Written by Michael Matt
“Oft hope is born when all is forlorn.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
(What Did Jesus Say to Jeremiah Denton in the “Hanoi Hilton”?)
In his 1956 article, I Found God in Soviet Russia, concentration camp survivor John Noble writes: “I have seen Christianity under the most terrible persecution it has suffered since the days of Nero, and I have seen abundant proof that faith in Christ, the Saviour, is still alive in Russia today in the very places where the Communists have tried hardest to stamp it out, the concentration camps. It is triumphant testimony I have to give… and I am convinced it was God’s will that I be a member of that persecuted Church for several years in order to testify that God is with it and is sustaining it.” Reminiscent of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s account of how he found God in the atheistic darkness of the Gulag—a place which he defines as a direct manifestation of man’s abandonment of God—this extraordinary testimony of one who lived through the worst kind of physical persecution should give us pause. For inasmuch as today’s faithful Catholics face perhaps more universal afflictions of the soul than our forefathers faced at any time in history, it is nevertheless true that we have much for which to be grateful and, for the moment, even the time and opportunity needed to fight for that which we hold most sacred and which everywhere today is under attack.