The other day, I attended daily Mass celebrated by a priest from India. During the homily, he read a letter from a dear priest friend who lives in Orissa, the Indian state in which Catholics are being viciously persecuted. The friend told of the dangers in which he lives, day in and day out. He told of being locked inside his accommodations at night for safe keeping and let out in the morning by the building’s caretaker. He told of not being able to use any kind of artificial lighting – not even candles – after dark for fear he would be discovered. He told of homes in which he used to celebrate Mass that no longer exist; their inhabitants scattered and seeking refuge elsewhere. He told of night after sleepless night wondering when his turn would come to die.

As the priest continued reading the letter from his friend, he became increasingly more emotional. His broken voice was barely audible at times. His grief filled the silent church. Clearly, everyone had been deeply affected by this touching and tragic story.

The most shaking part came at the Consecration. The priest, still quite emotional, had resumed the Mass, stopping here and there to wipe away a tear. But as he lifted the bread and wine to be transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, his voice completely broke and he could barely go on. At that moment it became so very real that what he held in his hands – our Lord Jesus Christ – was the reason his friend and many others in Orissa suffer. The impact was astounding.

And at the same time, it brought home the reality that the very Reason for the suffering is the Source of Strength to endure it.

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