Sisters Murdered by Extremists in Yemen: New Martyrs of Love
“No one know how long this war will go on. We rely on our heavenly Father, and He provides all our needs. Thank you, sisters, for your valuable prayers and concern for us and for this suffering country. Keep praying for us. Don’t worry about us. We have surrendered ourselves into the hands of God, entrusting all to Him. As St. Paul writes, ‘In life and in death, we belong to the Lord.’”
The final message received from the four sisters of Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta, the Missionaries of Charity — Sisters Judith, Margherite, Anselm and Rejinet — before their executions Friday, along with fourteen innocent workers at the Home for Elderly Poor, who tried to warn the sisters and beg for their lives, in Yemen.
Our own Missionaries of Charity, at their home in Harlem where they feed, house, and care for the homeless and destitute, shared that uplifting message with me when I went there for early Mass Saturday morning.
While the reports of daily massacres of Christians by fanatics in what can only be termed a genocide continue to sadden us, and move us to advocate vigorously for the protection of all threatened religious minorities, the slaughter of four innocent, loving, trusting sisters is particularly nauseating.
And what was the first comment from Sister Rose Clare, the nun who answered the phone in Harlem, one of five houses open to embrace the poor administered by Mother Theresa’s spiritual daughters here in the city, when I called to express condolences? “Oh we’re so concerned about who will take care of the poor elderly people in the house in Yemen.”
There you go: Love!
Martyrs usually die for the faith: fanatics detest their belief, their values, who and what they stand for — Jesus, His gospel, His Church — and they lash out literally with swords as they viciously attempt to extinguish the faith of believing people.
These newest martyrs, these four brave sisters, certainly were shot in the head and had their skulls smashed into the sand by fanatics who detested them for their religion. The murderers went through the home smashing every crucifix, religious image, and even the tabernacle.
But, as Pope Francis reminds us, there are also martyrs for love! That’s these women of fortitude.
The extremist thugs hate the sisters because they love. They can’t stand people who will not respond to their rage with hatred and violence, who care for people in need no matter their creed, who always forgive, and who will not leave when threatened. These people of love bother the assassins, and show others that there is a way to live besides brutality and bloodshed. Thus, they must be exterminated, yes, for their faith, but also because they love.
The new martyrs of love.
Saturday morning I visited the sisters in Harlem for Mass. They, understandably, had tears in their eyes, but their characteristic smile, a sign of joy in the midst of suffering that soon-to-be Saint Theresa of Calcutta taught and modeled, was still there.
I spoke of sadness over the deaths, my anger that this keeps happening, and my criticism that legitimate authority has capitulated to the thugs and even encouraged persecution.
They spoke of the community’s desire to send four new sisters to Yemen to care for the abandoned elderly and told me they had each communicated their willingness to go there to their superiors in Calcutta.
I told them I was going home to write this column, and call government officials demanding action.
They smiled and told me they had to prepare a meal for the hundreds who would soon be at the door in line for lunch.
Those four martyrs in Yemen taught me how to die.
Our sisters here teach me how to live.