Saturday, February 28, 2015

Live and Let Live

"On receiving the blow of death, I shall accept it from your hands with the fullest delight and joy of spirit. For this reason, my beloved Jesus, and because of the surging joy which moves me, here and now I offer my blood and body and life. May I die only for you, if you will grant me this grace, since you willingly died for me. Let me so live that you may grant me the gift of such a happy death. In this way, my God and Saviour, I will take from your hand the cup of your sufferings and call on your name: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!"  [Saint John de Br├ębeuf]

St. Ignatius of Antioch has left us with the most articulate supplications from his journey across the Mediterranean region to his death in the circus of Rome asking that no one stand in the way of his full identification with His Lord through martyrdom, by being ground into a Eucharist flour by the teeth of the beasts. The texts we have from the North American martyrs, as they sought to prepare themselves for the seeming inevitability of terrible torture and death at the hands of evil men who would deprive their people of the light of the Gospel, are no less compelling for me.

I don't know if we will achieve the same clarity in sorting out the premonitions and preparation for death of Borys Nemtsov or Nadyia Savchenko. What is clear to me, however, is that their tormentors and murderers are no less godless and hate-filled than were the powers which deprived Antioch of its great and beloved bishop or gave North America its proto-martyrs.

As papal representative here in Ukraine, I am among the privileged witnesses to efforts from people of good will from around the world to save and free Nadyia from the clutches of the death dealers who took her hostage, carrying her far off from her beloved Ukraine. They seek, I suppose, not only to break and destroy her, but trample Ukraine under foot as well. Wickedness arches its back and raises its ugly head against the revolution of dignity! That someone for whatever motive might contest such an interpretation comes as no surprise.

Each of us who are believers in our struggle to conform our lives to Christ must pray about our witness and do so in the mirror of the perfect witness of the Church's officially recognized martyrs. I find myself a bit flagging these days in terms of what that might ultimately require of me in faithfulness to the Truth which comes to us from God alone. I don't envy people and their various struggles in situations on this side of death; that goes doubly for those who are called to witness to Catholic truth. First in my thoughts and prayers these days, in that regard, is Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco as he goes about holding for the Catholic character of the schools of the Archdiocese. I need to, but I think we all as serious Catholics need to pray for the grace of the virtue of fortitude. One does not choose martyrdom and the wisdom of the Church Fathers counsels not to provoke it either.

We pray for others and for ourselves, borrowing thoughts and words from St. John de Brebeuf. We ask that the Lord would guide us to choose Him, to choose the better part.

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