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Living Your Convictions

Matthew Harrison

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The president of the Italian Bishops has received another death threat.
It's one of just several Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco has had to endure over the last six months, though the gravity of the threats have increased. This time it came in the form of an envelope, containing three bullets and a message which read "I will kill you."
For two months now the Archbishop has had police protection for all public appearances -- including liturgical celebrations.
And what has the Archbishop done that is so offensive? He stood up for the traditional definition of marriage, and opposed the legalization of same-sex unions in Italy.
I couldn't help but think of a recent lecture I attended by Archbishop Charles Chaput ofArchbishop Chaput, OFM Cap., speaking in New York Denver. The talk, 'Religious Tolerance and the Common Good,' was given at the Holy See Mission's Catholic Teaching Seminar in May.
The talk covered everything from encouraging young people to be true witnesses to their Catholic faith, to the tolerance of faith in public and political debate. The Archbishop noted some of the great witnesses of our faith last century, including St. Edith Stein. His point:
People who take the question of human truth, freedom and meaning seriously will never remain silent about it. They can’t. They’ll always act on what they believe, even at the cost of their reputations and lives. That’s the way it should be. Religious faith is always personal, but it’s never private. It always has social consequences, or it isn’t real.
This is the great challenge for the faithful: that we stand up for what we believe in, regardless of what others will say or do to us. I think we often forget the reality of our faith -- there are going to be struggles. There are going to be spiritual struggles, and there are going to be struggles from outside forces; be it a hostile family member, a mocking co-worker, or an indifferent friend. We are going to be constantly challenged! Look at Church history: The Church was founded on the blood of Christ, and the blood of thousands of men and women who gave their lives as witnesses for their faith! Chances are, our journey isn't going to be carefree and uneventful. But that doesn't mean we should shrink from the challenges, in fact, that would be a denial of our faith. We must courageously and charitably engage our challengers. The Archbishop continues:
If you want to serve the common good and build a better future, you’ll never do it by hiding your faith in the closet. You’ll never do it by being Catholic in private and something else in public. History is made by people with convictions, and the courage and passion to live those convictions.
And so I think of Archbishop Bagnosco. Bullets mailed to him. Police protection. Spray painted graffiti on the Genoa cathedral. But he will not concede. He is not trying to cover the light of truth with a soft cuddly blanket, but he is letting it shine.
We may never be challenged as drastically as Archbishop Bagnosco is being challenged -- and let us pray that we are not -- but it is likely that each of us will struggle in some capacity.
The question is: how will you react when you encounter that struggle?
You can find Archbishop Chaput's wonderful talk online, at First Things, by clicking here.

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