6. Persecution will produce a leaner, stronger church – Don’t imagine that I’m actually longing for persecution. I’m a priest. I’m likely to be in the front line! But if persecution of some sort comes our way we should see it as a testing time that will strengthen us. Let’s admit it. The American Catholic Church is pretty flabby, complacent and self satisfied. We could use some toughening up. Persecution will send the Christian sissies running for cover. Persecution might just help us to find where we left our backbones, and remember these words from St Paul to the Corinthians: “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
7. Persecution will produce more vocations – Rely on it. Why do young people not consider the priesthood or the religious life? Too often because they have not seen examples of that life being lived out heroically. If their priest seems to be not much more than an overweight, self absorbed suburban social worker what thrill is there in that? If it looks like their priest is just occupying a big house with a comfy job and a pension plan what kind of a draw is that for a young man who wants to be a hero? However, once they see priests standing up for something and not compromising they will want to join that happy band of brothers.
8. Persecution will produce clarity about marriage – Once Catholics draw the line and decide they can compromise no further, everything else will suddenly become much clearer. Clarity on this issue will produce much more clarity about marriage and sexuality in our lives. Catholics will be able to see clearly what marriage is and what it isn’t and they will begin to defend and live true marriage with increased vigor, commitment and joy.
9. Persecution always defeats the persecutors – When will the aggressive ideologues ever learn that as soon as you make a martyr out of someone you lose? You lose the sympathy of the crowd. You lose the righteousness of your cause. You cease to be the victim and become the aggressor. Persecutors always, always, always lose in the long run. Look at history. Which persecutors have ever won and come up in the history stakes as the great people? None. The victims of persecution always emerge as the courageous, righteous and powerful ones.
10. Live in the Present Moment – “Do not worry about tomorrow. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” Trust in God today. Live your faith with joy, trust and thankfulness. Be prepared to stand up for your faith when the time comes. Know what that might look like, but take a deep breath and trust in the goodness of the Lord. The lives of the saints remind us that the strength is given when the strength is needed. Grace is poured out in time of need. Consequently rejoice. Be prepared and be at peace and remember these words from St Paul,
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8)