… They will combat with one hand, and build with the other: they will overthrow, rout and crush heretics and their heresies, schismatics and their schisms, idolaters and their idolatries, sinners and their wickedness; they will build the temple of the true Solomon and the mystical city of God. (Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, part 1, ch. 1, start of art. 4).
Saint Louis de Montfort foretold that God will raise up the greatest saints known to humankind when our Church is at its most vulnerable. These future saints are often called the Great Saints of the Latter Times. Wearing the armour of God and filled with great zeal, passion, and holiness, they will be indestructible, unbreakable and undefeatable.
Today’s rise of radical liberalism has caused our religious liberties to be pried out of our hands. And sadly, many would rather stay silent than revolt against the majority. If you listen carefully to the voices of the unheard, they all say one thing in common: even when it felt like the world was against us, we dared to believe.
You can still hear them today. Listen to the voices of the 21 Coptic Christian Martyrs who uttered their final words, Jesus help me, as they were being slaughtered by ISIS. Listen to the hushed voices coming from the underground church in China, where Churches are being demolished, crucifixes are being destroyed, and Bibles are being seized by Chinese authorities. Listen to the voices of those at university campuses, schools and in the workplace who are constantly being attacked for their views.
But even though tough times are ahead, the light of Christ will never be extinguished. In the words of English Catholic priest and theologian, Roland Knox (1888-1957): The whole story of the Church is one which imitates the story of her divine Master; she dies and she rises again. She was buried in the catacombs; she rose again with Constantine. She died in the Dark Ages; she rose again with Charlemagne. She died with the Renaissance; she rose again with the saints of the Counter-Reformation. Just as though our Church is being buried under the ashes of destruction, she will rise again with the saints of today. For the price of eternal life is carrying the Cross and it is in times of persecution that God raises the greatest saints whose voices will forever echo across the centuries.
Listen to the voices of the Early Christians. They were burnt alive as living torches to light Nero’s garden and thrown to ferocious lions. They had no power, no money, no status, but turned the world upside down. The Church prospers under persecution. As the early Christian author, Tertullian, once said in 197AD, The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians. Their blood provided a solid foundation for the history of the Church thereafter.
Listen to the voices of the tens of thousands of persecuted Japanese Christians in the 17th century during the Tokugawa period. Christians were tortured and forced to spit on or stomp on a picture of Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary as proof of their renunciation. Out of this persecution rose Nagasaki’s underground church to stop the Church from dying out in Japan. Today’s remaining Japanese Christians are a reminder that just like Christ suffered before His resurrection, some of the greatest souls emerge from adversity.
Listen to the voice of Fr Timothy Leonard, (brother of the famous Rev. Dr William Leonard who taught Sacred Scripture at St Patrick’s seminary, Sydney), an Irish Columbian missionary – who suffered a cruel death at the hands of the Communists in China in 1929 as he celebrated Mass and preached the Gospel. He knew that death awaited him but had in mind the martyr’s crown. He said, “What is it but a bad quarter of an hour – think of the reward”.
Listen to the voices of the Cristeros, Soldiers of Christ, who lost their lives in the Cristero War in Mexico which took place between 1926 and 1928 as they rebelled against the Mexican government’s anti-Catholic, anti-clerical policies and obliteration of religious freedoms. Many priests were tortured and murdered. Out of this crisis rose young Saint José Sánchez del Río (1913-1928) who died at the age of 14 on his quest to defend religious liberty. When José was captured by soldiers, he was forced to make a choice: surrender and deny his faith or die out of sheer love for Christ. He chose the latter. Tortured and beaten, the soldiers cut the soles of his feet and forced him to walk barefoot to his grave. We can still hear his last words, “Long live Christ the King! Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe!”.
Just as our Church started with the blood and water that flowed from the side of Christ as He hung dead on the cross, it is the blood of the many persecuted Christians that will sustain her. Christ our crucified King paid the ultimate price so that we can share in His glory.
Today, when the world is against you, will you join the lineage of great martyrs who would rather die than renounce their faith in Christ? Will you join the next wave of great saints who will rise to defend our broken Church as she is being attacked from within and without? As Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first”
(John 15:18). Daring to believe in an age of disbelief is not easy, but the final reward will be great.