“All because of my name will hate you, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
I understand as well as anyone… It’s easy to get discouraged when we see what goes on in the world—and sometimes even in our own lives. But we are missioners. We just see things differently.
As Luke’s Gospel says, we are called to persevere as examples of God’s eternal love. For more than a touch of inspiration, let me tell you the story of Bishop Patrick James Byrne, a Maryknoll priest and now a candidate for sainthood.
Bishop Byrne founded Maryknoll’s first mission in Korea in 1923 and later served in Japan. He was appointed apostolic visitor to the new government of South Korea where he took up residence in 1947. Two years later he was consecrated a bishop and named the Vatican’s Apostolic Delegate to Korea.
Then came war. In June of 1950 the North Korean Army crossed the 38th parallel, a territorial dividing line. Bishop Byrne had the chance to leave but refused out of concern for Korean clergy and other Christians. Two weeks later and in hiding, he was arrested and taken to a warehouse where other foreigners and South Korean prisoners were being tortured.
Put on trial, the bishop was given the choice of denouncing the United States, the United Nations, and the Vatican, “or he must die.” Bishop Byrne chose death.
After weeks in quarantine and as winter approached, he and more than 750 prisoners were placed on a forced march with just the clothes on their backs. As Bishop Byrne passed those who had collapsed, he said the Our Father and blessed them.
Bishop Byrne survived the 110-mile march but just barely. He was taken to a makeshift hospital with no heat and no medicines. Before he died on November 25, 1950, Bishop Byrne told his remaining companions, “After the privilege of my priesthood, the greatest privilege of my life is to suffer for Christ with all of you.”
Friend, our saint-to-be was an extraordinary man of faith who faced a very high bar and met it. You and I are destined to be extraordinary missioners as well. The lesson of Bishop Byrne is that one person can make a difference. Now it’s up to us to accept our challenges with courage… our obstacles with perseverance… and the Gospel with every conviction that one day we will be saints in heaven, too. I know Bishop Byrne is praying for us all.
Prayer for 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Long the road and rough the way
that leads to fullness of life
with you, my God.
Each day may my step lighten
and my head lift higher
knowing I grow closer to You, O Lord.
When my burden becomes
more than I can bear
send helpers to assist me
on the journey of life
to turn my exile into a pilgrimage.
Make me mindful of those
who need my help:
a prayer, a smile, a kind word.
Grant me generosity to assist others
and humility to accept help
for You sent Your Son
to transform strangers into friends
and friends into family.
May we ever help one another
on our way home to you.
Prayer by Father Joseph Veneroso
I hope today’s reflection has special meaning for you. This is Father Ray Finch, sending you a blessing for the week, and an invitation to listen in again next Sunday.