Sanguis Martyrum Semen Christianorum

Amidst all the regular discord between the Church and secular society, saints are still being born into eternal life. Just today, news hit that the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul (Iraq), Paulos Faraj Raho, was found dead after being kidnapped and held for ransom since the 29th of February. In the war-torn region of Mosul, Archbishop Raho was seized after having celebrated the Stations of the Cross in his cathedral and taken away; two of his bodyguards and his driver were shot dead during the conflict. In addition to being an elderly man, Raho also had a serious heart condition for which he was on regular medication. While it still isn't clear if he was assassinated or died of natural causes, the fact that he was so violently abducted and denied the normal means of medical treatment both point toward a terrible death in any case. The news of Archbishop Raho's death has rocked the Iraqi people, and was even the impetus for an all-out search for his whereabouts on the part of the nation's prime minister and military. In the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI has similarly expressed his deepest grief over the archbishop's death, and proclaimed the kidnapping "an act of inhuman violence that offends the dignity of the human being."

I don't want to jump the gun here, but this is precisely the kind of situation from which martyrs arise. In times of persecution, when the faith is subjected to the whims of state and politics, courageous men and woman submit their lives most fully to the God whom they love. In this case, Archbishop Raho must have known that what he was doing by publicly celebrating Masses and other liturgies, especially in a hostile environment, would draw lots of attention; most of it initially turned out to be bad attention. However, now that he has died at the hands of a terrorist organization (in one way or another), that attention is bound to become much more profound, and even perhaps a cause for conversion.

As I recently quoted in a previous post, the early Latin writer, Tertullian, is attributed the saying that "the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Christian faith," and I cannot think of a better modern-day example than this. Although we are often led to believe that the Church prospers most easily when everyone feels fuzzy toward everyone else, the fact of the matter is that for 2,000 years conflict and strife has provided the continuing life of the Catholic Church. While our aim must be peace, since that is what we believe God desires most fully for us both here and in heaven, we must also take note that the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ is laden with the depths of suffering and the most excruciating agony imaginable. Our redemption came forth from the pierced side of Christ on the Cross, in his Precious Blood and in his Body, scourged and crucified for our sake. If we are followers of Christ then we also must die with Christ, and I'm inclined to believe that Archbishop Raho did precisely that. Only time will tell the details of his death, but for now we ought to pray for him and for his local church, that they see the great honor with which the Lord has graced them: the death of his faithful one.