June 4 is Persecution Sunday
Among the Body of Christ, there are those who, in this day and age, are persecuted for the good fruit they bear for Christ. We remember and stand with these believers who are persecuted yet remain rooted in their faith. Let us pray today for these believers who bear good fruit in some of the harshest environments. You can find out more at https://www.opendoors.org/.
Religious Freedom Week is June 22-26
During Religious Freedom Week the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB.org) invites Catholics to pray, reflect, and act to promote religious freedom. Since 2018, under its patrons Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher, this week annually highlights how religious freedom allows the Church to live out our faith in public and to serve the common good.
Each day of the week focuses on a current threat to religious freedom:
- June 22 – Respect for Sacred Spaces
- June 23 – Seal of Confession
- June 24 – Religious freedom in Nicaragua
- June 25 – Religious student groups
- June 26 – Religious freedom in Nigeria
- June 27 – Faith at Work
- June 28 – Service to immigrants and refugees
- June 29 – Catholic Healthcare
For example, June 22 is dedicated to Respect for Sacred Spaces. Since civil unrest began in the US in May 2020, there have been at least 315 attacks against Catholic Churches in the US, with 47 in California, the highest of any state. While most attacks involve property destruction, like arson, graffiti, and destroying statues, others include disrupting Masses.
While this level of anti-Catholic vandalism is new to US Catholics of our generation, it has not reached the levels in Nigeria, the focus of June 26. Since 2009, over 50,000 Christians have been killed there by Islamic extremists; over 18,000 churches and 2,200 Christian schools have been set on fire; and so far this year over 1,000 Christians have been killed and over 700 kidnapped in Nigeria.
The other days of Religious Freedom Week concern freedom of conscience in practicing our faith. For examples of how saintly Catholic laity have responded to threats against religious freedom, consider viewing the following movies:
- A Man for All Seasons (1966) ~ St. Thomas More
- For Greater Glory (2012) ~ St. Jose Sanchez del Rio
- A Hidden Life (2019) ~ Blessed Franx Jagerstatter
The USCCB shares more ways to Pray, Reflect, and Act for Religious freedom: https://www.usccb.org/committees/religious-liberty/religious-freedom-week
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteous sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” ~ MT 5:10
Sources: “Church Attacks in US as of May 1, 2023” from CatholicVote.org; “Martyred Christians in Nigeria,” an Intersociety Report from VaticanNews.va on April 17, 2023