REAL FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST
When I am in Rome, I like visiting quiet place, completely separated from the city traffic, full of incredible beauty, where three temples are in an eucalyptus grove – these are Tre Fontane (Three Fountains), situated a few kilometres from the Basilica of St. Paul behind the Walls (San Paolo Fuori le Mura).
Followers of Christ
In the ancient times this place was called Ad Aquas Salvias (At the Salvians Waters) and it is mainly famous for the fact that it was the year 67, when death execution of St. Paul took place. In this place there were also executions of many thousand Christians; the most popular execution – the mass execution took place during the reign of Diocletian in the year 303. At that time St. Zenon, was killed and his 10 203 legionaries who had been baptized and were Christians.
Diocletian, during whose reign, beside Neron and Domicjan, there were the biggest persecutions of the Christians, sentenced them to death, but before the mass execution was done, he had ordered them erect gigantic termas of his name – Terme di Diocleziano, today near Stazione Termini in Rome. Hence, in the period of the Renaissance, saved central buildings of the termas, Michael the Angel rebuilt into a wonderful basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martyri – Our Lady the Angelic and Martyrs – to commemorate these martyrs, who gave their blood for Christ.
When in the Roman Martyrology we read descriptions of terrible tortures of Christians which had taken place for three decades in the Roman Empire, we do not always realize one unusually essential issue: no matter how strong an allegation would be, how many evidences would be presented, that a defendant belonged to a Christian sect arousing disgust among the Romans, this matter of saving life appears in an extremely straightforward way. It was necessary to deny accusations in front of a judge and make a sacrifice to Roman gods in his presence. And the man, instead of being crucified, burnt alive, thrown to wild animals, or murdered in a different cruel way, returned home, as free as a bird. So, was the Roman Empire which was powerful and raising fear in that world, was as naive as a child, that it was so easy to deceive? Nothing more wrong! The Empire perfectly knew what it was doing! The man renouncing God in the presence of a judge, was renouncing everything what was the most valuable and the holiest! And he was renouncing eternal life. At that time he was completely somebody different and it was sufficient for Rome which knew very well what it was doing. But hundred thousands of Christians preferred to die as martyrs in this world in order to gain eternal life in another real world, than take advantage of this allegedly easy rescue.
When today I am walking in the eucalyptus grove, entering one of the three churches in this beautiful park – the church of Santa Maria Scala Coeli ( from the apparition of Our Lady in this place),built on catacombs containing debris of these nine thousand martyrs, I realize the fact that for two millenniums – and it will be so till the end of the world – nothing has changed in the most essential issue: ‘and somebody who renounces me to people, I will also renounce him to my Father who is in Heaven’ (see Mt 10.33). The message of Christ is extremely clear in the Gospels as usually. And it must be said that regardless of how the XX century brought the biggest number of saint martyrs for faith since the ancient times, the bloody persecutions omitted Europe. Truly speaking, they omitted it for the time being, because for many years European politicians lose their temper, doing an odd spurt in order to cause religious conflicts in the European Union: here, the feast of Christmas is forthcoming and again, the English people (and not only) will make a cabaret spectacle with the Santa Claus for us, a Christmas tree or postcards sent to relatives with Christmas wishes. For now, these attempts arouse laughter and pity, more and more national and international institutions are being engaged in this fight for ‘progress and tolerance’, for example, Tribunal in Strasburg which, being driven with a glorious enthusiasm to the fight against crucifix – in its opinion: a fight for ‘rule of law’- was breaching the law itself, exceeding its competence.
Christian followers of the ‘progress’
However, there is a completely different problem. Here we, the millions of citizens of our country, are, on the one hand, although not all of us, at the Holy Mass on Sunday, we share the Christmas wafer with one another on Christmas eve, we sacrifice food on Great Saturday, we are baptized, contract marriages in the church and on our last road we are accompanied by the cross - the sign of eternal salvation. So, are we the members of the same Church like those martyr legionaries? Well, maybe not completely! Although we are not witnesses of persecutions like at the times of Diocletian or like in Asia, in fact every day brings us information about profanation of the crucifix and other religious symbols and about more primitive and aggressive blasphemies, attacking, strangely enough, only the Christians, and especially the Catholics. All the time, media are promoting a prominent ‘philosopher and an expert of theology’ whose confessions can cause an attack of laughter in a normal man; or a ‘prominent artist’ who, being reflecting on human existence, or the existence of another creature, and to the delight of media and some authorities (ordeals, titles, invitations to media) he is nailing genitals or a hen to the cross, or he gives an expression of his ‘creative expression’ in a different, vulgar and primitive way! It is again a progressive European man is pouring urine onto people praying in Wrocław, beside the complete passivity of authorities (they have been engaged in something different recently) and so on.
However, what is the oddest is our reaction to these blasphemies. In the country where there are most Catholics, we do not react to these most primitive, aggressive, insolent provocations which are breaching law, although they concern us directly. Nobody demands from us giving a testimony of our faith through martyrdom but shouldn’t we make any gesture of protest: turn off TV set telling lies, or switch a different channel….- is it so difficult? We should not give money to an editor of magazine popularizing ‘a mission of tolerance and modernity’, whose haunted babble simply makes a normal man feel sick! Shops, shopping centres are overload with goods of various companies. Do we have to buy a good just of this and that company which is allegedly a shopping centre but money it earns from us spends on ridiculing us, our faith and tradition, on humiliating those thanks to whom it exists?
After all, it not was for us, customers, viewers, consumers, these odd creations fighting for ‘progress and tolerance’ would not simply exist! They lose the sense of their existence and it is enough for them to face this perspective and become humble and quiet!
I am not a theologian and I would not like to express my opinion in these issues, but I have got some doubts. Although the Church is one and will remain, as Christ assured us (and which was not completely understood by his enemies), are we the members of the same Church like those legionaries? When some people, giving a testimony of their faith, died and die as martyrs, other people, attending the Holy Mass on Sunday, will not do anything when our holiest symbols are slandered? Every day they buy magazines whose sense of existence is based on attacking the Church of Christ? Because the Church is not ours, it is Christ’s, who is its invisible head? They repeat like parrots thoughtless rubbish, not so much of adults at home, but adults of television who are ‘philosophers’, and whose sense of existence is based on attacking us? They vote for politicians who use our money to mobilize forces in order to protect marches of ‘tolerance’, and whose distinguishing feature is not tolerance but a strong attempt of provoking, but they are blind and deaf to vulgar attack on believers? Well, it is optimistic that each of us will receive answers to these questions at the right moment.