Today, July 9th on the Julian Calendar, we commemorate many martyrs. The dreadful tragedy of the ethnic cleansing of Mosul last week weighs upon my heart, yet it is Sunday, and on this blessed day of our Lord, there is always cause for happiness. Rejoice, for the Lord is with you, we can confidently say to the holy martyrs, and indeed even to ourselves, as we face our own tribulations which may seem in comparison trivial, yet which are no less painful to endure.
One bright moment in the past week was the joyous arrival in Rome of Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, the persecuted Ethiopian Orthodox woman who was subjected to such cruelties by the vicious Sudanese government as to qualify as a Confessor of the faith. Confessors are those who are not martyred, but who nonetheless suffer gravely for Christianity; for example, Maximus the Confessor had his tongue removed. This woman was forced in an act of unimaginable and callous cruelty to give birth with her legs chained, which has apparently left her child disabled. I cannot imagine the pain this must cause, yet I cannot also help but imagine the wondrous joy she must now surely be experiencing, having been delivered from the clutches of her homicidal relatives and her homicidal rulers.
That any family should seek to put to death a member of their own blood for confessing a different faith shows a perversity of thought that cannot be reconciled with human decency. Yet within the early church, many did suffer in this manner; our Lord himself warned us this would be so. "The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law."
Therefore, let us continue our prayers for all the persecuted church: martyrs, confessors, and especially those who persecute them, so that, like St. Paul, they may be moved by God to receive the Gospel.