One of my friends in Rome asked me this past weekend what she could do - in addition to prayer - to help our brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria who are suffering for the sake of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Matthew 10:22). It is an excellent question, and one I was very happy to answer.
In these Lenten days we strive to be ever more conformed to the Redeemer by dedicating ourselves to increased prayer, fasting, and almsgiving because "prayer is good when accompanied by fasting, almsgiving, and righteousness (Tobit 12:8). And by being united to him, we are necessarily united also to everyone else who is united to him. Benedict XVI beautifully put it thus:
Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself. I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own. Communion draws me out of myself towards him, and thus also towards unity with all Christians. We become “one body”, completely joined in a single existence. Love of God and love of neighbour are now truly united: God incarnate draws us all to himself (Deus caritas est, 14).
It is only natural, then, that in these days given over to penance that we seek to "pray without ceasing" for the persecuted Christians - for the persecuted members of the Mystical Body of Christ, our body (I Thessalonians 5:17). We should implore the Lord to strengthen their faith, hope, and love that they may give a clear and faithful witness to him who died and rose for us.
Likewise should we fast for them, remembering the great importance the Scriptures give to the practice of fasting in both the Old and New Testaments, as Benedict XVI briefly summarized. Saint Paul rejoiced in the sufferings he bore for Christ so that, as he wrote, "in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, the Church" (Colossians 1:24). We can offer the sufferings of our fasting - small and insignificant as they might seem - for the sake of the suffering members of the Body of Christ.
Together with prayer and fasting, it is also right that we give alms to help alleviate the temporal needs of our brothers and sufferings to help them find food and shelter and the other necessities of life. The giving of alms (about which Benedict XVI also wrote), we know, "almsgiving delivers from death, and it will purge away every sin" (Tobit 12:9).
To this end, every day of Lent a collection has been - and will continue to be - taken up at the Masses celebrated at the station churches in Rome for the Christians and Iraq and Syria who are suffering so greatly at the hands of the Islamic State. The collection will be sent to them through the Office of Papal Charities.
If you would like to participate in this collection, you can do so doing making a donation using the PayPal "donate" button at the bottom of the right sidebar of this blog (or by clicking here). Please make sure to list as the purpose of your donation "Persecuted Christians," and I will be certain to see that your donation is collected with the offerings of those in attendance at the Masses. If you wish to contribute in this way, please do so by March 26, 2015.
If you would prefer, you can also give a donation through one of these other agencies:
- Aid to the Church in Need: Collection for Iraqi and Syrian Christians
- Catholic Near East Welfare Association: Collection for Iraqi Christians or the Collection for Syrian Christians
- Knights of Columbus: Collection for Iraqi and Syrian Christians