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Christian bravery edition

When I first learned that there was going to be a satanic convention in Scottsdale, Arizona, my first thought was that there would have to be Rosaries of reparation.  So, I got in touch with my good friend Jesse Romero – who lives in Arizona – and told him that if he organized a rally, I would be there.

So, last weekend, I spent three days in Arizona to pray with fellow Catholics for reparations regarding the sins of impurity, impiety, idolatry, sorcery, blasphemy and sacrilege, and to pray for the conversion of hearts of those involved in the convention.  Our rally was very well attended, spending three hours each day from noon to three praying Rosaries, the litany of the Precious Blood, the litany of Loretto, the Chaplet of St. Michael, psalms, and a host of other prayers.
On the first day of the rally, the devil immediately reached into his bag of parlor tricks as the crucifix on my Rosary broke in half without explanation.  Another participant noticed that a bagful of rosaries that was kept in a closed box had all broken inside the bag, releasing all the beads.  Again, there is no explanation for this beyond a paranormal cause.  But we continued our prayers, undaunted, and without much incident.

Of course, the occasional car would drive by while the passengers shouted obscenities, hailed the devil, flashed devil horns, and the like.  But far more were the vehicles that drove by, honking their horns in support, giving us thumbs up, and even shouting “Ave Maria!” and “Viva Christo Rey!” as they drove by.
There was one occurrence that took place at these rallies that surprised many of our participants.  On the first and last day a small group of protestants wheeling a portable amplifier tried drowning out our Rosaries with loud messages like “Mary can’t save you,” “The Rosary is a pagan prayer,” and “The Catholic Church practices idolatry.”  There were other protestants present to protest the convention who kept to their own area, but this particularly belligerent group thought it was more important to confront us than the satanists in the convention.  It seems that the devil can and will use the spirit of rebellion and division to disrupt whatever threatens his plans.  Thankfully, the police were able to quickly de-escalate the situation, and our prayers continued without incident.

On the evening of the second day of the rally, those of us who helped lead and coordinate things were treated to a fine Italian dinner provided by a generous family.  After dinner, Jesse asked some of us to give a few words of encouragement to the group, and I thought I would share with you what I said.

When Jesse asked me to speak for about 15 minutes, I honestly hadn’t any idea of what I would say, but since he used the phrase, “give them some words of encouragement,” I thought that the best topic for the evening would be the topic of Christian bravery.

I started by mentioning that I am frequently thanked for having the courage to stand up and speak the truth, especially when the truth is unpopular or when speaking the truth draws scorn.  But speaking truth, even when it is unpopular, isn’t really courage.  Can a man be said to be brave if he stands up to an attacker if he has a lion standing with him?  Truth possesses its own potency, and the marvelous thing about truth is that it is indomitable.  Those who stand on truth honestly have nothing to fear.

So, speaking truth to power is not so much an act of bravery as it is an act of fidelity.

So, then, what is bravery?  True Christian bravery is nothing short of sacrificial love.  It is the willingness to suffer for the good of the beloved.

The fact of the matter is that everyone suffers to some degree or other for an object of their affection.  For instance, if you love chocolate, you might suffer the consumption of broccoli on your dinner plate in order to then have the chocolate.  That kind of suffering, however, is for the possession of a good.  Men suffer long hours in the office so that they can make more money.  Football players suffer physical pain to win football games.  But all this suffering is centered on the self and what the individual gets in return for their investment in the suffering.  Often, you’ll hear messages from the media about how “brave” someone was to face a difficult challenge in order to win a prize, but the truth is that this is not bravery.  Not really.  Despite the suffering, the difficulty, or the discouragement an individual faces when meeting a challenge, there is always something to be gained, so what is then called bravery is nothing more than “an agreed upon cost.”  In other words, the prize to be gained comes at the price of a certain amount of sweat equity and some risk of failure.

But real Christian bravery is the willingness to face challenges out of love, without consideration for anything to be gained in this life.  And the example I gave for this is the story of St. Adrian.

Adrian and his wife Natalia were from Nicomedia in what is now called Turkey.  During the persecutions of Emperor Maximian, Adrian, a member of the Herculian Guard, was put in charge of rounding up and torturing Christians to death.  He was so taken by the joy of these Christians who would sing in the midst of the worst suffering that he finally asked them what rewards they expected to receive for their suffering. Their reply was that no eyes have seen, and no ears have heard, and neither has it ever entered into the mind of men the wonderful things that God prepared for those who love Him.

Marveling at this, Adrian wished to know more about the God of the Christians and after learning about Our Lord, Adrian decided that he also would become a Christian. He ordered the scribes to enter his name, declaring that “I am a Christian also, and I die gladly for the Christ.”

When the emperor learned of this, he confronted Adrian, asking if he had gone out of his mind.  Adrian’s reply was that he had “not gone out of my mind but come to my senses.”  Enraged, the emperor ordered him to be starved until he changed his mind.  His wife, Natalia (also a saint), was a secret Christian and become overjoyed at the news that her husband of only 13 months had converted.  She visited him in the prison, bringing hidden supplies of food and water.  When this was found out, the women were forbidden to visit the prison.  So, Natalia cut her hair and wore men’s clothing, continuing to bring him food.

The next day, Adrian was ordered to be severely tortured by having all the bones in his extremities broken on an anvil.  Natalia made every effort to encourage her husband, helping him to maintain his faith.  When the emperor told Adrian that he could end this torture by calling upon the gods, but Adrian refused.  St. Natalia, fearing that her husband would falter in his faith, asked that Adrian should be tortured first among the Christians, and asked that she be allowed to place his hands and feet on the anvil herself.

First his fingers and toes were broken, and then his hands and feet, followed by his arms and legs.  But despite the excruciating pain he felt in his body, and the pain she suffered in her heart, neither of them wavered in their faith but only grew in love for each other and love for God.  The executioners then began to cut off his limbs with swords, beginning with his hands and feet, then his forearms, and so forth.  But despite all this pain, Adrian would die for the love of God.

St. Natalie would die a short time later.

One could imagine witnessing this scene and marvel at the ability of any man suffering so intensely and for no visible reason.  But the truth is, if you love someone, you will suffer everything to prove your love.  And that willingness to suffer we call Christian bravery.

Fulton Sheen once told the story of a little girl who was washing dishes with her mother.  Noticing some scars on her mother’s hands, the little girl asked, “Mommy.  Where did you get those scars?”  Her mother replied, “When you were just a baby, there was a fire, and your crib was engulfed in flames.  So, I reached through those flames to pull you out, and my hands were badly burned.”  Her daughter, now looking at her mother’s hands then said, “Mommy.  I love your scars.”

When we go out into the world, striving for the salvation of souls, we do so not out of personal gain, but because we love the souls entrusted to us and because we love the God Who made them.  And seeking the salvation of souls will always come with suffering.  We will suffer insults, betrayal, loss of reputation, loss of employment, and in some cases, loss of life.  But this is what is at the very heart of the faith we profess to hold.  As Sheen said, “If souls are not saved, then nothing is saved.”  And in order to seek the salvation of souls, we have to be brave.  We must be willing to suffer.  Nothing in life is more important than this.

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As always, please pray for the Church, for our bishops, priests, deacons, and for Lepanto's mission as we continue to unearth the truth and "restore all things to Christ." (Col. 1:20)

Christus Vincit!

Michael Hichborn
Lepanto Insititute