Would you die for your faith? Print
Thursday, Apr. 27, 2017 -- 12:00 AM

Would you be willing to die for your faith? It’s something I’ve thought about more recently as I’ve heard about modern-day martyrs.

We usually think of martyrs as people from long ago. But there have been — and continue to be — modern-day martyrs who have died for their beliefs.

Service remembers modern martyrs

Pope Francis reminded us about modern martyrs when he presided at an evening prayer service held on April 22 at Rome’s Basilica of St. Bartholomew, which is a shrine to modern martyrs. Catholic News Service reported that the service honored Christians killed under Nazism, communism, dictatorships, and terrorism.

The martyrs “teach us that with the force of love and with meekness, one can fight arrogance, violence, and war, and that with patience peace is possible,” the pope said in his homily in the small basilica on Rome’s Tiber Island.

I was especially interested in the story Pope Francis told as he departed from his prepared text. Pope Francis said he wanted to add to the martyrs remembered at St. Bartholomew “a woman — I don’t know her name — but she watches from heaven.”

The pope said he had met the woman’s husband — a Muslim — in Lesbos, Greece, when he visited a refugee camp there in 2016. The man told the pope that one day, terrorists came to their home. They saw his wife’s crucifix and ordered her to throw it on the ground. She refused and they slit her throat. The pope said, “Now it’s that man, a Muslim, who carries this cross of pain.”

Would any of us be willing to die as that woman did?

Church needs witnesses

“What does the Church need today?” the pope asked. “Martyrs and witnesses, those everyday saints, those saints of an ordinary life lived with coherence. But it also needs those who have the courage to accept the grace of being witnesses to the end, to the point of death. All of those are the living blood of the Church,” those who “witness that Jesus is risen, that Jesus lives.”

Under a large icon depicting modern martyrs of the gulag and concentration camp, Pope Francis prayed: “O Lord, make us worthy witnesses of your Gospel and your love; pour out your mercy on humanity; renew your Church; protect persecuted Christians; and quickly grant the whole world peace.”

Standing up for our faith

Although few of us will die for our faith, we still have the opportunity to serve as witnesses by standing up for our faith. There may be times when others make disparaging remarks about the Catholic Church, its beliefs, or Church leaders. We can take the opportunity to give a response — gently and with love — rather than just sit back and say nothing.

That takes courage, too. It’s not easy for the best of us. Remember that Peter denied Jesus three times, but later he became the rock on which Jesus built the Church. Let’s hope we can move on from our fears and stand up for our faith as Peter eventually did.