Seeds of Faith for the Spread of the Gospel

Day of Prayer and Fasting for Missionary Martyrs on March 24

Rome (Agenzia Fides) – On March 24, 1980, Archbishop Oscar A. Romero of San Salvador was assassinated. Since 1993, this date was chosen by the Youth Missionary Movement of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Italy to be a day each year on which to recall all the missionaries killed in the world, with a "Day of Prayer and Fasting in Remembrance of the Missionary Martyrs." The initiative, now in its eighteenth year, was soon extended to many dioceses and several religious institutions in the world, that devote special efforts to remember their slain missionaries, together with all those who shed their blood for the Gospel.

In this year 2010, the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Romero, the day is dedicated to him, with the theme being his expression: "My life belongs to you." "Any martyrdom, any murder, any assassination carries with it the bitter taste of injustice and abuse, of the worst in man being acted out," writes Don Gianni Cesena, National Director of the PMS, in the preparatory material for this day. "Yet every Christian martyrdom belongs to the 'Beatitudes' of Jesus ... On the seed of Romero, like that of the ancient and contemporary Christian martyrs, every Christian community regains the deep meaning of life according to the Gospel, and often the courage of an 'active' memory that is not resigned and is inspired to continue on the journey with greater momentum.

The parish communities and consecrated life, seminaries, novice houses, are all invited to use the guidelines for the Vigil: Stations of the Cross, Eucharistic Adoration, ecumenical services, all prepared for this occasion, not only on March 24, but on the days preceding and following it. There are also ideas like set apart a corner of the Church for Martyrs, using a cross, a red cloth (that could also be on the front door as well), and an olive branch with the names of missionaries who have been killed; ring the bells at 3:00pm on March 24, inviting the people to meditate on Christ’s sacrifice and on the many men and women who have offered their lives; and plant a tree in memory of those who have given everything for love. Families can place lit candles in their windows or place a red cloth on display, as a visible sign of the commemoration; take part in an act of reconciliation: among members of the same household, between neighbors or members of the extended family, etc. and offer a donation from fasting, in support of the help project proposed for this year. The sick are encouraged to offer their suffering in memory of the missionary martyrs and for the spread of the Gospel, and to sustain missionaries and to ask the Lord for the gift of new holy missionary vocations. The young people are encouraged to give blood and visit those in the hospital, those who are alone, in prison...

This year, the solidarity project that will be supported with the offerings from the fast on March 24 is that of the construction of a youth center run by the Canossian Fathers in the district of Tondo, one of the poorest and most desolate areas of Manila. (S.L.) (Agenzia Fides 9/3/2010)

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