FROM THE PRESIDENT'S KITCHEN TABLE
It‘s that time of year to reflect on Thanksgiving. I don’t mean the turkey and the cranberry sauce, although being thankful for our material blessings is important. But our greatest gift is the Catholic faith. If you believe that’s true you are inevitably led to ask, “why me, Lord?” Why was I blessed with the greatest gift on earth when so many are denied it? Some, of course, never have the opportunity. They are born in Muslim or Hindu cultures where they never hear the words of Christ. In his book, Catholic Apologetics Today, Fr. William Most conjectured that those of us who are Catholic are, perhaps, the ones who need the most help getting to heaven, which is certainly God’s desire for all of us. But when reflecting on “Why me?” one also immediately confronts the problem of sin. How many people should be Catholics who aren’t because a parent didn’t pass on the faith or they rejected it?
I used to occasionally walk around my neighborhood with a wonderful elderly gentleman I’ll call Sam. A devout Lutheran, Sam often talked about his faith. One day he mentioned that his father was a Catholic, but it was his mom who practiced her religion. “Oh Sam, I said, you should have been a Catholic!” And I really regretted his never having the Eucharist. Sam’s dad let him down, and not only him, but Sam’s mother and all their children. Instead of passing on the birthright and the glory of the Eucharistic banquet, Sam’s dad gave his family a bowl of pottage. Thinking about it made me so grateful for my own faithful parents and grandparents and all my ancestors down through the ages who practiced and passed on the faith.
I wish I were a genealogist because then I might have an inkling of what it cost them to remain faithful. My mom’s roots were in Ireland and my dad’s in Germany. Did Mom’s Irish ancestors hold secret Masses in their cottages and hide St. Brigid’s cross in the thatched roof when the English troops came? Did Dad’s forbearers in Germany experience persecution and bloodshed from Protestant revolutionaries? What price did my ancestors pay to be Catholic?
What price am I willing to pay?The writing is on the wall that to remain Christian in the United States will come with a bill, perhaps a big one. Already, pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions for abortifacient birth control have lost their jobs, as have those refusing to attend homosexual indoctrination sessions at work and nurses who will not aid in abortions. There’s a growing toll of small business owners sued and harassed because they won’t compromise their beliefs: wedding planners, printers, and photographers who won’t participate in same-sex ceremonies, property owners who deny rentals to fornicating couples, etc. The economic and other forms of persecution are real. How many have the courage to fight on when poverty is the end result?
We are all familiar with the brutal reign of Elizabeth I and her followers in England. Priests and others didn’t just lose property, but faced being hanged, drawn, and quartered. Those three words hardly reflect the bloody reality of being nearly suffocated, then (still conscious) being cut down and butchered alive, your intestines removed and burnt in front of you. Then being divided into four pieces and having your head cut off and hung on London Bridge. That definitely had a chilling effect on dissent. (Compare the numbers to those killed in the inquisition. “Good Queen Bess” wins hands down.) But I think what really killed the faith in England (a problem even today) was the relentless draconian economic sanctions against those who refused to participate in the government services, the “recusants.” Heavy fines reduced them to poverty and many had their property seized. Pray now for the courage to run the race to the end, rosary in hand. The last miles are likely to be difficult indeed.