Saturday, September 29, 2012

Witness, yes, Martyrdom

I remember years ago someone telling me about Cardinal Lehmann’s apartment in Mainz, that the whole floor and all the furniture were covered with books and articles, most open to a specific page, indicative that they were being read in snatches. In our age of ebooks, and with no claims to the label “voracious reader”, I guess I find myself in a similar situation with various books open on two different laptops and a Kindle reader. Maybe having things lying around would draw me back sooner, especially to those I treasure a great deal. These days I stumbled back upon Blessed Angela of Foligno and finished reading what is labeled as her Second Essay, from which I’d like to quote the final paragraph about the Holy Eucharist:

“Therefore, we should approach that table and that great and good thing with the utmost reverence, fear, and trembling, but above all, with exceeding great love. The soul should approach to this Sacrament humbly, exalted, and adorned, for it goes to that which is the height of all beauty and perfect glory, supreme holiness, happiness, blessedness, exaltedness, and nobility, all sweetness and all love, which has the sweetness of love without end. Thus, the soul should go to receive the Sacrament, in order that it may itself be received. It should be pure, that it may be purified; alive, that it may be quickened; just, that it may be justified; ready that it may be incorporated with God uncreated who was made man, and that it may be one with Him to all eternity. Amen.” [Angelina Foligno (2009-02-06). Divine Consolation (Great Christian Mystical Writings) (Kindle Locations 2145-2151). Revelation Insight. Kindle Edition.]

A good year ago now, when last I did any continuous reading from this lovely book, I commented to the effect that her enthusiastic comments about embracing suffering through embracing the Cross of Christ, were not exactly for the weak of heart or will. My ongoing and long-term reflections, not so much on readiness to embrace martyrdom as, let’s say, on turning the other cheek, move me to try and formulate an appeal for fewer arched or hunched backs (less rebellion) against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, especially as those are concerned who ought to be nurturing and supporting us and then come to find out are revealed as the very ones who, even as shepherds, are either neglecting the flock or tearing the sheep limb from limb.

Here’s a quote stolen from another piece lying around, which I happened to “trip over”:
God knows what you suffered [but] we know that your journey is very sorrowful. (“Deus scit, quae patis [sic pateris]. Scimus dolorosissimam esse Vestram viam.”ACO, Ruteni 2, pos. 380/28, fasc. 2, annex to f. 82r, translation of letter from Ukrainian priests to Budka, St. Josaphat Church, Toronto, 10 January 1929.)

These words addressed by priests to their own bishop, the first Greek-Catholic bishop in Canada, now Blessed Nykyta Budka, bishop and martyr, ring prophetic in terms of the real sufferings in Canada which would not that many years later pale in comparison to what he suffered at the hands of the Soviet repression “machine” which sought to totally annihilate his beloved Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, and him in the process.

You don't know, I don't know, we don't know what our loving Lord has in store for us this side of heaven. He invites us to watch and pray with Him. He encourages us not to fear or hesitate, in that His yoke is easy and His burden to be shared by us is light. I think Blessed Angela would probably not argue with me in saying that the call to holiness for each and every one of us should lead to our being tagged "confessor of the faith", which involves much pain and personal sacrifice. Such witness, Christian witness, is the forecourt to glorious martyrdom. There's all kinds of video and other commentary out there to note this our age (the last 100 years) as unparalleled for the numbers and frequency with which Christians have been called to share in Christ's supreme sacrifice through their own identified with His: through martyrdom. What is it with all our squawking? What is it indeed? Why do we so rebel against that which is or can be our portion and our cup?

The solemn opening of the Year of Faith is nearly upon us. Blessed John Cardinal Newman reveals in a lovely little novel that there's more to it than being raised in a Christian home environment and learning the truths of the faith: 

"CALLISTA A TALE OF THE THIRD CENTURY BY JOHN HENRY CARDINAL NEWMAN   “Love thy God, and love Him only, And thy breast will ne’er be lonely. In that One Great Spirit meet All things mighty, grave, and sweet. Vainly strives the soul to mingle With a being of our kind; Vainly hearts with hearts are twined: For the deepest still is single. An impalpable resistance Holds like natures still at distance. Mortal: love that Holy One, Or dwell for aye alone.” [Newman, John Henry Cardinal (2009-12-14). Callista : a Tale of the Third Century (Kindle Locations 4-25). Evergreen Review, Inc.. Kindle Edition.]

May we do all within our power this year to share the faith, the pearl of great price! The number of confessors of the faith must increase such that the "Callistas" called forth to martyrdom might have their witnesses and those who give thanks might be many!


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