When a Catholic Christian is killed because of his or her “faith in God the Father, in the Son Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit,” the Church uses the allocution “in odium fidei,” opening the door to canonical beatification.
Fides Agency’s annual report, published a few days ago, informs us that in 2022 there were 18 “missionaries” killed in the world, 18 women and men who, by virtue of the Baptism they received–which makes every Christian a missionary–have given their lives to serve Christ in the poorest, weakest, most marginalized, sickest brothers and sisters, whom the society of success and opulence considers and in fact rejects as not worthy of any attention. Missionaries and witnesses of faith, hope and charity, without explicitly using the term “martyr” so as not to anticipate official recognition, which is the responsibility of the Church alone. Notwithstanding, however, the word martyr is derived from the Greek word “martyras,” meaning witness.
The very scanty record we have tells us of priests being killed on their way to celebrate Mass.
A religious woman, a doctor, killed while on call at the diocese’s medical center, committed to treating anyone who asked for help, regardless of gender, religion, ethnicity, tribal affiliation or otherwise.
Seven priests and two religious women killed in Africa. A nun killed during an assault on the mission where she worked: instead of thinking about securing her own life, she ran to protect the girls housed in the dormitory (cases of sexual assault and kidnapping for any foul trade are commonplace!).
A lay worker killed in the street on his way to church to lead a liturgy of the Word in the absence of a priest.
Two Italian women also among the missionaries killed: Sister Maria de Coppi, 60 years in Mozambique, and Sister Luisa Dell’Orto, 20 years in Haiti, after serving the “least of these” in Cameroon and Madagascar.
While every day, even rightly so, we are informed about deaths in war, deaths by Covid, deaths on the job, road homicides, femicides, the mainstream media drops an almost total veil of silence on deaths who–out of love for Christ and for every man, considered as a “brother”–went to their deaths without claiming for themselves any rights except to be able to serve those in need.
The first category of news fills our hearts and minds with fear, anguish, crushed by a kind of triumph of evil that has no limit. Powerless spectators, who can’t summon anything but new hatred and revenge.
The second, while immersed in feelings of sorrow and deep emotion, consoles and enlightens us with the light of Good done, seen, touched with our hands. Evil, however overbearing and violent, is not the “master of the world.” The Good is there, it exists and cannot be stifled if it is true–as it is true–that these 18 missionaries/witnesses pave the way for others who, following the footsteps of Christ and their life example, will continue the mission of service to mankind. It has been so for two thousand years, and we can be sure that it will be so “usque ad consumationem saeculorum.”
Good seed can only bear good fruit, and our time dramatically needs that. As St. Paul VI taught, the world does not need “influencers,” professors of nihilism and weak thinking. It needs “witnesses” to the beauty of Good and Life.