....a topic to ponder two days running, with the feast of Saints Peter and Paul yesterday, June 29th, and then the Roman Martyrs - slaughtered under Nero etc - today...
And also, this week, the Church honoured a Lithuanian Bishop, martryred under the Soviet occupation.
At one time, hearing about the cruelties inflicted by the Soviets and the martyrdom of the Church in the lands they occupied, was something that we in the West did with a sense of our own security and a recognition of the valour of these other people, remote from us and worthy of honour and veneration.
Today, the feeling is different.
There is a sense - a rather frightening sense - in which the reality of martyrdom seems nearer. People talk about religious freedom not as something that is taken for granted and recognised across the West, but as something vulnerable, something that is visibly being taken away from us. And the whole idea of "the West", a civilisation honouring human values centred on profound spiritual truths, is itself under threat and seems horribly vulnerable.
Defending marriage as the union of one man and one woman, openly opposing the deliberate abortion of an unborn baby, affirming that sexual activity outside the marriage bond is contrary to the moral law...all these things are essential to a wholesome and humane society. We can have a debate about these things, we can recognise the need to be open and tolerant of different opinions - but we cannot survive unless we are allowed to affirm the truth of male/female marriage and the protection of pre-born children.
And the cruel attempts to silence, undermine and destroy groups and individuals who seek to uphold the moral law do point the way to martyrdom...