Recently I came again across the book Tortured for Christ which narrates true stories of people who found themselves tormented because of their faith.
I was taken aback by the story of Florescu, a protestant pastor who was arrested and beaten in a savage way in order to betray his Christian brethren in China. One of the methods by which they tried to break his spirit was by driving starving rats into his cell through a large pipe. He could not sleep, but had to defend himself all the time. If he rested a moment, the rats would attack him.
He was forced to stand on his two feet for two weeks, day and night. Eventually, they brought his fourteen year old son Alexander and began to whip him in front of his father, hoping he would break down. The poor man was half-mad. He bore it as long as he could. When he could not stand it any more, he cried to his son: “Alexander, I must say what they want! I can’t bear your beating any more!”
The son reacted strongly, “Father, don’t do me this injustice. I don’t want to live and remain with the memory that my father betrayed his faith. Keep strong! If they kill me I will die proclaiming: ‘Jesus is my all’.”
The soldiers, enraged, fell upon the child and beat him to death, with blood spattered over the walls of the cell. When the father saw his son dead, he lost his senses. When he regained consciousness, they found he had lost his sanity. When the book was being written he was still being treated in a psychiatric hospital.
This story shocked me, but above all it inflamed me. How is it, I kept asking myself, that I always look for softness and comfort in living my faith when so many people are suffering terribly for their faith?
Once a woman approached me and asked me: “Father Pius, how would you answer a five year old boy who asks you why God allowed his dad to die?” I was confused. Whilst I was trying to think what I could answer to this mother, she added: “This question was put to me by my son yesterday. A week ago we went to bury my husband, his dad.” I was speechless. After a moment of silence the only thing I could stammer was: “And what answer did you give your son?”
“Father Pius, I told him what the Lord inspired me there and then and what I still feel it is true. I told him: ‘I don’t know, son, why God wanted your dad near him. But one thing I know. I know that I love you very much, and I wish that you would grow up and be a man, a good man, like your father. And I know that if your dad and God whom your dad is with now, if they are not close to me all the time, I would not know what to do. I am sure I would not manage.”
She started weeping. And as I looked at this woman I said to myself that there are things in life which only the eyes that have wept can see.
Blessed are they!
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.