Andrew Bobola was an individual who demonstrated such a commitment. He willingly undertook the difficult labors and hardships to safeguard the Catholic faith of his fellow citizens. Andrew understood the necessity of protecting their moral life. The same is desperately true for the people of the modern era. How desperately do we need spiritual leaders in our world today with the same type of tenacity and commitment as Andrew Bobola?
On May 16, 1957, Pope Pius XII issued the encyclical letter, Invicti Athletae. It was the 300th anniversary of the martyrdom of Andrew Bobola. On May 16, 1657, on the Feast of the Lord’s Ascension into heaven, this Jesuit priest was sieged, tortured and ultimately executed for his faith. Paragraphs 17—19 of the encyclical describe the horrible ordeal with enough detail to churn the stomach. Here was an athlete for Christ who ran the race to the finish.
While this encyclical was written well over a half century ago, the contents of paragraph 22 demonstrate a peculiar timelessness in the struggles of the Church. In part it states, “Today, to Our sorrow, there are places where the Christian faith either languishes in inert weakness, or is practically extinguished. The Gospel teaching is almost entirely ignored by many; by others - what is worse - it is totally repudiated.”
Those words of the encyclical sound a lot like what we are experiencing today in 2015. Pope Pius XII is reminding all of us, but in particular those of us in leadership positions within the Church, that we have work to do. It is evident that that the Christian faith is languishing in inert weakness here in the United States of America. Are we going to idly sit by and watch the flame of faith get completely extinguished? Where is the sense of urgency? Are we going to continue week after week in a mode of status quo?
It is no secret that the teachings of the Gospel are ignored on a widespread basis all across the country, and this includes some of the people who are actually sitting in the pews on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, the wolf at the door has been successful in scattering the flock. The example of St. Andrew Bobola will hopefully inspire a new generation of faithful leaders willing to lay down their lives for the faith. May the flame of faith received at Baptism be kept burning brightly throughout our entire lives!
I encourage you to read the encyclical in its entirety. It can be found on the Vatican website at: