The Bible teaches us in very clear terms: If you want to follow the Lord be prepared for battle. Jesus warns us time and time again:  “Whoever wants to be my follower must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”(Lk. 9:23)

Not only the cross but Jesus promises persecution for those who have decided to follow Him without hesitation, stutter or stammer, without reservation! The last of the eight Beatitudes, in the start of the Sermon on the Mount is “blessed are those who are persecuted for my sake; theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” Ironically and paradoxically as it might seem: living out fully the first seven beatitudes culminates in an award—the eighth beatitude, persecution for the sake of Christ. Still Our Lord encourages us to rejoice because an eternal reward, that of Heaven is waiting for us. (The Beatitudes: Mt. 5:1-12)

Immature Catholics, many new to the faith, erroneously believe that by becoming a Catholic-Christian life will be a joy ride and a bed of roses and a perpetual springtime, or an endless honey-moon.  Quite the contrary!  Jesus Himself laid out the groundwork and battlefield.    Those who will be persecuting us, and possibly with the greatest frequency, will be our own family members.  

Jesus said:  Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother in law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household.” (Mt.10: 34-36)

This being the case in the battle arena to please God, to save our own immortal soul as well as to be an instrument to save other souls, let us look objectively at the reality of what we might coin “Family persecution”—that is to say, persecution from our own family members because we have determined with a determined determination to follow Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  The persecutions are many, some rather subtle, others blatant and persistent!

Often this persecution comes after we ourselves have gone through a radical personal conversion. In my experience as a priest for close to thirty years is the reality of two catalysts—means of deep conversion to Christ.  The first is a total and deep consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The second is the deepening in meditative and contemplative prayer through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola.  Having persevered through these two spiritual “Boot-camps” and by living out these intense spiritual programs a true and ardent fire is enkindled in the heart. As Jesus highlighted on fervor: “I have come to cast fire to the earth and I am not in peace until that fire be ignited.”(Lk.12: 49)  The last words that St. Ignatius said to St. Francis Xavier, as the ardent Apostles was sent off to convert thousands of souls in India and even Japan were:  “Go set all on fire.”

The following are common “family-persecutions” for those who have been set on fire for Jesus through Marian consecration and Ignatian contemplative prayer! These are common areas of attack from family members.

  1. MASS AND CHURCH.   You feel a magnetic drawing to come to daily Mass and to receive the Bread of life in Holy Communion. So much is the fervor for Holy Mass that you cannot live without it. As oxygen is to the body and lungs, so are Holy Mass and Holy Communion to your soul. However, family members will start to complain:  “You are turning into a monk!” and: “You are going overboard!” Persecution is underway!
  2. MARIAN DEVOTION AND THE ROSARY.  Consecration to Mary, if done with true sincerity, sets our hearts on fire for Our Lady and her wishes. Saying a Rosary is little. Those who love Mary at times feel inclined to pray more than one Rosary a day.  Studies show that the last few Popes would pray as many as three Rosaries a day, such was their love for Our Lady and her favorite prayer—the beautiful bouquet of roses, fifty in total that we call “The Rosary”.  Family members, aware of the fact that you prayed a Rosary earlier in the day will object—“Why another Rosary; one is more than enough!” There is a divine and human disconnect. Those who think according to the flesh cannot understand nor perceive the person who is led by the spirit!  These are two different wave-lengths; and they will not connect!
  3. FREQUENT CONFESSION.  Going   through a radical conversion often results in a deeper and more refined formation of the conscience. What did not bother you before your conversion now bothers you immensely. Why?  If you like, follow this analogy!  If you are walking in darkness you will not be able to see the spots, coffee marks, or stains on your white shirt. But once you walk under the sun and are exposed to pure light even the smallest spots can be detected. Such is the delicacy of the conscience of the person who has gone through a radical conversion to Jesus and Mary. Therefore, once you are heading off to confession every two or three weeks your husband might start to ask and complain—“What did you do???”  And “Why are you going to confession so often? Twice a year was your normal process; now why almost every other week!” Scrupulosity has gotten the best of you! You are getting a little bit nutty!
  4. T.V. SHOWS AND MODERN MOVIES.  Before it was all but normal to sit there in front of the T.V. and watch programs, movies, comedies, etc. This was done to accompany your spouse for the purpose of at least bonding. Now you simply cannot! Indecent images and scenes, commercials that are all but pornographic, language that would make the walls blush, not to mention sarcasm and insults to all that is sacred, are so rampant on T.V. that your conscience will no longer permit you from viewing such trash. By doing so you are condoning evil.  As a pastor and spiritual counsellor I use this acid test.  If you are sitting down and viewing such and such a show, if Jesus, Mary and St. Joseph were to walk in the door as your guests, do you think that they would sit down next to you on the couch and view those programs joyfully??? Do you think the Holy Family would applaud such viewings??? St. Elizabeth Anne Seton (1774-1821) had a vision of a black box that would enter the American homes and destroy the families. Could this vision have been a prophecy of the T.V and modern computer with the Internet? What do you think?
  5. PARTIES AND THE SOCIAL LIFE.  Before you were an extroverted socialite! Weekends were jam-packed with pool parties, social engagements, wild-dancing and drinking--- in a word relaxing, having fun and living it up. This was done with your husband and maybe kids.  Now at the parties with immodest dress, dirty jokes, excessive drinking and unending gossip as well as constant attacking of the Church and all that is sacred, in conscience you feel obliged to renounce many of these social engagements that were normal a part of your social weekend fabric! Now your husband calls you the following: antisocial, a deadbeat, a party-pooper, a kill-joy, a dour and sour and sanctimonious ascetic! He might go far as to say: “Wake up and smell the coffee; be with it!  Be modern and do not to be living as a relic of past centuries!”  Consequently you suffer. The person that you love most makes you suffer most because there is a spiritual disconnect! The person that you honestly pledged to love the most has turned into the person that makes you suffer most!
  6. DRESS.  Before dressing according to the times was part of your life-style and you had no qualms of conscience. After your consecration to Mary you are keenly aware of your dress-code. You are aware of the fact that you are a daughter of God, temple of the Holy Spirit, daughter of Mary, as well as, in the words of St. Paul, “an ambassador of Christ.” Provocative, low-cut, seductive and alluring dress attire can no longer square with your conscience. Once again, most possibly your husband is constantly irritated at your new life-style. He launches sarcastic remarks of this style: “You appear to be an archaic fossil or relic of the Middle Ages. You would win first prize as an advertisement for Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Come on—move in to at least the 19th century!” This can cause you intense and constant pain; this indeed is Family persecution.
  7. EXTRAVAGANT MEALS. Before it was all but common to dine in exotic, elaborate, extravagant and of course expensive Restaurants. Now your mode of living is much more simple, frugal, Spartan, and Christian! Why squander exorbitant sums of money on unnecessary food and much will be uneaten and trashed anyway!  So many children will go to bed hungry this very night, not to mention many will even die of  hunger.  Here it comes again! Your loved will coax you on with these or similar words: “Eat, drink and be merry!” and “You have one life to live: live it up.” Or “It is Miller time!”  And of course:  “Relax and chill out; you are too stressed out!” Of course nothing wrong with a gourmet and nourishing meal. However, it is easy to go to extremes with the body!
  8. TALK.  The greatest desire of your heart is God and all that refers to God! Jesus said: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Therefore, your conversation often focuses around God and all that refers to His Kingdom and glory as well as the salvation of souls. Family members start to complain. “Why don’t you change the tune?”  And then here it comes: “Do not be a fanatic! Be normal!” Finally, “Stop preaching to us!”
  9. GOSSIP.  As a sequel to the last point on Talk is that of gossip. Before making the Marian consecration and going deep in prayer through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, you had no qualms to going out with the lady-friends or friends in general and shooting the breeze. Talking and talking and talking without too much reflection were par for the course. As the Bible teaches unequivocally: the person who talks too much will sin in his speech. Now your words are said preceded by reflection with the desire to please Jesus and Mary and to bring souls closer to God. The past gossipy friends notice your difference and no longer feel comfortable with you. Net result of this: end of this friendship. Jesus said that we cannot serve God and mammon at the same time. The Word of God teaches us also that God is a jealous lover—meaning, He does not want gossipy lips and mouths!
  10. IMAGES.  Before your radical conversion the home was surrounded with paintings and adornments that were not necessarily sinful, however somewhat pagan. Now your desire is for the images of Divine Mercy, Our Lady, Saint Joseph and the classical catholic art of the past 2000 years! Once again your husband comes home from work and views another religious painting and explodes:  “You are turning our home into a religious museum, worse-yet, a Gothic Cathedral! I feel as if I am living in a monastery!”

In conclusion, Jesus indeed promised persecution. The disciple is not greater than the Master. If the Master suffered and persecuted for the Truth, so will His friends and disciples. However, we should be filled with an over-flowing peace, joy and consolation. Why?  Because we are following in the footsteps of the Master and His promise is the greatest: THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN!!!! Those who patiently suffer with the Lord persecutions—and family persecutions with all that entails—will have a great recompense in the Kingdom of God for all eternity! “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”(Mt. 5:12)