Saturday, August 31, 2013

Silence of God

A columnist of the Catholic Times remembers a time during her second year of college, when a professor referred to Shusaku Endo's novel Silence. She doesn't remember the context, and it had nothing to do with her major, but even today, she says, when she hears the novel mentioned, the words spoken by the professor come to mind: "Trample! Trample! I more than anyone know of the pain in your foot. Trample! It was to be trampled on by men that I was born into this world. It was to share men's pain that I carried my cross!" These words of Endo, which he believed could have been spoken by Jesus, to console the torment of the undecided protagonist, and as a summation of the incarnation mystery, made a big impression on the columnist.

She was captivated by the novel, with its 17th century background, during a time when members of the Church, because of the persecution, had to forget God to survive. This was the dilemma the characters of the novel had to face, and the portrayal by Endo is detailed and vivid.


During the reading of the novel, the question that kept coming to mind, she said, was: Where is God when humans are confronting pain? Would we side with God or deny him, as the protagonist of Silence had done? she asked herself. Would she have the strength of faith, she asks repeatedly, to remain with Jesus, despite the recurring doubts? Thinking deeply on the meaning of martyrdom, as a personal option--should the opportunity ever present itself--was one of the results of her reading, she said.

We should be hearing about the beatification of 124 Korean martyrs, she goes on to say, whose petitions have been presented to Rome. This official presentation was made in 2009 and there is a chance that a resolution will be forthcoming next year. The Korean Catholics have this as one of their intentions in their communal and private prayers.
There are still many who have to give up their lives for their faith, but today more people, she says, are called to be "white martyrs" in contrast to the "red martyrs" who have given their lives for their faith. Tertullian (155-230 AD) is quoted frequently:"The oftener we are mowed down by you, the more our numbers grow; the blood of Christians is the seed of the faith." In Korean, the spirituality of the martyrs has given birth to a lively Church.

In the world today, as we are confronted by materialism, secularism, relativism, individualism, and the like, what is required is the strength of the martyrs to overcome the onslaughts of these troubling "isms" that challenge us daily.  The virtues that our ancestors in the faith have shown us by giving up their lives, we, the white martyrs, should manifest, she says, by living our lives with courage, self-sacrifice and love. The example of the martyrs, she hopes, will enliven our faith and the faith of all the Catholics throughout the world, blessing us with a new fruitfulness.

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