It comes as no surprise to say that we are living in uncertain political times, where we fear for the loss of our liberties and the future of our country. I will go as far as to say that evil is being called good and good is being called evil. Catholics are being bullied by the Obama administration with the threat of losing our precious religious liberty with the passing of the HHS mandate. Not surprisingly, the mandate is proposed falsely by the media as “progress” for women’s health while painting the Bishops’ leadership in this Fortnight For Freedom as an archaic attempt to suppress women.
It is important to remember, however, that there is nothing new under the sun and that we already have the victory through Christ. Many have gone before us in the face of persecution. In fact, some of the boldest of those who stood in the face of tyranny- even unto death – were very young.
The movie For Greater Glory could not have come at a better time. There was a dark time in Mexico’s history where the Catholic Church underwent one of her fiercest persecutions in history ever. Mexican President Plutarco Elias Calle was of the same arrogant mindset that progress meant to “defanaticize” the country (ie. to destroy the Catholic Church) and he passed laws outlawing monastic religious orders, forbade public worship and savagely executed countless of priests and Catholics all in the name of progress.
But the people fought back and created the Cristeros- an army for Christ. Among the Cristeros was a boy by the name of José Sánchez del Río. He was around 14 years old at the time of his martyrdom. He would beg his mother to let him fight with the Cristeros. Eventually she allowed him to be the flag bearer. During battle he was captured when he gave his horse away to a general who’s horse had been killed. Calle’s soldiers promised his release if he chose to denounce Christ, which he refused. They forced him to watch the execution of a fellow Cristero but José responded by encouraging his friend telling him they would see each other again in heaven. In response, the soldiers cut the bottoms of his feet, cut him with a machete, stabbed him with bayonets and forced him to march to his grave but, still, he refused to denounce Christ shouting only, “Viva Cristo Rey!” Finally am enraged commander shot him in the head.
This was not the first nor will it be tha last time the Church is hated. Hitler shared a similar deadly anti clerical agenda. He took it a step further and shrewdly targeted youth first, knowing that by extinguishing every religious organization or youth group except for his own nefarious Hitler Youth, he could control a generation to mold to his idea of “progress”. We know that he banished and mass murdered priests and religious along with Jews.
During these times, there were some brave youths who refused to be brain washed. In my readings of the Hitler Youth I came across the story of Sophie Scholl, a girl who was influenced by the writings of Cardinal John Henry Newman on the dignity of persons. She discovered her brother, Hans, and two of his friends had started the underground group called The White Rose. She joined them in distributing antiwar leaflets during Nazi Germany in secret despite the threat to their lives. They were eventually captured and beheaded. But during their phony court trials they continued to fearlessly speak up and challenge the Fuehrer and his lies. Both marched to their deaths with heads held high that people marveled at their courage.
I also read the story of 3 teens; Helmuth Hϋbener, Rudi Wobbe and Karl Schnibbe. Like the Scholls, they purchased a duplicating machine and created anti Hitler leaflets exposing the lies and murders of the Third Reich. At night they would sneak them in mail boxes and public places. They vowed that if one of them got caught they would not expose the others. Eventually Helmuth was arrested and so were the other two. They were held in solitary confinement for 6 months and repeatedly tortured and beaten but Helmuth bravely resisted to the end taking the majority of the blame unto himself and thus preserving the lives of his two friends. He was beheaded at the age of seventeen and the other two sentenced to long prison terms.
We should not be discouraged or even surprised at the trials we face to hold on to our religious freedom. Evil knows that by targeting religion- especially that pesky truth-telling Catholicism, it has an easier time silencing the conscience. But like a buoyant object held under water, truth has a habit of always rising up no matter how fiercely it is pressed or weighed down. (As I type this, it brings to mind Truth Himself and the Resurrection. Even death could not keep him “under”). We must not lose hope. Instead let us follow the example and inspiration of these stories and resolve to be no less bold than these children in our fight.
Viva Cristo Rey!
Copyright 2012 Victoria Garaitonandia Gisondi