The Gospel of Mark and Church persecution

As churches and facilities are attacked for their pro-life beliefs, remember that Jesus walks ahead of us

Deacon Bob Hunt

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid? When evildoers come at me to devour my flesh, these enemies and foes themselves stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart does not fear; though war be waged against me, even then do I trust” (Psalm 27:1-3).

These words of comfort and confidence in the Lord’s protection speak well to Catholics in these days. Since 2020, there have been 138 attacks on Catholic churches and institutions in the United States, as of mid-June. Those attacks have sharply increased since the leak of the Supreme Court draft that recommended overturning Roe v. Wade. (This column was written before the Supreme Court ruled on the Dodds-Mississippi abortion case). Just since the beginning of May, there have been at least 11 attacks on churches, including:

  • May 3—Sacred Heart of Mary Church in Boulder, Colo., was defaced with pro-abortion slogans, including, “My Body, My Choice.”
  • May 15—Vandals destroyed the statues of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Staten Island.
  • May 22—St. Michael Church in Olympia, Wash., was defaced with the words “Abort the church” spray-painted on a wall. The Bo Brown Memorial Cell of Jane’s Revenge claimed responsibility, along with attacks on three non-Catholic churches.
  • June 12—A nearly naked woman stood up on a pew at St. Veronica Church in Eastpointe, Mich., and shouted pro-abortion slogans. She was joined by two other protesters holding pro-abortion banners.
  • After the Supreme Court ruled that there is no constitutional right to an abortion, attacks on Catholic churches continued. St. Colman Church in Spring, W.Va., built in 1878 and a National Historic Site, was burned to the ground by an arsonist. As yet, no suspect or motive has been identified.

Here in the Diocese of Knoxville, the Dameron Avenue offices of Catholic Charities were burned by an arsonist last November. It is unknown what motive the arsonist had.

The Catholic Church has been the most consistent and most vocal institution in America on the moral horror of abortion and on the failure that abortion is in respecting human life and in caring for the most vulnerable among us, including the pre-born child and his or her mother. Pro-abortion “rights” advocates in their actions in favor of abortion have shown no hesitation in targeting the Catholic Church. Ruth Sent Us, especially, has been clear in its calls to attack Catholic churches, disrupt Masses, and “burn the Eucharist.” Catholics should not be surprised that our churches are targeted. We should expect it. It is part of the price we pay for being faithful to the demand of Christ to protect the least among us.

But attacks on churches here in the United States are nothing compared to what our confreres suffer in other parts of the world. On Pentecost Sunday, gunmen entered St. Francis Xavier Church in Owo, Nigeria, and killed at least 50 worshipers. It is suspected that the gunmen were members of a radical Islamic militia. There is a long history of persecution and martyrdom of Christians in Nigeria, while the government is criticized for doing little to nothing to protect Nigeria’s Christians.

The Gospel According to Mark can be divided into two main sections. The first section, from chapters 1 to 8, focuses on the identity of Jesus as the one who teaches and acts with authority. The remaining chapters of the Gospel focus on what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus. After prophesying His suffering and death, the disciples still fail to understand Jesus’ mission. They argue over who is greatest among them. Jesus tells them, “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45). Jesus gave His life, handing it over for the sake of the many. Those who follow Him, who would be His disciples, must take up their crosses alongside Him and give their lives for His sake and His mission. This is what it means to be a true disciple.

Mark wrote his Gospel to a Church in Rome that was facing persecution. Many were being martyred for their faith. Mark wrote to inspire with courage the followers of Jesus to take up their crosses, as Jesus had, and offer their lives for the Gospel. Jesus walked ahead of the disciples on the road to suffering and death. He will walk ahead of us now. As disciples, we are to follow Jesus on the way. His way is suffering, but suffering unto glory.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.


Deacon Bob Hunt is a husband, father, grandfather, and parishioner at All Saints Church in Knoxville.

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