Everyday martyrdom for the weak and afraid

If you have ever looked in the mirror and thought with shame and distress that you could never die for your faith, think again. Life in Christ is a life of a thousand, million little deaths: deaths to old ways of thinking, death to false security, death to complacency, death to trivial comforts. Any time you inquire about your Faith, you are whispering to Christ, however reluctantly, that you are open to killing off some part of yourself that does not deserve to live.

Read the rest of my latest at The Catholic Weekly.

Photo: By nieznany – Polish Righteous awarded with medals for bravery by the Holocaust Remembrance Authority. Cropped and color managed by Poeticbent (dyskusja · edycje), Domena publiczna, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7130230

The samurai martyr and the sex abuse scandal

screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-1-41-12-pm

Where do we go when we as a church are caught persecuting ourselves? How do we respond when the aggressor lives within our walls, and when the criticisms of our church are accurate and true? When the enemy of the faith is a hostile outsider, our course seems clear: we fight back, to defend ourselves and our church. But this is a different matter.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly of Australia.

****
Image: detail from woodblock by Hokusai(?)

Maria Goretti didn’t die for her virginity

Maria_Goretti

Or she wasn’t canonized just because she managed to remain a virgin, anyway.

Let’s back up. When you think about holiness, do you fall into bathwater thinking?

Bathwater thinking is when you forget the baby — the living, breathing, vulnerable persons in front of you — and instead, you wallow around in that warm, familiar bathwater of your indisputably worthy cause.

Think about St. Gianna Molla.  A good many people believe that this woman’s greatness came in her eager, joyful acceptance of death in order to save her baby.  Not so.  It is true that she was willing to accept the risk of death when she refused the therapeutic hysterectomy that would have killed her unborn child.  And she did end up giving her life so that her baby could live.  But the whole time, she prayed and hoped and longed to live. She wasn’t devoted to being pro-life: she was devoted to her baby.  And she wanted to live, so that she could be with her baby and her husband and the rest of her beloved children.  She was pro-life:  she hoped for life in abundance, including her own.

The same is true, in a somewhat different way, for St. Maria Goretti, whose feast is today.  Over and over, I’ve heard this saint praised as a holy girl who prized her viginity so highly that she was willing to die to defend it.  And she did die as a result of defending her viginity.  But when her would-be rapist attacked her, she pleaded with him to stop because he would be committing a mortal sin, and he would go to hell.  She didn’t say, “Please, please, spare my virginity!” She begged him to spare himself.  

This is what it looks like when someone is close to God:  because they love God, they want to spare the person in front of them.  They are in love with living human beings, not in love with virtue in the abstract.  They are focused not on the idea of morality, but on the person whose life and safety (whether physical or spiritual) are at stake.

In Maria Goretti’s case, she was focused on her rapist — and it was her love for him, and not her blindingly pure devotion to virginity, that converted him and brought him to repentance before he died.  That is how conversions happen.  That is how people are saved:  when other people show love for them.  It’s about other people.  It’s always about our love for God expressed as love for other people.  That’s why, before someone is declared a saint, they have to perform two miracles for people still on earth.  Even after death, it’s not about the cause or the system or the virtue in the abstract.  It’s always about our love for other people.

Ideas like holiness, chastity, humility, charity, diligence, or any other virtue that springs to mind when you think of a saint?  These are bathwater.  These are the things that surround and support the “baby” of love in action.  A bath without bathwater is no good; but a bath without someone to be bathed is even more pointless. God doesn’t want bathwater saints, ardently devoted to a cause or a principle or a movement or a virtue.  God wants us to love and care for each other.  Love for each other is how we order our lives.  Love for each other is how we serve God.

Love for each other is how we imitate Jesus. He didn’t die for the cause of salvation; He died for us, as billions of individual beloved children.

It’s not an either/or: we don’t have to choose between pursuing virtue and showing love. But virtue doesn’t exist in a vaccuum, and the pursuit of holiness doesn’t mean anything unless it’s manifest in love for each other. It’s always about our love for other people. Otherwise, what’s the point?

***

Image via Wikimedia Commons: By Giuseppe Brovelli-Soffredini[1]  (Original source of this reproduction is unknown) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This post was originally published in a different form in February of 2014.

So Benedict was the pinko who green lighted Oscar Romero cause

oscar-romero

According to the AP (bold type is my addition):

The monsignor who spearheaded the saint-making process for El Salvador’s slain Archbishop Oscar Romero said Wednesday it was Pope Benedict XVI— and not Pope Francis — who removed the final hurdle in the tortured, 35-year process.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia told reporters Benedict “gave the green light.” Speaking a day after Francis declared that Romero died as a martyr for the faith, Paglia said Romero’s beatification would likely be within a few months in San Salvador.

Paglia says Benedict told him on Dec. 20, 2012, the case had passed from the Vatican’s doctrine office, where it had been held up for years over concerns about Romero’s orthodoxy, to the saint-making office. From there it proceeded quickly, taking a mere two years for theologians, and then a committee of cardinals and bishops, to agree unanimously that Romero died as a martyr out of hatred for the faith.

I don’t know about you, but the narrative I always heard and accepted was that Oscar Romero did good work, but was a little hinky in his leanings, and so the more conservative element in the Church didn’t want to touch his cause for beatification; but Francis is enough of a free-wheeler to cut through that red tape and get this thing moving. I’m not saying that’s what you thought; I’m saying that’s what I thought, without thinking about it much.

Instead, it looks like this is installment #3,908,555 in the story titled “The Vatican works very, very slowly, and most of us know almost nothing about what goes on there” (and installment #598,773 in the story titled, “So, you thought you knew Benedict?”). I’m really looking forward to learning more about Abp. Romero, who was assassinated while saying Mass, apparently for appealing directly to soldiers to stop murdering the citizens of El Salvador.

 

Whew, 2015 is off to quite a start!