SEVEN PRACTICAL WAYS TO HELP OUR PERSECUTED BRETHREN
Pray More: Both quantity and quality matter. Do what you can. Don't stay in church all day unless you're a monk or nun; but don't be afraid of stepping inside a church other than at Sunday Mass either. Maybe pick one day every week to offer up "everything you can" for them. I would like to hear our persecuted brethren named in our Intercessions at Mass and other prayers with the same fervor as a mother praying for her only son who is in a war zone. ("Out of sight, out of mind..." Let us not forget them!) Post a reminder on your fridge and a prayer card in your Bible or prayer book.
Fast in Some Way: Do something - that's better than nothing! You're not St. Francis of Assisi, but you are you, and God wants your fasting too. Perhaps every Friday, maybe Wednesday as well, omit something you like or eat less. Give up your favorite sin for at least a day or an hour (or even better, forever!). Or perhaps fast from "electronic device time" in favor of prayer or spending time with family. We all can give something up - or several things. The homeless really need clothes as it gets colder: purge your unused wardrobe. Just do it - let it go and feel the joy you've been missing. Don't wait until Lent to begin fasting!
Almsgiving: Pray about what you can do (if not now, then when you can); then stick to what you have decided upon. It's good to feel stretched a little; our persecuted brethren are stretched a whole lot. In addition to your local parish, community, or religious order, consider supporting a cause that moves your heart - whether people in need, evangelization, education, or those who serve them. God will multiply your gift and reward you.
Sacrifices: Sacrifices, when done with faith and love for Christ, have tremendous power to help save souls. They are the "firepower" behind our prayers. St. Therese, Co-Patroness of the Missions, said: "My weapons are prayer and sacrifice." Jesus promised St. Faustina to save a soul for "every stitch" she made while sewing. WOW... Maybe we won't be granted such a sweet deal, but even offering up your daily duties with love, and adding some extra little sacrifices of things you would rather not do, may actually help set prisoners free, protect the innocent, and convert the hateful around the world. I remember young school child in the U.S. who heard about widespread slavery happening in some country; she asked her teacher if she could do something, and after a brief campaign of giving by the families at her school, literally hundreds of people's freedom were bought back. Amazing! I'm sure she did not even see this as a sacrifice. Christ redeemed us from our sins, and we, His beloved disciples, by humbly cooperating with His grace can actively participate in the salvation of others through our human efforts. Venerable Fulton Sheen often said that there is nothing worse than "wasted suffering"!
Little Acts of Love: This is another powerhouse of grace. Do an act of love for someone you live with, today. Do something you know you should do, and do it with love. Also do something they would never expect. Be creative. Ask the Holy Spirit to inspire you. And reach out to the poor and needy in some way. Visit a soup kitchen, shelter, hospital, nursing home, or neighbor. Ask forgiveness from or offer forgiveness to a family member or loved one; no one deserves it, but we all need it! Share your faith with someone at work, when shopping, at the gym, or anywhere. You are a missionary of Christ! Don't be a couch-potato Christian. God made you for greatness: start living up to it.
Receive the Sacraments Frequently: How foolish we would be if we thought we could do anything without God's grace. That's why we need the Sacraments. Go to daily Mass when you can. Go to Confession regularly - at least once a month, but maybe twice. Receive Communion as often as you can (in the state of grace, of course). Try to make at least a weekly Holy Hour. If you're very ill or feel useless, ask a priest to pray over you and perhaps give you the Anointing of the Sick. Whenever we make a good Confession or receive Communion worthily, we are restored to our Baptismal innocence in the sight of God. How beautiful! And how often we forget this tremendous reality.
Be Radically Faithful to God's Will: This means doing my best to carry out what I believe God wants from me each day according to my state of life. Fidelity is very difficult, but the results are astounding like radiation from a supernova (this should be seen positively - not as destroying planets around it, but as giving birth to entirely new solar systems)! Sometimes love hurts and puts unhealthy relationships to an end; but this is only so new healthy relationships can form! Just think of a faithful father, mother, friend, or loved one who means the world to you; now be that person for someone else. The more faithful we are to God, the more He will bless us - and all those for whom we pray. And don't deceive yourself - fidelity means actually doing what we should. "Do or do not - there is no try." -Yoda
Following the clarion call of Pope Francis, let us each prayerfully ask God how (not if) He wants us to support our persecuted brothers and sisters, then put this into action and encourage others to do the same (tell all your Facebook Friends!). Remember: God is never outdone in generosity. I truly believe God will rain down mighty graces upon the Church and the whole world if we do this ASAP. God bless you, and may the True Force of the Holy Spirit be with you!
+Br. Philip Maria Allen, CFR
St. Leopold Friary
Yonkers, NY, USA