Possible with God’s grace


I was shivering a wee bit at Mass in the coliseum at the North American Martyrs Shrine in Auriesville, New York. It was the final public Mass of the season, celebrating the feast day (though moved to the day before, to be a Sunday Mass, with the bishop of Albany). My teeth were chattering at times.

And all I could think about is how comfortable we are, even now. There has been a lot of suffering this year. But at the height of quarantine, I ordered groceries. I got my medicines. Going stir crazy is a challenge, but it’s not having your hands mutilated. When I read the testimonies of the North American martyrs and what they endured for the love of God and men and women and children living in a barbaric culture, it puts things in perspective.

In our day, I think of persecuted Christians in the Middle East. We have our little tastes here — government infringing on conscience rights and our freedom to safely assemble to pray. That’s an ecumenical problem here in New York, with Catholics and Jews taking the governor to court.

But I have in mind the likes of Father Douglas Bazi, an Iraqi-born Chaldean priest, who, when you plead with him, will describe the terrible tortures he’s endured at the hands of Islamic militants. When I asked him how great his faith must have been to be able to endure it, he promised me it was all God’s grace — and God would give me the same grace if the time were to come. By faith, I trust that is true, though looking at my life, it would take a miracle.

The Amy Coney Barrett hearings were instructive. Some of us were heartened and even inspired. So many young women, especially young mothers, tell me the latter. Others seem to look at her as a sister, a colleague, a friend, a person of faith and excellence.

And yet, the reactions of others were quite different, needless to say. I read that there was something sinister about her overly friendly community, People of Praise. There was something unacceptable about her pro-life views. How can a woman actually believe what the Catholic Church teaches? And yet, there are many of us, aren’t there? They couldn’t possibly have adopted out of the kindness of their hearts. There had to be some kind of white-privilege factor.

And then there was the issue that maybe gave Senate Democrats more pause than even abortion: She said she didn’t have an opinion on climate change. That was unbelievable to Sen. Dick Durbin, among others. I get paid to have opinions, and, truth be told, I don’t have one on climate change, either. I know we need to be good stewards and aren’t, and my analysis stops there.

Everyone cannot have an opinion on everything. And isn’t it a good thing that she would look at an environmental case before the court with fresh eyes? Right now, Amy Barrett and her family are making tremendous sacrifices, and I think they know how important that is — I hope they do.

What people are seeing is what real religion looks like at a time — during a crazy election season — when religion is used and abused for a win. Religion is so much more than Catholics for Biden or Catholics for Trump and all the rest.

Religion is about challenging us to be who God created us to be — something that is only possible with God’s grace. The North American Martyrs show us this. Amy Barrett and her family show us this in their way, too. Every one of us who tries to truly live faithfully in the love of Christ demonstrates that it is possible and desirable.

Life without meaning isn’t worth living. But life is worth living because it has meaning in the heart of Christ and the love of the life of the Trinity. What a blessed thing the Christian life is! If only more of us would live it fearlessly as the Jesuit martyrs did! Pray that leaders today truly do — including you and me and all we love and encounter!

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.


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