A few weeks ago, Uncle Pookie and I were driving home one night. I was saying something about our general spiritual lameness, when suddenly I was struck by it more forcefully and exclaimed, "It's a good thing we don't have to live under oppression!"
"What do you mean?"
"You know, religious oppression, having to receive the sacraments in secret, things like that. We'd never make it."
"Oh, I don't know, we might rise to the occasion."
I thought about that for a few moments. "Well, yeah, I guess times like that can sometimes bring out the best in people."
The husband: "No, I meant our stubbornness might kick in."
And the next few fits and starts of sentences I tried to utter, I couldn't get out for my laughter. He knows us.
Oh, how he knows us! I am rather pliant until something hits up against my sense of personal integrity and then I become rooted and unyielding--more so than most people would consider good for me; and it can be triggered by things other people consider insignificant. As for Uncle Pookie, I've been known to call him The Immovable Object; we'll leave it at that. God forbid we should ever be faced with the prospect of martyrdom, either regular or "white" (bloodless), but if we are and we pass that test, stubbornness will surely play a big part in it.
Which I guess would just go to show that 1.) flaws often have a flip side that can be a strength, and 2.) God can even use our flaws.
So why did I choose to post this today, during the festive Christmas season? December 26th is the feast day of St. Stephen,the first Christian martyr. (See the book of Acts.) He wasn't the last. Whatever the number currently stands at, it's safe to say it will get bigger. The twentieth century saw a surprisingly large amount of persecution of Christians in general and Catholics in particular. This happened below the radar of most Americans (as does today's persecution of Christians in, for example, China), partly because we were insulated from it here. And we still are.
But we in the West live in societies where the Bible is rapidly being redefined as hate speech, where ignorance of Scriptures and Christian tradition are vast and spreading, where families are breaking down and all norms of morality and civilized behavior are suspect. Here in the US fairly large numbers of the population are indignant if religious believers involve themselves in the political process like citizens and the job of Supreme Court Justice now seems to be one with a "No Catholics Need Apply" in the job description. And the way the wind is blowing, a lot more jobs may be coming with that notice before long.
God forbid it should be so. I can not see the future any more than anyone else and I certainly hope that Christian persecution does not happen in the USA or in the rest of the Anglosphere or anywhere else it is not already going on. But in a society where a person can be jailed for quoting passages of the Bible that someone else does not like or be hounded out of his or her job for holding to traditional Christian teaching, it is time Christians have to begin to ask themselves what they will do if they are faced with martyrdom, red or white. And this goes extra for Catholic Christians, because if you'll notice, people who hate Christianity in general usually hate the Catholic Church extra hard.
Something to think about as 2008 ends.