Queens, New York, July 10th, 2020: A 100 year old statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary outside Cathedral Prep School and Seminary was spray painted with the word “idol” by an unknown individual.
Boston, Massachusetts, July 11th, 2020: A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary is set on fire outside the church of St. Peter’s Parish. The perpetrator is unknown.
Ocala, Florida, July 11th, 2020: A man crashed a minivan through the front door of Queen of Peace Catholic Church while parishioners were preparing for morning Mass. He set the building on fire with a can of gasoline, fled, and was later apprehended.
Los Angeles County, July 11th, 2020: Firefighters fought a four-alarm blaze at San Gabriel Mission, founded on the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, 1771, by St. Junípero Serra. The building sustained massive damage, and the cause is still under investigation.
He who has eyes to see and ears to hear should recognize these things for what they are: persecution. And not just any kid of persecution, but religious persecution, attacks on places and things honoring Our Lady, religious persecutions taking place right here in the United States of America, where we just celebrated 244 years of Independence from England, and 229 years of protection of the freedom of religion, guaranteed by the 1st Amendment to the Constitution. Yet, this current rash of persecution is nothing new. In the 1920’s, thirty years before they began their attacks on civil rights activists, the Ku Klux Klan was busy attacking Catholics. From intimidation to murder, the KKK persecuted Catholics across America. One of their letters to their members said, “Drop not your fiery cross but carry it over vale and hill till pagan Roman Catholicism is expelled from our fair and free American life forever.” But our persecution goes back even further.
During the framing of the Constitution, they came to debate requiring religious tests for office. A pamphleteer outside the Constitutional Convention distributed a warning that if there were no religious tests, then “the people of America may perhaps choose Representatives who have no religion at all, and that Pagans and Mahometans may be admitted into offices.” If there were no religious tests, it warned, even the Pope could become president. Yes, the early colonists of this great nation, where less than 1% of the population were Catholics, most of whom were living in the colony of Maryland, put us in the same group as pagans and Muslims, and worried that we could one day gain power in the government. During the debate, it was thought to be ludicrous that a nation of godly people would elect godless people to office, so the issue of religious tests was dropped. But the persecution of Catholics in America is even older than our country’s founding documents.
Massachusetts’ “Act against Jesuits and Popish Priests” passed in 1700 literally kicked Catholics out of the colony. Rhode Island at that time forbade Catholics from serving in any public office. Fifty years prior, the Puritans, who fled England because the government-mandated Anglican religion was “too Catholic,” passed an anti-priest law in 1647 that threatened death for “all and every Jesuit, seminary priest, missionary or other spiritual or ecclesiastical person made or by any authority, power or jurisdiction, derived, challenged or pretended, from the Pope or See of Rome.”
My brother Knights of Columbus, our recent persecutions are nothing new. They are the cross we bear as Catholic Christians. We are persecuted for our allegiance to the See of Peter. We are persecuted for our devotion to our Blessed Mother. We are persecuted because we are the Church of Christ, the Church which He instituted to bring us freedom from death. We are persecuted because we venerate the woman who crushed the head of the serpent. We have always been persecuted. As our culture grows more and more godless, as we elect more and more godless people to office, our persecutions will continue, and they will likely get worse. We must cling to the Cross of Christ. We must stay close to His mother, our mother, as John the disciple did. Whenever we are challenged, whenever we are dealt another blow, whenever the godless attack that which we hold dear, let us call to mind what Jesus told His disciples: “You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.”
Our freedom, as Catholic Christians, is freedom from death. The more we are persecuted, the more we are hated by all because of His name, the more we should be encouraged. With every persecution we endure, give glory to His name for the freedom He has purchased for us through His sacrifice on Calvary. With every ring of the bells of consecration, let our freedom ring.
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.