Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Voice in the Wilderness

September is the month dedicated to the martyrs in Korea.  When Catholics hear the place names of the persecutions: Sinyu, Chonghai, Ulhae--memories come to mind, bringing a heaviness to the heart. And the memory of this time is not only distressful to Catholics but to all those who know the history of martyrdom in Korea. A bishop emeritus writing in a Catholic Weekly hopes this feeling of oneness with the martyrs will not disappear but act to stimulate a more dedicated life.

The Church is now researching, we are told by the bishop, the lives of  past and recent martyrs; news we all can be thankful for. In the past, looking for answers concerning the deaths of  Catholics who died at the hands of the Communist in the North, from 1949 to 1952, was not encouraged. The political stalemate in  Korea required a more prudent response, a desire not to put more live coals on a volatile situation. The need for caution has for the most part disappeared, and the process to beatify the 38 martyrs of the North is underway and nearing completion. The bishop, who has been involved with the beatification process, is asking his readers if they fully understand what is meant by "martyrdom." Whether they believe there are martyrs today and not only among Catholics. These are questions normally asked during the month of the martyrs.

There are many reasons for the questions, he explains. Today, there will be no "deny your faith or lose your head." Today's martyrs, called by many the nameless ones, our gray martyrs, will not be as easily recognizable nor their beliefs as clearly set forth as they were in the past.

Nowadays, it's not easy, says the bishop, to give up everything for one's belief or convictions.  Even when a person does sacrifice his or her life, whether actually or by refusing the material comforts of life, the reason for the sacrifice is often not apparent.          

We are now more conscious, living in our increasingly pluralistic world, that many of our citizens are being guided in life by very different values from our own Christian values. This moral discrepancy is an obstacle to our coming together and working for the common good. Even giving witness to one's strongly held moral convictions becomes difficult, and human actions, now often judged by personal convictions, have lost their intrinsic meanings. Those who speak out against the moral confusion are, like the martyrs we are honoring this month, voices in the wilderness. Nobody seems to be there to hear.

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