State of emergency.
Not too long ago I was leaving the rectory of a friend and said, "See you later Father!" as I was walking out the door.
"Unless I'm arrested," he said smiling.
"Arrested? For what?" I asked, and then said, "Oh, the religious liberty thing." I laughed.
To my knowledge, no one has been arrested and put in jail for teaching Catholic doctrine or practicing the faith - yet. I find it hard to believe that stuff is going to happen on a large scale any time soon. Conditions have been much worse in Europe, and I do not see priests and religious or even bishops herded into prisons and internment camps, nor is any European nation under martial law. Yet these are the things people claim are going to happen in the United States if Obama is re-elected, or Obama-care continues, or even gay marriage is approved. A lot of people seem to be fear mongers these days, creating what they call a 'state of emergency' which may be more accurately described as a 'state of paranoia.'
A sense of urgency might be a better term.
Certainly religious freedom is threatened. Certainly there are isolated incidents, such as the family in Vermont I believe, who were fined for not hosting a gay wedding reception? Or was it just that they wouldn't rent their facilities to a lesbian couple? I can't recall the details at the moment. (See story below*.) Gay people are litigious, what can I say - and it's a political tactic groups use these days. No doubt these things will increase - but we are not at the stage of the Spanish Civil War atrocities - yet. Nor are our kids being kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam as they are in Pakistan. Neither are our churches burned to the ground as in Nigeria. There is real, bloody persecution elsewhere in the world - in the United States religious people are pretty much disliked, but tolerated.
That said, even if these limitations to religious freedom take place and accelerate, and even if priests and religious and bishops and lay Catholics are rounded up and carted off to prison camps - even if that happens - and it hasn't yet - what are we to do? How are we to act?
I'm not trying to dismiss anyones experience or perception of persecution, nor concerns about possible restrictions upon religious liberty - even the Holy Father warns of the dangers, and of course, the life of Christ and the Gospel does as well. Yet so far, apart from how the Holy Father and the Bishops have spoken, a lot of the rhetoric I hear and read is less than edifying, and in many cases not even Christian.
Something every priest should read.
I've been rereading Fr. Walter Ciszek's account of life in Soviet prisons, He Leadeth Me. It is a prophetic book. If there is any better teaching or interpretation on the mystery of divine providence for our times, I don't know of it. Any priest who fears for his freedom or his vocation ought to read and reread this book - and any Catholic concerned about living the faith in the public square that is hostile to religion, ought to read and reread it as well.
My apologies for this long, opinionated introduction to what I intended to post, an excerpt from Ciszek's book. It is taken from the chapter on Arrest and Imprisonment wherein Fr. Ciszek experiences rejection and contempt even amongst fellow political prisoners:
A priest to them, at best, meant a man out of step and out of place in a socialist society; at worst, he was a dupe in the employ of a Church that was itself a willing tool of capitalism.We haven't yet resisted to the point of shedding blood. So Christian, maybe be careful, lest we go about tearing one another to pieces. - Galatians 5:15
I was stunned at the depth of feeling and prejudice against the Church that came spilling out. The more so under the circumstances. [...] There was at least a minimal sense of camaraderie among the political prisoners in the cell, a certain companionship in misery. But not for me when it became known I was a priest. I was cursed at; I was shunned; I was looked down upon and despised. Against the background of my Polish Catholic upbringing, where a priest was always treated as something special... this reaction to a priest on the part of my fellow prisoners made me by turns angry and bewildered. I was at a loss to understand it and furious at the added injustice of this stupid, blind prejudice. [...] In the words of Isaiah, I felt "despised and the most abject of men".
[Christ] too sought someone to comfort him and found none.
As for the humiliation I felt because I did not get the proper respect as a priest of God, was "the servant greater than his master"? Our Lord said to his disciples, "If they despised me, they will despise you.
In how many ways too, had i allowed this admixture of self, this luxury of feeling sorry for myself, to cloud my vision and prevent me from seeing the current situation with the eyes of God... Under the worst imaginable circumstances, a man remains a man with free will and God stands ready to assist him with his grace. Indeed, more than that, God expects him to act in these circumstances... For these situations too, these people and places and things, are God's will for him now.
He may not be able to change the 'system'. any more than I could change conditions in that prison, but he is not for that reason excused from acting at all. Many men feel frustrated, or disappointed, or even defeated, when they find themselves face to face with a situation or an evil they cannot do much about. ... But God does not expect a man single-handedly to change the world or overthrow all evil or cure all ills.
What each man can change, first of all is himself. And each will have - indeed, must have - some influence on the people God brings into his life each day. He is expected to be a Christian, to influence them for good. He will in some small way at least touch their lives too, and it is in that touching that God will hold him responsible for the good or ill he does. In that simple truth lies the key to any understanding of the mystery of divine providence and ultimately of each man's salvation. " - He Leadeth Me
*Vermont inn lawsuit settled by two lesbians who were denied hospitality by inn keepers.
MONTPELIER, Vt. - Two New York women and a Vermont country inn have settled a lawsuit that accused the business of refusing to host the couple's wedding reception.
The American Civil Liberties Union said Thursday the Wildflower Inn in Lyndonville agreed to pay a $10,000 civil penalty to the Vermont Human Rights Commission and to place $20,000 in a charitable trust.
Under the settlement, the inn also agreed it would no longer host weddings and their receptions. The innkeepers' lawyer, Jim Campbell, said they had decided previously to end that part of their business. - StarTribune