Thursday, January 22, 2015
I used to think of St Agnes as a fiesty teanager or a self confident young woumen in her twenties but the relic in her Church in the Piaza Navona belies this. It is her skull, so small it can be held in one's cupped hands. She was obviously a child, not even her second decade, maybe not even five or six. She died for the faith, like the Holy Innocents, like those many children, slaughtered or left to starve by ISIS or the aptly named, Boko Haram (boko meaning education haram meaning forbidden or sinful), who with child like faith said, "We will not give up Jesus". There is something frightening in that the Church holds St Agnes as a Virgin Martyr. We are forced to recognise that sexual violence in her martyrdom, it is not something new. Sexual violence, against the vulnerable has always been a weapon of war. The Romans had a superstition about executing children, hence those terrible stories about little S Agnes being exposed in a brothel.
War, and conflict in general are never really about glorious armies facing one another but crueler things, starvation, poverty, disease, dispossession, psychological and sexual oppression. In fact disproportionately it is always the weak who suffer most. The weakest and most vulnerable are always children, children going hungry, children homeless, children orphaned and unwanted, unprotected, even children consider vermin.
Its not just in war zones that children are victims, every broken family, every poor family, in every workless family children suffer.
As the Pope said yesterday, “I have heard that families with many children are among the reasons if poverty. It seems to me that this is a simplistic opinion. The main reason for poverty is an economical system that has removed the person from the center and has replaced it by the god of money.”
Where sex is used irresponsibly, yes, where "couples breed like rabbits", where it is separated from procreation and the life that is suppose to result from it, children suffer. The Church talks about 'welcoming children as a gift of God', teaching which for Western culture today is extraordinarily subversive. 'Responsible' or loving sex always considers the result of the sexual act, for us it is never a quick fumble in the dark.
Today in the great clash between cultures, the culture of Life and the culture of Death, children will be the first victims.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake