I haven't even changed my calendar to November and have nearly missed out on the Jesuit highlighted in the British Province Calendar for October. This was Miguel Pro (1891-1927) who was a Mexican Jesuit, arrested and executed simply for being a priest. What struck me was that that the President of Mexico invited many diplomats and journalists to witness his execution by firing squad, hoping to put others off breaking the anti-clerical laws but the publication of the images of his execution around the world drew wide-spread condemnation of the regime. Now - a - days such executions are put on social media and within seconds have traversed the globe. But they don't inspire and lead to the condemnation of the groups that perpetrate them. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to matter to such terrorists what others think, focussing as they do only on their own ends and pitting themselves against anyone who thinks differently.
At one of our recent interfaith conferences Archbishop Conti spoke out strongly against this, acknowledging the ongoing hostilities in the Middle East in which Christians have been caught up, as well as their neighbours, Muslims, Kurds or minority groups of other religions. This he said is a great blasphemy on the part of those who claim to act in God's name and who justify their barbarous acts as the just deserts of those who do not share their faith or their cause. "It is incumbent on all of us to call on our co-religionists to desist from actions, however, motivated, which offend not only against human dignity but also against the holiness of God" - a call repeated by the Prince of Wales this week
November's Jesuit is a German, Rupert Mayer (1876-1945) who was army chaplain working courageously in the trenches from where he used to crawl out into no-man’s-land moving among the wounded administering the sacraments; “My life is in God’s hands,” he used to say as he did this. Perhaps it was this experience that gave Fr Mayer a loathing of any ideology of hate. As Adolf Hitler rose to power he became a fearless and outspoken critic of fascism and was banned by the Gestapo from public speaking. He was finally arrested and imprisoned in 1940 because he continued to preach in Church against the activities of the Nazi party. Fr Mayer died on 1st November 1945.
Again this echoes the words of Archbishop Conti and both Jesuits give us courage to stand up against evil ideologies in our own way. For those in public life their words may be heeded. For those of us who live a quieter, more hidden life we can open our hearts in compassion to the evils perpetrated in the name of religion, pray for peace and work for it in our own small way, refusing to be caught up in ideologies and rejecting others because they are different. Fr Pro and Fr Mayer are heroes of the faith whose courage we can draw on when we become faint hearted in this task.