Chaplain’s Corner – September 2017 – “Martyrdom of the West”
Since the time of the early Church, men and women have heroically given their lives for the faith, known and unknown in the texts of history. There are well known and more publically documented stories such as St. Maria Goretti, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Miguel Pro, all the Apostles (save St. John), and near countless others; then there are lives given heroically as a witness to the Faith that we will never know on this side of eternity… lives poured out as an oblation, in order that their persecutors and the world may know the Truth that they so obstinately deny. While the martyrdom of Christians persists to this day in multitudes that dwarf the Apostolic era, there is a persecution or a “white martyrdom” that is happening in regions of the world that have not yet succumbed to shedding the physical blood of Christians.
The term “white martyrdom” refers to a suffering or a persecution endured for the Faith without the shedding of blood. In an increasingly secular society, it should not come as a surprise that as Catholic men living in the modern, western world, we are undoubtedly going to face instances of persecution if we are living out our faith publically and explicitly. St. Francis of Assisi is often attributed with saying, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.” Not only is there no evidence that St. Francis of Assisi said this and was often found preaching (out loud… with verbal words) to large crowds at parties or on street corners, but it is incredibly misleading. To preach the Gospel, it is always necessary to do so with words! In our society, this task of preaching the Gospel or being evangelists of the faith has been mistakenly tasked solely to the clerical members of the Church; while it is not necessary for every person that you encounter to know that you are a Roman Catholic, most people in your regular, daily life should know that you are a Roman Catholic beyond any shadow of a doubt. Family, friends, co-workers, fellow parents on your child’s soccer team, and the like should never find themselves saying, “I really don’t know what faith he is”.
This public display of your faith can be done in innumerable ways: praying your rosary on your way to work, saying grace before meals even when out to breakfast/lunch/dinner with people whose faith background you’re unsure of, inviting people to go to (daily) Mass with you (and your family), making theology and matters of the faith regular conversation, and the list goes on and on. Making your faith known to the world with your words is necessary for your own sanctity but built into God’s plan of salvation is your public display of the faith, for those around you; remember that your faith is not just for you, so when living out your faith publically, it is not only about being right in matters of truth but also about bringing them into the fold so the HOW we do this preaching is almost as important as the action of doing it.
If the world around you is aware of your faith and you are living it as best you can by participating in the sacramental life of the Church, practicing and striving for virtue, and continuously entering in to a life of silence and prayer, it is not a matter of “if” you will suffer for your faith, but “when”. More than likely it will not end with your life but rather in subtle ways the evil one will find ways to discourage you and make life more frustrating than it needs to be. As Catholic men in the post-Christian modern world, the cross that we must be willing to pick up lies in front of us on the train going to work, at the coffee shop, at our jobs, at the water cooler, in our homes, and every place that Christ calls us to preach Him with words. Take consolation in the words of Jesus Himself:
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But all this they will do to you on my account, because they do not know him who sent me.” – John 15:18-21
The Lord is calling us to be men, in whatever vocation we have been called to live, willing to suffer for His sake; no longer do we live in a world where a passive faith is acceptable and fruitful. God Bless, and be a saint, nothing less.
In Christ & Mary,
– Father Eric Silva
Chaplain – Candlewood Lake Council No. 11913