Over 25 years I’ve led perhaps 15 pilgrimages to Rome. Each time we visit the Eternal City it strikes me how we have arrived ad limina apostolorum, at the “shores of the Apostles.” And not only to the “shores” (because Rome is a Mediterranean port city) of the Apostles, but of the martyrs as well, for both Saints Peter and Paul died for Jesus. We go to Rome not only to pray at their tombs, but also to the “shores” of our own discipleship. As we kneel at those tombs, we wonder where our own witness to Jesus Christ will take us. These days, Rome is a large global city like any other; Christians are increasingly marginalized in Rome much as they are in London or New York. It probably won’t be long before Christians are persecuted in these cities as they are already persecuted in Islamabad and Pyongyang (it is estimated that the North Korean government has forced 50,000 Christians into concentration camps). Saudi Arabia and China are respected trading partners of the United States, but in both of these countries Christians who openly practice their faith are persecuted.
We will vest in red next Wednesday for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul here in San Francisco. Over my first 25 years, my priestly work has been generally peaceful. Over the last five years, however, respect for Christ’s priests, and tolerance of Christians in general, has sharply declined. Who knows what the next 25 years will bring to all of us who profess that “to me, life is Christ.” The world can scarcely tolerate a person who lives for Jesus rather than for itself. We vest ourselves in red on June 29 not only in memory of Peter and Paul’s blood, shed 2000 years ago, but in preparation for the blood—perhaps our own—that will be shed in our own time. All glory and honor to Him, who first shed his blood for us, and who gives us the joy to witness to Him, even with our blood, should it please His Majesty.