Following is my annual Ash Wednesday post from a piece that I wrote eight years ago now that we should keep in mind today:
[On Ash Wednesday 2005] my friend Bryan was on the other side of the planet in Saudi Arabia secretly practicing our Catholic faith. As he put it in his own blog:
It’s illegal to practice any religion here except Islam and violators can be executed. Think of Saudi as first century Rome where Christians were persecuted and fed to the lions…….and I’m not exaggerating here at all. They actually raid places and haul anyone doing another religion away and those folks are never seen again.
Churches are forced to meet there in secret, most of the time led by lay individuals who distribute Holy Communion that has been blessed and smuggled in to the country. Today, they had ashes that had been consecrated as well. Given the repressive society they are in, they have their ashes placed on the back of their hands where it is not as noticeable. Not Bryan, though. He took it right on the forehead. He went on to write:
Most Americans have no idea of the level of persecution and absolute totalitarian control the government here has over the population. It makes the Spanish Inquisition look like a picnic….and Americans are not exempt.
God was at work there today, too. The two lay leaders of this church are set to return to the U.S. now that their tour of duty is ending. With Bryan just beginning his tour, he has been tapped to replace them as a lay leader. I wrote him to ask if I can write the screenplay of his story. I told him that it would be a military / religious thriller based upon his blog and we could get Mel Gibson to produce it. I have two titles in mind. The first, “An Angel With Guns,” was inspired by what one of the Filipino contractors had called Bryan. The second, and most powerful is, of course, simply “Ash Wednesday.”
If you would like to read about how things turned out for Bryan, be sure to read this post.