During the seventeenth century persecution of Irish Catholics by English Protestants, the faithful were often left no choice but to worship God in remote locations. An isolated area would be chosen, men or boys would be posted as lookouts, and then the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass would be offered. These sites (as depicted above) became known as “Mass Rocks,” because the priest would use a rock as an altar. Many such sites still remain in Ireland where Masses are sometimes offered once a year to commemorate the many years of Catholic persecution.
I believe Mass Rocks are fitting symbols for all Catholics who are determined to live and proclaim the faith today, regardless of the price. The modern world is becoming an increasingly hostile place for the Church. Reports of teachers and preachers being arrested or sued simply for speaking the truth in love are becoming quite common. And with the Supreme Court’s outrageous redefinition of marriage to include same-sex relations, the number of incidents will now dramatically increase.
We Christians are the descendants of martyrs. And as it was in the beginning, so it will be in the end. Today there is a mounting political and social pressure to condone the sins of the modern world. This pressure to conform to the latest mundane standard is felt even within the Church, so that conversing about the faith with fellow Catholics often leads to impassioned disagreements about fundamental teachings. And on the national scale, our freedom to profess and publically proclaim the Gospel without harassment is quickly fading. It is hard not to believe that open persecution is near.
Many Catholics have found a solution to these difficulties: simply avoid controversial subjects. In a word, “self-censorship”. They’ve found consolation in their own cowardice, which dictates to them another gospel, a false gospel of compromise which omits all references to Catholic moral teachings, except those of which the world approves. We’ve all met these persons in our familial and social circles. They regularly go to Mass, pray the rosary, and are active in their parish. But when a priest or catechist finds the courage to speak the truth on one of those controversial subjects – divorce, remarriage, contraception, abortion, or homosexuality – they’re the first to protest. They’re outraged that a Catholic in this day and age should actually believe such acts are sinful. Perhaps they get up and leave in the middle of a homily, or even write an offended editorial to the local newspaper. They are the voice of the world within the Church, calling her to apostasy, to betray her Lord, and we must not surrender to their perverse appeals.
In light of all this, we must remember the Mass Rock. The Irish past is about to become the American future. We must practice and teach the faith without compromise, regardless of the worldly cost. We are the disciples of a God who was crucified, of apostles who were beheaded, and of countless devout souls who chose to surrender their lives rather than deny the living God or even one of His revealed Truths. “Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His faithful.”
There is no salvation in compromise. There is salvation only in the proverbial Mass Rock.