Las Cruces

This past Sunday in Las Cruces, N.M., small bombs went off at two churches, one Baptist, one Catholic. According to the Associated Press, both church buildings “had minor damage.”

Calvary Baptist Church was attacked first, at 8:20 in the morning, with a bomb placed in a mailbox on the wall of the parish offices. At 8:40, right as the pastor, Msgr. John Anderson, was saying the words consecrating the Body of Christ, a bomb went off at Holy Cross Catholic Church. 

Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces (which means “the crosses” in Spanish) issued a statement after the bombings. He said, “We extend our prayers for and solidarity with our Baptist brothers and sisters. They will remain in our prayers. As for Holy Cross Parish, we are very close to Msgr. Anderson and his parishioners in our thoughts and prayers, as they recover from the trauma of having their most Sacred moments violently disrupted last week. We pray that, though with increased vigilance, the parish community will return to its routines of worship, formation, service, and community building.”

Reading about this, one might think, “How can this happen in America?” Then we remember what happened in Charleston, S.C., June 17, where Christians were killed due to the color of their skin.  We do not know the motive of the bomber(s) in New Mexico, but the fact that a Baptist and a Catholic church were attacked (with no loss of life or injuries, thanks be to God) would seem to indicate that some type of animus against Christians (or maybe just against religion in general) was the motivating factor.

After discussing the need for emergency preparedness and the need to keep on living normal lives, Bishop Cantú ended his statement with an admonition: “Let us pray for each other. Let us pray for peace. Let us pray for the perpetrator(s), that they might discover the joy of peace and forgiveness and leave behind the frustration of hatred and violence. We pray for our first responders and those who work to maintain the peace. We pray for strength and healing.”

He, of course, is right. The only solution to situations like this (or any situation, really) is prayer. Prayer will help change us to be who we truly are called to be as Christians (as Pope Francis says below in his Angelus message, we need to have an “encounter” with Christ, and these encounters only happen via prayer). Prayer for our “enemies” is not a waste of time. It first of all changes us, to become more loving and forgiving. Then, if their hearts begin to crack open, it can also help to change them, to fill their brokenness with love, instead of hatred.

Holy Cross Parish released a statement on Monday, which read, in part, “At this moment the most important action we can take is to pray and attend Mass. We must show that we are united and that our faith is strong.”

Another question we may be asking ourselves might be, “How come I did not hear about these bombings?” In some ways, maybe it is a backwards blessing that they did not get big news coverage, since oftentimes the notoriety that the media give to terrorists, serial killers, assassins and other criminals inspires other people to go out and “make a name for themselves” (think of all the assassins whose middle name you even know).

The lack of coverage might also be part of the subtle thought in the mainstream media that Christians (especially Baptists and Catholics) are really part of the dominant class, so a minor attack on them is not newsworthy. We applaud the coverage that the Boston Globe and its Crux website has been giving every Sunday for the last several weeks of persecution of Christians around the world. Its associate editor, John Allen, has spent a considerable amount of time looking into this sad situation (although one that Christ predicted for us).

Today (Friday) we celebrate the martyrdom of St. Sixtus II and companions, who were killed by the Roman Empire, under the Emperor Valerian in 258. They were killed on August 6, but since that is the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (which is more important than a saint’s feast), we celebrate them on August 7. After Pope Sixtus was killed, the imperial government asked St. Lawrence, who as a deacon was an administrator for the Church, to present to the empire the Church’s riches. When Lawrence brought before the imperial officials the many poor people the Church served, the officials were not impressed, and so barbecued Lawrence to death. His feast we celebrate on August 10, the actual day of his birth into eternal life. 

Writing about Lawrence’s death, St. Augustine speaks to all of us: “I tell you again and again, my brethren, that in the Lord’s garden are to be found not only the roses of His martyrs. In it there are also the lilies of the virgins, the ivy of wedded couples, and the violets of widows. On no account may any class of people despair, thinking that God has not called them. Christ suffered for all. What the Scriptures say of Him is true: He desires all men to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth. Let us understand, then, how a Christian must follow Christ even though he does not shed his blood for Him, and his faith is not called upon to undergo the great test of the martyr’s sufferings.”

We ask God to help us attain that Salvation which He offers to all. Augustine reminds us, “Christ humbled Himself. Christian, that is what you must make your own. Christ became obedient. How is it that you are proud? When this humbling experience was completed and death itself lay conquered, Christ ascended into Heaven. Let us follow Him there, for we hear Paul saying: ‘If you have been raised with Christ, you must lift your thoughts on high, where Christ now sits at the right hand of God.’”

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts