To read the texts click on the texts: Dt. 30:11-16; Jn 12:23-26
Today the Society of Jesus celebrates the Feast of Jesuit Saints and Blessed, a day when we remember well-known and not-so-well-known Jesuits who lived out their Christian lives heroically. We may believe that the saints and blessed belong to a former age, but at the end of the millennium, Pope John Paul II commissioned a Martyrology for the 20th century, so that we might not forget the exemplary love of God and neighbour shown by so many 20th century Christian men and women. Jesuit provinces from around the world contributed the names of members who suffered and, in many cases, died for the faith during various persecutions.
Over three hundred names were gathered, including familiar names like Blessed Miguel Pro of Mexico, Fr. Alfred Delp of Nazi Germany, and Fr. Ignacio Ellacuria of El Salvador. Thirty Jesuits died in Nazi concentration camps, and almost fifty died at the hands of various Communist governments. In 1997 former Detroit Province Jesuit Thomas Gafney was murdered in India because of his stance against drug lords, and in 2001 Canadian Jesuit Martin Royackers was murdered in Jamaica, defending his parishioners from gang violence and political corruption.
Today we remember especially all those Jesuits persecuted for the sake of righteousness, and we pray that many more men will step forward and answer Christ's call to serve Our Lord in the Company of Ignatius Loyola.
The readings of today are aptly chosen for the feast. The grain of wheat has to fall into the ground if it has to bear fruit. This has been proved decisively in the life and death of Jesus and continues to be proved in the lives and deaths of numerous Jesuit saints and martyrs who in their unconditional following of the Lord have proved the truth of his words. It is their blood which continues to nourish the soil on which the Church flourishes and grows.