As Catholics throughout the world enter into the desert with Jesus for the season of Lent, to repent anew and believe in the Gospel, to pick up our daily cross and follow him, and at his encouragement, to imitate his prayer, fasting and charity, it’s key to do so with a clear sense of the purpose and goal of the season. Conversion means more than turning away from sin and turning with fidelity toward Christ; it means literally to “turn with” Christ consistently, perseveringly, full time.
Our Lenten penances, sacrifices and practices are all supposed to help us follow Christ as he seeks to help us to fast, so that he as Bridegroom can be with us in all parts of our life, to pray by entering his own prayer to the Father, and to give of ourselves and our gifts to our neighbor together with him who has given his own life to save ours.
Many of our Lenten penances and sacrifices are inadequate to the restoration of holiness that our Lenten ascesis is supposed to foster. For most people, giving up chocolate, filling up a rice bowl with loose change or attending the Stations of the Cross on Friday are not going to bring about a radical reset in life. Many have become accustomed over time just to “do something,” but not much. They can regard the summons to prayer, almsgiving and fasting as a multiple-choice test rather than as a complementary call to reorder their relationship with God, others and themselves, respectively. Their Lent is marked more by minimalism than heroism.
To rediscover the valor that’s meant to characterize Lent, it’s helpful to view it through the context of those for whom the cruciform nature of Christian discipleship is a daily reality. There would be lots of examples on which to focus, like those with debilitating illnesses or the manifold sufferings of those in the Ukraine as we approach the first anniversary of the infernal Russian invasion and bombardment. But this Lent I’m focused in a particular way on the sufferings of our brothers and sisters in Nigeria, where more Christians are being martyred each year than in the rest of the world combined.
Over the last few years in Nigeria, 13 Christians are killed for the faith every day, one about every two hours. Armed groups like Boko Haram, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), and Fulani Herdsman, motivated by a militant version of Islam, are attacking Christian churches, villages and families, burning buildings to the ground, massacring thousands with guns, machetes and torches each year, kidnapping thousands of others for ransom, and forcing survivors to flee to refugee camps while the murderous mobs take over their lands.
And it’s happening for the most part with impunity, as the federal government of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim, and many regional governments — not to mention the international community — forsake their responsibilities to protect and restore justice, downplay the bloodshed, ignore its genocidal aspects, and often pretend as if there’s no religious dimension to what’s taken place.
Yet, amazingly, when Nigerians even in relatively safer places in the more Christian south of the country have been massacred during Church liturgies — like at St. Francis Xavier Church in Owo in Ondo State on Pentecost 2022, where 38 were killed and 80 injured — Mass attendance in Nigeria is 94%, by far the highest of any country in the world. For comparison, the U.S. is at 17%.
Despite living in the most dangerous place in the world for Christians, Nigerians grasp that to be a Christian means to follow a Crucified Savior who promised that we would suffer on account of his name, and so they do, with inspiring courage.
The human face of what Christians are undergoing is laid out in moving detail in a new book of testimonies by the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need entitled Nigeria: A Bleeding Wound, released on Ash Wednesday. The 39-page book presents 26 firsthand accounts of Christian survivors of recent anti-Christian atrocities.
It’s gut-wrenching reading: Daughters describe their fathers being decapitated in front of them and sons their mothers; siblings forced to watch the dismembering of their brothers; pregnant moms enduring the attempt to kill their in-utero babies; the torching of whole villages and homes with people within; gunning down the faithful during worship before blowing up the church with dynamite; kidnapping women and priests and holding them for ransom while torturing them; and more. It involves testimony from victims — men, women, boys, girls and priests — as young as 5 and as old as 65.
They also detail the long road to recovery from the trauma after the attacks, life in the refugee camps, and the struggle to learn new trades to support themselves.
It recounts the spiritual disorientation that comes from the attack. A 5-year-old boy said, “I don’t want to go to church again, because if I do, I might be killed.” A 9-year-old girl who dreamed of being a nun stated, “I am not sure if I will be able to continue going to church for now, because it was when I went to church that I was shot. I don’t want to die.”
But it also gives witness to faithful defiance and resilience. That is seen especially in the situation of those who, like Christ on the cross, forgive and pray for the conversion of their attackers. A 22-year-old woman whose father was decapitated in front of her for not having incestuous relations with her, who later was kidnapped and tortured for six days that seemed like six years, said, “I can’t even believe that I am the one saying this, but I have forgiven them in my heart and I pray for the redemption of their souls.”
A 20-year-old mother who watched as Fulani murdered her husband, covered her in his blood, and then suffered machete blows to her head, shoulder, back and hand, and endured having three fingers cut off, said, “As Christians, we are taught to forgive those who trespass against us so that we may also be forgiven.
“So I have forgiven them for the pain they have inflicted on me.”
Christians from persecuted lands often rightly express their astonishment at what can preoccupy Christians in the countries of the West, like which gender pronouns to use in liturgical translations and how to make Christ’s radical standards somehow palatable to those who want to persevere in lifestyles incompatible with the Gospel. They sometimes wonder how such concerns can be prioritized over the atrocities happening to their brothers and sisters in different parts of the globe.
Nigerian Christians had been on guard ahead of the presidential elections on Feb. 25 (and, if there is a need for a runoff, on March 11). There were four main tickets running, with Catholic Peter Obi, the former governor of Anambra State, leading the polling ahead of time.
Many Christian leaders were concerned that Boko Haram, ISWAP, and the Fulani will escalate anti-Christian violence in the days leading up to the election as well as on election day itself, in order to depress turnout among Christians. After the election, Christian leaders think there will be violence regardless of the outcome. If Obi wins, they believe Christians will be attacked by such groups trying to pretend that Christians “stole” the election; if Obi loses, they fear that anti-Christian groups will see it as a green light to continue their vigilante attacks, immune to investigation and punishment.
This Lent is an opportunity to grow in real solidarity with our suffering spiritual siblings.
As we focus on increasing the quantity and quality of our prayer, it’s a chance to pray for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria and in other situations of persecution, particularly as the election approaches.
It’s an opportunity to sacrifice for them and their many needs as they try to rebuild their lives, as well as their churches, such as through helping Aid to the Church in Need in its funding of refugee camps and trauma counseling centers, its rebuilding of churches and more. It’s an occasion to fast in union with those who are often hungry, as we begin to share their hunger for basic peace, justice and religious freedom.
As the prophet Isaiah will proclaim at Mass the day before their presidential election, it’s a time not to turn our backs on our own, but to turn with Christ to his persecuted flock in West Africa.
The concept, known as the Turing test, has regained new prominence today as some argue that this new generation of AI does in fact pass the Turing test. Alan Turing’s early lifeBorn in London in 1912, Turing was the son of a high-ranking British colonial administrator based in India. A true Turing machine was impossible to build, but the concept—a replicable machine that could be programmed, store information, and perform calculations—set the stage for modern computers. Though unthinkable with the technology of his time, the concept is at the heart of modern machine learning and artificial intelligence. And over time, his contribution to both the war effort and modern computer science is becoming clearer.26 days ago National Geographic
Pierre Poilievre has to choose between the convoy and Canada Powerful storms with widespread wind gusts moved into Oklahoma on Sunday evening from the Texas panhandle. #Michigan power crews work, #California recovers after #storms. About 132,000 of those were DTE customers. Wednesday's ice storm coated lines and trees with a half an inch (more than 1.25 centimeters) of ice or more. The storm was followed Thursday by high winds that put about 600,000 DTE customers in the dark at the storm's peak.26 days ago National Observer
Iowa State men's basketball's slide reaches new low with home loss to OklahomaShow Caption Hide Caption Two minutes with T.J. Otzelberger after Saturday’s debacle at Hilton Coliseum Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said the Cyclones’ backs are against the wall. Against Iowa State, though, the Sooners erased a 10-point first half deficit by getting hot from long distance and bottling up an Iowa State offense that has bottomed out over the last three games. Among the biggest problems for Iowa State right now is its top-two scorers, Jaren Holmes and Kalscheur, are struggling mightily. In the last six games, in which Iowa State has gone 1-5, Kalscheur is shooting 26.6% from the floor and Holmes 29.3%. His presence also allowed Iowa State to play smaller lineups that helped generate 18 Oklahoma turnovers.28 days ago The Des Moines Register
By Darlene Superville | Associated PressNAIROBI, Kenya — U.S. first lady Jill Biden gave one of the clearest indications yet that President Joe Biden will run for a second term, telling The Associated Press in an exclusive interview on Friday that there’s “pretty much” nothing left to do but figure out the time and place for the announcement. And that’s what’s important.”Granddaughter Naomi Biden, who is on the trip, cheered the first lady’s comments after the interview. The first lady has long been described as a key figure in Biden’s orbit as he plans his future. Some of the families, Jill Biden said, had hid underground for weeks before making their escape. EDITOR’S NOTE — Darlene Superville has covered the White House and first ladies since 2009 and is co-author, with AP Executive Editor Julie Pace, of a 2022 biography of Jill Biden.28 days ago Orange County Register
(OSV News) -- As Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine marks its first anniversary, the U.S. bishops' international policy chairman pleaded for peace amid a war that has left "no corner of the globe untouched." Russia's war on Ukraine continues attacks it launched in 2014 with the attempted annexation of Crimea and the backing of separatist factions in Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Officially 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed, according to Ukraine's government, although the actual death toll is likely much higher. With some 66,000 war crimes reported, Ukraine has filed charges of genocide by Russia with the International Court of Justice. (OSV News photo/Bob Roller)The "expanding war" has also caused "energy and food production disruptions, environmental degradation and high inflation," said Bishop Malloy, "with the poor bearing (the) heaviest tolls."29 days ago Catholic Standard
USALos Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James tosses powder in the air prior to an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023, in Los Angeles. Malik Beasley scored 25 points and was one of eight players in double figures as the new-look Lakers returned from the All-Star break to beat the Golden State Warriors 124-111 on Thursday night. James — who suffered a hand injury during the All-Star game Sunday night — had 13 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. He is the first Golden State player to have four straight games with at least 13 rebounds since Andrew Bogut in 2014. Lakers: Mo Bamba had a double-double off the bench (10 points, 13 rebounds) … Rui Hachimura had 14 points and Dennis Schroder 13.29 days ago The National Herald
According to Motley Fool this growth stock could "deliver huge returns." As such, the average rating for the stock is Hold which could provide an opportunity for investors keen on increasing their holdings of the company’s stock. Further, Intel Corporation (INTC) has a beta value of 0.79, and an average true range (ATR) of 1.07. In the market, a comparison of Intel Corporation (INTC) and its peers suggest the former has performed considerably weaker. It is this reason that could see investor optimism for the INTC stock continues to rise going into the next quarter.1 month ago Stocks Register
Here are the top 3 takeaways from Plains, PORTA wins in boys 2A regional semifinalsAUBURN — These Sangamo Conference boys basketball teams know each other too well. “I thought we did a good job of staying under control,” Gavin said. “We had a couple of turnovers there, but for the most part, we did a good job. “You can't ask for better seniors to lead you and we've got a good senior class here at Auburn,” coach Seth McCoy said. I got cleared and then about three hours later I went and played in that first game.”He made a basket late in the fourth quarter against North Mac.1 month ago The State Journal-Register