Saint Michael Archangel,
defend us in battle,
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil;
may God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God, cast into hell
Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Some years ago I visited a museum that had a room dedicated to pictures of the Holocaust. I entered the room but found the pictures so appalling and aversive that, after one glance, I could look no further. The inhumanity was beyond what my mind could grasp. I have had this experience many times in recent years due to the internet and particularly social media which bring these images into our homes and lives in a way never before experienced. We may not search for them but they come up in news stories and social media feeds. These stories and images stay with me and are difficult to shake off but I do my utmost to block them and turn my eyes away. I’m sure most of us have had this distressing experience.
I believe the love of God in the person of the Holy Spirit sensitises us to this evil. I find man’s inhumanity to the vulnerable, weak, poor, sick, young and animals too much to bear. Some of the terrible things that we do to animals in the name of sport or commercial gain is beyond belief. However, I am able to turn my eyes away from this. I was blessed enough to be born in a stable country with laws to protect me and a welfare and health system to support me and, although I see pictures in the media that haunt me for a while, I can turn my face away. I block out the horror and revel in my comfortable life.
God doesn’t turn away. He is intimately woven into the fabric of our world and His eyes never turn away. He feels every hurt and pain, every fear and distress. I can’t even begin to imagine what it feels like to experience every horror in the world and to take it all onto His shoulders. Occasionally, in deep prayer, we can get the shadow of an indication when we feel overwhelmed with sadness, start sobbing and have no idea why. We are given the tiniest taste of what it is like to feel each and every evil and to crush them with His love.
I believe our Lord is calling certain of us to this ministry. We are called to share the evils of the world with Him; to face evil and not to turn away; to look at what is happening in the world and to share the responsibility in prayer with our Lord. We are called to share this burden and to actively search for the stories and activities whose evils turn our stomachs but, instead of turning away in disgust, we hold onto them and combat them in prayer.
This is not a ministry for the faint hearted and I’m not sure it is one I could cope with and I do not think any of us should try to cope with this alone. But I would be interested to hear from anyone who is also receiving this call to combat evil in this particular way. Never before, in the history of mankind, has it been easier to find evil from the comfort of our own homes, look it in the face and say – no more. However, don’t enter into this unless you feel a particular calling and have support.
On 10 June, an SS Unit in France sealed off Oradour-sur-Glane and ordered all the inhabitants – and anyone who happened to be in or near the town – to assemble in the village square to have their identity papers examined. The SS also arrested six people who did not live in the village but merely happened to be riding their bicycles through there when the SS unit arrived.
The women and children were locked in the church and the village was looted. The men were led to six barns and sheds, where machine guns were already in place.
According to a survivor’s account, the SS men then began shooting, aiming for their legs. When victims were unable to move, the Nazis covered them with fuel and set the barns on fire. Only six men managed to escape. One of them was later seen walking down a road and was shot dead. In all, 190 Frenchmen died.
The SS men next proceeded to the church and placed an incendiary device beside it. When it was ignited, women and children tried to escape through the doors and windows, only to be met with machine-gun fire. 247 women and 205 children died in the brutal attack. The only survivor was 47-year-old Marguerite Rouffanche. She escaped through a rear sacristy window, followed by a young woman and child. All three were shot, two of them fatally. Rouffanche crawled to some pea bushes and remained hidden overnight until she was found and rescued the next morning. About twenty villagers had fled Oradour-sur-Glane as soon as the SS unit had appeared. That night, the village was partially razed.
This is now a historical event but such massacres have happened on numerous occasions since and are still happening today. Prayer can make a difference.