Brothers and sisters in the Evangelical world may not be familiar with the book of Maccabees, but Catholics should. In 2 Maccabees 7 we read about the martyrdom of seven brothers and their mother. They were being forced to eat pork in direct violation of Jewish Law. The mother stands before King Antiochus and bravely states to her youngest son now barely alive:" My son, have pity upon me that bore thee nine months in the womb, and gave thee suck three years, and nourished thee, and brought thee up unto this age. I beseech thee, my son, look upon heaven and earth and all that is in them: and consider that God made them out of nothing, and mankind also, so thou shall not fear this tormentor, but being made a worthy partner with thy brethren, receive death, that in that mercy I may receive thee again with thy brethren." 2 Macc 7:27-29 What moving, courageous words in the face of death. In Veritatis Splendor, Pope John Paul II makes the point that the witness of the martyrs always point to truth. It was the martyrdom of the North American Martyrs who were cruelly tortured that allows us to practice our faith today. However, as the Pope points out in Evangelium Vitae, when you move away from the truth to relativism, you fall back into a tyrrany of the powerful vs. the weak. It is always the weak in such a society that suffer. Today the weak are suffering terribly because of the HHS Mandate that seeks to "impose" its morality on the Catholic Church. In essence, just like the seven brothers and the heroic mother in the Book of Maccabees, Catholics are being forced to eat pork in direct violation of their conscience. In Uganda, St Charles Lwanga was cruelly martyred because he refused to submit to the homosexual desires of the king. St. Maria Goretti was raped by a man full of lust, a man addicted to pornography. When she resisted his efforts she yelled out "No, No it is a sin!" He stabbed her repeatedly. She did not die right away but those attending to her in her final moments noted that she repeatedly stated that she had fogiven him. Most remarkably, she appeared to him in a dream and he had a dramatic conversion and once out of jail was actually present at her canonization! The list goes on....St Thomas More who told King Henry VIII that he was the King's loyal servant but God's first.
He died protesting the divorce of the king. Most of the Catholic clergy followed the King and his desires. One who didn't also suffered the same fate: St John Fisher, bishop of Rochester, England. It is not easy to stand up to power or to the king but all of Catholic history demonstrates heroic men and women, filled by the grace of the Spirit, who have done such a thing. We need the prayers of those martyrs today. Underlying all of this battle is the utter contempt that many still have for the Catholic Church. In her editorial Ms. Collins resorts to the oldest form of anti-catholic bigotry: telling a story of how a priest rudely treated her mother. Here are her words: " When I was first married, my mother in law sat down at her kitchen table and told me about the day she went to confession and told the priest that she and her husband were using birth control. She had several young children, times were difficult-really, she could have produced a list of reasons longer than your arm. 'Your'e no better than a whore on the street' said the priest." Was that story really necessary? It only reaffirms the age old edict: Anti Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice. Jesus promised his followers that following him would not be easy be he also promised his grace and his mercy. We are living in a time of great grace and mercy-North American Martyrs and all you saints in heaven, pray for us!