Sr. Patrica Fox, Fr. Mark Ventura, and the persecution of clergy in PH
Young Catholic priest Father Mark Anthony Ventura, 37, known for his opposition to mining and helping the indigenous peoples of Cagayan, was gunned down last Sunday morning, April 29, after saying the Holy Mass in Gattaran, Cagayan.
Father Marcelito Paez was killed in Nueva Ecija on December 4, 2017 after assisting the release of a political prisoner, an example of one good shepherd laying down his life for his sheep.
Apostolic Vicar of Jolo, Filipino Bishop Benjamin de Jesus, OMI, was slain in 1997. Fellow members of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Father Benjamin Inocencio and Father Jesus Reynaldo Roda were also murdered in 2000 and 2009.
Father Fausto Tentorio was murdered in 2011 in North Cotabato, Father Salvatore Carzedda in 1992 in Zamboanga City, and (who will forget?) Tullio Favali in 1985 in North Cotabato by the Manero brothers.
Murdered because they were doing the works of Jesus Christ in this “valley of tears”?
I remember an ancient writer: Seeing countless Christians dead across the vast Roman Empire, Tertullian made an unforgettable statement: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church!” (Apologicus, Chapt. 50).
Christianity was once a forbidden religion
Christ’s followers were persecuted during the first 300 years after Pentecost.
They were called the names of all insignificant insects that live in the sewer and also sent to the gallows precisely because they were Christians.
Except for John, all the Apostles were martyred for their love of the Galilean Savior, some by crucifixion and others by being stoned to death. Saint Peter, the first pope, was crucified upside down in Rome.
Despite the persecution, imagine how the first believers increased from hundreds into tens of thousands throughout the known world, crossing Asia Minor, then spilling over into Northern Africa (Algiers, Tunisia, Egypt in the south), into Ancient Europe.
‘Persecution is not limited to violence’
Fast forward today, I am pretty sure the Catholic Church is being attacked for being a moral compass of society.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan once said: “Bashing in social media where truth is made to appear as a lie and a lie appears to be true is another form of persecution” (November 14, 2016).
And the worst type of persecution is the one that comes not from enemies but from fellow Christians who claim to believe in the same Christ and Savior, baptized in the same water and Spirit, who sent their kids to Catholic schools, attend the same Holy Mass, and receive the Holy Sacraments.
When the government of the Philippines, a predominantly Christian nation, unceremoniously deports a Catholic missionary after 27 long years of a life of service for the poor, ah, that’s one sample of the worst type of persecution.
Sister Patricia Fox, 71, was told she had ten days to submit a counter-affidavit to contest her deportation, only to find out that her visa had already been revoked.
Complaining? Not at all! No Christian disciple is greater than his Master who was UNJUSTLY punished and tortured to a shameful death, naked on the Cross.
Regrets? None, Sr. Fox said.
Honored? Perhaps, for she was chosen to follow the Way of the Cross.
Sad? Definitely yes, for she will miss a consecrated life dedicated to the lost, the last, the least, the victimized, and the defenseless, particularly in Mindanao.
Catholic and Apostolic: The Church I dearly love
The impact must have been so forceful and compelling when our Blessed Lord told them: “I SHALL BE WITH YOU UNTIL THE END OF TIME” (Matthew 28:20).
Because, in obedience to the mandate received from our dearest Lord, the once-scared Twelve Apostles became unstoppable. Mobilized by the Holy Spirit, they traveled by foot, on horseback or by sailing from island to island until the farthest ends of the planet.
It’s a two-thousand-year-old tradition of persecution, and we aren’t afraid. Fox being deported. Paez and Ventura and other Catholic clergy being slain here and elsewhere. The Holy Father being criticized and the Catholic Church worldwide being maligned.
Persecution just strengthens my love for Jesus whose promise never fails: “You are Rock (Petrus)… And the gates of Hell shall not prevail” (Matthew 16:19).
And the Catholic Church has withstood the test of time. The miracle of miracles of God’s amazing grace in history has happened when our Mother Church outlasted all types of human obstacles, scandals, and all kinds of oppressive governments since the First Pentecost Sunday.
I am proud to be a Filipino and a Catholic.