Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Continuing my series of letters on “Difficulties for Converts” – another problem some converts experience is the difficulty of perseverance.
The writer Flannery O’Connor has a humorous incident in one of her stories in which a feisty young Catholic girl is thinking about the faith and quips, “I don’t think I could be a saint, but I think I could be a martyr if they killed me quick.”
We may sometimes imagine what it would be like to face real persecution for our faith. Would we be able to give up our home and livelihood? Would we be willing to go to prison? Be tortured and humiliated? Would we even be willing to die for the faith?
All of us would like to imagine that we would stand tall and courageous in the face of persecution. However, open, cruel and relentless persecution usually only breaks out after a long, tedious, subtle campaign against the faith. More Christians are persecuted through subtle, continuous psychological and emotional attacks than through open physical attacks.
More often than that are the attacks by the evil one to tempt us away from the faith through sin, weakness and indifference. Another form of attack is to draw our attention to the human weaknesses of our fellow Catholics and to discourage us by the hypocrisy, cowardice and compromise of our church leaders.
All of these difficulties are with us day by day and I ask myself, “If I cannot persevere in my faithfulness to Christ and his church through these lesser temptations and difficulties why do I imagine that I would persevere through the extreme temptations of real, physical persecution?”
Being a Catholic requires true grit. We need to stand tall each day, buckle on our armor and do battle for Christ and his church. Each day we must recognize the enemy – see clearly and stand firm against the sin, the hypocrisy, the weakness and the frailty of Christians – most especially the Christian we see in the mirror.
Then, when the journey is over, we can hear Christ say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the rest that has been prepared for you.”