instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Race to the catacombs

With many American Catholics, on behalf of all Catholics, unhelpfully ceding a place in the public square for Catholicism, there is a tendency for some to envision the day, coming soon, when (what I'll call) "spiritually meritorious" persecution of Catholics (in particular, and Christians in general) will be the law of the land.

Some Catholics even look forward to the day. They seem to be racing to arrive in the catacombs well before the culture decides the time is ripe to drive them there.

I'm thinking this isn't a good attitude.

If you're running away, you're not fighting (if we may use martial imagery). Even if the battle is lost, a full-out flight will leave many who aren't as fast as you -- perhaps they didn't notice the tide turning against them, perhaps they're too young to flee -- in the hands of the enemy.

I think there's a tendency to romanticize the persecutions of the Early Church.
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be killed was very heaven!
Some of that may be due to a sense that the only way we're going to be canonized is through martyrdom, but some may be due to a false sense of our own ability to withstand persecution.

The problem is, our own ability to withstand persecution does not exist in this cosmos. Any such ability we might have is an undeserved gift from God. We run a very great risk of the sin of presumption if we're sure we'd come through persecution with a crown of glory.

Then too, we can commit other sins than apostasy during a persecution. Vainglory and hatred, for example.

As Mark Shea points out, Jesus taught us to pray to the Father that we be spared the final test. I don't think we do that simply to avoid being disaccomodated.