28 September – Memorial for St. Wenceslaus, Martyr; Memorial for St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs
Wenceslaus (907-929) was the son of Vratislav I, Duke of Bohemia, whose family had been converted by St. Cyril and St. Methodius, and Drahomira, daughter of a pagan chief, who was baptised on her wedding day but apparently never seriously took to the faith. He was the grandson and student of St. Ludmilla.
When his father was killed during a pagan backlash against Christianity, Wenceslaus ascended to power as the Duke of Bohemia and fought the pagans with prayer and patience. He was murdered by his brother Boleslaus at the door of a church. Though he was killed for political reasons, he is normally listed as a martyr since the politics arose from his faith. Miracles have been reported at his tomb, and he is the subject of the Christmas carol Good King Wenceslas.
– Patron Saint Index
Laurence Ruiz (1600–1637) had a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, both of whom were Christians. He learned Chinese and Tagalog from them, Spanish from the Dominicans whom he served as altar boy and sacristan. He was a professional calligrapher and documents transcriptionist. He was a member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary. He was a married layman, and the father of two sons and a daughter.
For unknown reasons, Laurence was accused of murder. He sought asylum on board a ship with three Dominican priests, St. Antonio Gonzalez, St. Guillermo Courtet, and St. Mguel de Aozaraza, a Japanese priest, St. Vincente Showozuka de la Cruz, and a layman St. Lazaro of Kyoto, a leper. Only when they were at sea did he learn that they were going to Japan during a time of intense Christian persecution.
Laurence could have gone to Formosa (modern Taiwan), but feared the Spaniards there would hang him, and so stayed with the missionaries as they landed at Okinawa. The group was soon exposed as Christian, arrested, and taken to Nagasaki. They were tortured in several ways for days. Laurence and the Japanese priest broke at one point, and were ready to renounce their faith in exchange for release, but after their moment of crisis, they reclaimed their faith and defied their tormentors. He was the first canonised Filipino martyr.
– Patron Saint Index
There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven:
A time for giving birth,
a time for dying;
a time for planting,
a time for uprooting what has been planted.
A time for killing,
a time for healing;
a time for knocking down,
a time for building.
A time for tears,
a time for laughter;
a time for mourning,
a time for dancing.
A time for throwing stones away,
a time for gathering them up;
a time for embracing,
a time to refrain from embracing.
A time for searching,
a time for losing;
a time for keeping,
a time for throwing away.
A time for tearing,
a time for sewing;
a time for keeping silent,
a time for speaking.
A time for loving,
a time for hating;
a time for war,
a time for peace.
What does a man gain for the efforts that he makes? I contemplate the task that God gives mankind to labour at. All that he does is apt for its time; but though he has permitted man to consider time in its wholeness, man cannot comprehend the work of God from beginning to end.
One day when Jesus was praying alone in the presence of his disciples he put this question to them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ And they answered, ‘John the Baptist; others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ It was Peter who spoke up. ‘The Christ of God’ he said. But he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this.
‘The Son of Man’ he said ‘is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’
“He has made everything appropriate to its time, and put timeless into their hearts”
We are familiar with the phrase, “All in good time”, meaning that everything will happen at the appropriate moment. It is easy to believe that for something good which we are waiting for, but how do you use that to explain something negative that has happened? I often wondered as a child, and even now as a grown person, why certain bad things happen, and why God allows them to happen. Recently the church has been mired with the sexual scandals of priests, with some reports that the Catholic faith is in crisis. There have even been calls for the Pope to step down. I admit that reading the details of the scandals (even a summary at that) was enough to sicken me. But more than that, this whole saga has also despaired me, as I am sure other members of the Catholic faith as well. We put our trust in these ordained ‘men of God’, but that trust is now broken. It hurts more because we had seen them as models of upright Christian goodness and beacons of faith, but they were really monsters in our midst. Why God, why our church, and why our faith? Why the children involved, and why in the first place, these men? Why were they put in our midst to begin with? If these are the sort of men who are ‘chosen’ to be shepherds of our faith, what kind of future for the church will we have for our lambs?
I cannot blame the people for not wanting to return to the affected churches, or any church for that matter. There is an anger that seethes in them — anger and disappointment. And what about the victims and their families? The church has let them down, we have felt let down. While the bulk of this scandal has so far been reported in the Americas, the effects and the doubts will reach out worldwide: if it can happen there, it can happen anywhere.
I don’t have an answer for all the whys, not just for what has happened, but for everything that hasn’t gone right, either in the world or in my own life. However, I hope I can retain in my heart a little seedling of hope, a seedling that one day may burst into fruition and become a tree that I can shelter under and hold onto in times of trouble. I wonder if the current crisis is one that is a test of faith for us all; not just for the church, but for us as individual parishioners, as followers of Christ. In essence, that is what it all boils down to — we are all at church because we follow Christ, we believe in Christ. The message of the Lord was revealed to us and we believe it. The perpetrators will come and go, but the message of eternal life lives forever.
That is not to say that I condone or side these priests and what they have done. If they have done wrong, then let them be judged according to law, both man-made and God. As for us, we cannot know what God’s plan is in the face of such a crisis. Perhaps it is a call by God to come together at this moment, this time that God deems appropriate, to strengthen our faith, so that when another time comes when the world is in crisis, we are more prepared to stand together and more steadfastly. Perhaps it is God’s hope for us to rebuild the church, even as we rebuild our faith. I don’t know. What I do know is that when I see my mother laugh merrily as she sings along with her church choir, or when the children at church look forward to Sunday school, or the pride I feel when my son sings “Jesus loves me this I know”, I know that that seed of faith, though small, is well and alive. There is hope in this seed, and that hope is rooted in more than what I see or don’t see. It is rooted in Jesus.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Lord, we pray for our church in this time of crisis and trial. May we collectively come together as God’s children to repair and rebuild the church and our own faith, and remember always that You are what holds us all together.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for the strength during our trials and tribulations. We cannot do this without You and we pray for continued guidance and strengthening of faith, even when we fail to see the whole picture.