Wednesday, September 25, 2013

America's Unique Freedoms and Catholic Evangelization

In class yesterday afternoon we were discussing the history of the Catholic Church in America. The Catholic population was very small at first, 1/10th of 1% in 1776 but expanded rapidly later on especially as the immigration floodgates from Europe were opened.

This situation created a difficulty that no one really expected. The "American experiment" of democracy, of a government for and by the people worked quite well for the Protestants who were very comfortable with the idea that every man could and in fact should determine what is best for him and go about it as he sees fit. The massive diversity of the modern Protestant Church is a witness to the comfort it had with the questioning of authority and the pioneer spirit.

Catholics did not have such an easy time. Catholics are used to giving consent to the wisdom of those in authority, you know, like that guy in Rome (who is a faithful followers and servant of the one God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, just to be clear). There was much disagreement among the Catholic hierarchy about how Catholics ought to go about being Americans.

As no one will be surprised, many Church leaders at the time advocated isolationism, where Catholics basically self-enforced the formation of ghettos where they could live, work and die surrounded by fellow Catholics (of course Catholics of their home country). We all know about the Irish, Italian and other ghettos that used to exist very prominently in cities like New York.

But there were other Bishops who proposed an opposite approach. Now, they weren't wanting the people to totally assimilate and lose their Catholic practice or identity but they were much more in favor of Catholics going out and engaging the world.

Some Church leaders in Europe heard about the freedoms allowed in American and American Catholics talking about "freedom" and became understandably nervous and resistant. I don't blame them for their caution. Just think of how awfully the Church was treated in other countries that talked big about "Freedom". See: France.  Thankfully though, America didn't turn out like France. Our ideas of freedom have played out in a more productive way.

There exist big books of dense philosophy and theology that lay out a way that the American ideals of "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" line up perfectly with not only Christianity but Catholicism too. I'm not prepared to go that far, especially since that kind of attitude tends to raise the State to a level uncomfortably close to the Church. (I am all for God blessing America; I hope he does, but I don't like to blur the line between patriotism and faith. Loving my country and loving my God are separate.)

So, it isn't my intention to say that America and Christianity go together in what they hold as important. They often disagree.What I mean to get at with all of this is that, like some of the early bishops that broke with the isolationist mentality, I think the United States is a great place for Catholics to be out among everyone living their faith boldly and even, dare I say it, pro-actively evangelizing. Definitely way more than we have been comfortable doing so far.

Many of our Protestant brethren and other religions like the Mormons take great advantage of this uniquely American situation. Why don't Catholics??? I hope any non-Catholics readers will forgive me but, Catholics, we've got the good stuff, the real deal, the unbroken line of leadership from Jesus himself through St. Peter and all the Popes up until now! We have the Saints! We have the Eucharist! We've got the Jackpot and yet too many Catholics barely get to mass on Sunday (or not at all) and wouldn't even dream of mentioning their faith to a co-worker let alone going door to door or standing on a street corner preaching.

There is something unique and wonderful about the American respect for freedom of speech and I think that we should be taking as full advantage of that as possible. We may get strange looks but who cares? I have heard many many conversion stories that start with "What is that crazy Catholic talking about?" and end with "..and after careful consideration I decided to join the Church."

The great thing about the Truth the we have is that it speaks for itself and since we live in a country where we're free to speak what we want let's do it! Let's make good use of the opportunity we have, this "American Experiment" to out there and be active, to preach and teach and be bold proclaimers of the Gospel that we have been given!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Afternoon Philosophy: On the Failure of Atheistic Materialism

Have you ever been run over in conversation by some smooth talking atheist or materialist type? They have all these ideas about how the world would be so much better if we just got rid of morality and how science is the only thing there is? Sometimes their arguments sound pretty good and you can't quite put a finger on what's wrong with them. Don't worry. You intuition is probably right.

I was talking with a young man at the parish this afternoon and he was relating to me the discussion he had in class today with an atheist. The guy I was talking to, let's call him Anthony, was arguing in favor of morality. The atheist was arguing against him on the grounds that it is not the purpose of the government to legislate morality. His stance included the contentions that there are there is no morality and no dignity of human life.

Now, I wasn't there and was getting the conversation second hand from a person with a biased interest. Given that, I'm not looking to give an exhaustive argument that takes sides and picks a winner between Anthony and the atheist. My purpose here is to just give some general thoughts that this conversation made me think of.

Proposition: The government is not in the business of morality.

Response: What exactly, then, is the purpose of all those laws? I would like to suggest that every law is a proclamation on morality. What atheists usually mean when they argue this way is that "I don't think the government should make laws about things that those religious people care about." which is much different than the government not dealing in morality. Let's look at what would happen if the government stayed out of morality...

Traffic Laws - For the purpose of safety. Why? Because safety is good. Why? Because injuries/deaths are bad. Guess what, that's a moral judgement. Injuries/deaths are bad. So, no traffic laws.

Environmental Laws - For preserving the environment. Why? Because it's good. We need it to be good to stay alive. We like staying alive. Living is good and pollution is bad. Oops...another moral judgement...better get rid of environmental laws too,

Theft, murder etc... - Stealing and killing are illegal because killing and stealing are bad. Dang, looks like we found another one. We'd better get rid of those laws too... We wouldn't want the government meddling in morality...

The point obviously is that the "government should stay out of morality" argument is ridiculous because adhering to it would totally destroy society.

Bonus: Those people that argue against morality probably still would be pretty upset if you just randomly punched them in the face in the middle of the conversation, probably insisting that it was wrong of you to do so. (morality! there it is again!)

For centuries philosophers have tried to work around this. They fill volumes that usually make no sense to anyone and either come to no conclusions at all or to ones that have really weird and scary consequences. That should tell us something. (Hint: If if's so hard and complicated to work around morality maybe it actually exists, maybe it really is a part of our human nature.)

Proposition: Materialism. What you see is what you get. We're just the same as robots.

Response: You'd better put down that poetry and stop looking at that art. In fact, stop talking...and no thinking either. And really, living too. What's the point? (Immediate disclaimer: I am not in any way at all condoning suicide or mocking those that have made that unfortunate choice. Human life is precious but I can't help but think that rigid materialism leads to this very unfortunate conclusion.)

If there is nothing beyond the physical, what we can measure and observe, if there's nothing meta-physical, our life is a sad one. Actually, it ceases to be life.

Words and art are symbols that we exchange to convey meanings and ideas. But you can't actually hold and idea. You can't have a bucket of beauty. You can have things that are beautiful but not beauty itself. That is metaphysical. It exists but not physically. Any other idea or concept is like that too.

Let's look at Life. You can point to things that are alive or if something is dead we have no problem saying that it used to be alive but we can't get just life by itself. You can't have just a bucket of life. Life clearly exists but it is not a tangible thing. You've got to have meta-physics to have life.

Let's look back at society, at government: Upon what is it established? From where does it's authority come? (oh, and authority is one of those non-tangibles too.) What gives the government the right and obligation to make laws and regulate society? Because we the people give it to them? Yes, but why do we do that? Because it's for our own good (hopefully). So, we have government for our own good. Ah, but what then is this "goodness"? That sure sounds like a metaphysical concept to me! Okay, so we have to strike the concepts of good and bad. Nothing is either good or bad. It only just is. Whatever and however is fine.

Oh, and no free will either, since we're mechanistically determined. I had better quit talking about what I want to do. Everything I do I am unavoidably constrained to.

This is turning out to be really depressing...

Bonus: Note that none of the above makes any appeal to religion. Atheism gets subsumed by materialism. If you're a materialist your have to be an atheist by default, logically at least.

If we're going to bring religion up, well, that's depressing too. If there is no life after this and we just cease to exist when our physical bodies die, what's the point? Most people just ignore this question and pretend that they're happy just ceasing to be. I don't buy it! I think that question nags at every atheist/materialist even if they refuse to admit it (even to themselves).

Do I mean this to be an exhaustive and philosophically air-tight argument? No. I just wanted to throw a stick in the gears of the secular confidence. So many "enlightened" ideas lead to, honestly, some pretty depressing and scary conclusions. Fiercely atheistic governments don't exactly have great track records for the well-being of their people. Those secular Utopias never seem to quite work out, do they?

*-I'm not proposing that Anthony reply to his friend this way. Witty comments and rebuttals don't change hearts and minds. Only love does that.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Humble Certainty vs. Passive Suggestion

 Saying "It is..." instead of "As Catholics, we believe it is..."

This often comes up in the context of a non-Catholic attending a Catholic liturgy or perhaps in other conversation of an apologetic nature. (apologetic - to do with explanation/defense). The Catholic will say to the non-Catholic "As Catholics we believe that the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Christ and so [we genuflect/only Catholics may receive/etc...]" This is true. As Catholics we do believe that. However (and maybe I'm just splitting hairs here) I think that sometimes this phrasing, or things similar to it, carry a different implication.

What it sometimes sounds like to me (even when I say it myself) is "This is what we believe but I don't want to offend you by being too blunt so I'm going to soften it with language that lets you off the hook in case you don't want to believe it." I think we do this without even realizing, because we're so used to a culture where we have to make everything palatable lest we offend anybody. Again, I am plenty guilty of this myself so I'm not trying to point fingers here.

I want to encourage a different approach. What if we said "It is the Body and Blood of Christ and so [we genuflect/only Catholics may receive/etc...]"? It's a subtle difference but an important one. It leaves no room for relativism, no room for "If I don't believe it, it isn't true." I'm not proposing rudeness; we should always speak with Love.

Of course, I don't mean this to only apply to discussion regarding the true presence in the Eucharist. This is just the most obvious example. I think that speaking with humble certainty is needed in all aspects of our public dialogue. We only seem to know how to speak in the extremes of tiptoeing around everyone's nerves or abandoning all concern for others and just saying whatever we want. As usual, the middle ground is better.

Remember, love is all charity but also all truth and that we're not doing anyone a favor by softening, by lessening the truth to make it palatable. True things have their own sweetness and we should be let them shine through.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Teaching Moment: Accidentally Unconsecrated Hosts

At the 10:30 Sunday mass, like at any other parish, there is a process of gifts from the back of the Church to the altar. At this particular mass there are too many attendees to bring up all the hosts to be consecrated at once. It would be possible but would require multiple pattens and would be awkward to carry. (An excellent problem to have, if you must have one.) For the sake of the symbolism of the bread and wine to be consecrated being brought up by the people it isn't necessary that all the elements to be consecrated are brought up in procession. It's okay that about 200 hosts in a separate patten and 8 pre-filled chalices are kept in the sacristy behind that altar. Only some of the hosts and the little bit of wine needed to fill the priest's chalice is brought forward with the gifts. A portion can symbolize the whole lot.

This past Sunday we forgot to bring the extra hosts from the sacristy out to the altar. It wasn't until after the consecration that we realized we had forgotten to bring them out. There was the one patten full of unconsecrated hosts sitting there on the sacristy table.

One might be tempted to just bring these hosts out and mix them in as if they hadn't been forgotten, but, that would be the absolute wrong thing to do! I emphasized the symbolism of that carrying down of the gifts and it's inherent flexibility in order to contrast it with the inflexibility here.

These hosts that were left in the sacristy are not interchangeable with those that made it out to the altar because the Consecration that the priest does at the altar is not a symbolic act. It is a real act. The bread and wine that were on the altar literally have become the Body and Blood of Christ, the Eucharist (the physical properties, the "accidents" in philosophy-talk, remain of bread and wine but their nature is no longer so simple. They have been transubstantiated.) To mix these unconsecrated hosts in with the consecrated ones would be to terribly mislead the faithful. (For the record, no one present was suggesting we do so.)

This wasn't a big deal, of course. We just left them where they were in the sacristy. It would be ideal to have consecrated them so that there would be enough for everyone to have a whole host but in this case those distributing communion just broke the ones that were consecrated into smaller pieces so that there were enough for all present (no matter how the small the piece the True presence of the Body of Christ is not diminished) At the end of the mass it was probably entirely forgotten, except hopefully by the servers but I choose to share it as an illustration of the seriousness of the Eucharist. It's not just a symbol. It's a reality that can't be fudged.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mass Reflection for the Third Sunday of Easter

We’ve all had that time where we’re not quite sure what to do with ourselves. It doesn’t even have to be a bad situation; in fact it could be quite good. Suppose you just bought a new house and maybe you even got it for surprisingly cheap. You’re really happy about it and in the excitement packed up everything in your old house a whole week early just itching for the day the movers come. But you can’t move in yet. Nothing is wrong, you knew it would take two weeks to finalize all the paper work, but now you find yourself in a awkwardly quiet house pacing around refreshing your email inbox every two minutes, as if that will speed the paperwork up. It will get there when it gets there but that doesn’t keep you from being anxious.
       It seems to me that this Gospel passage opens with a similar feeling. I see Simon-Peter and this handful of other disciples walking along the shore of the sea just days after the Resurrection still not quite sure what to do with themselves. They have had some excitement, definitely. The big events that Jesus kept referencing finally happened and they get the feeling that greater things are yet to come but all they can do for now is wait. Jesus’ passion death and resurrection is the old house sold and the new house bought but move-in day, the beginnings of the Church at Pentecost isn’t here yet.
        I picture the disciples walking along the beach, each one alone with his anxious thoughts. (They didn’t have smart phones to pretend to be doing something on…) John has a stick and is nervously swatting at the sea-grass, Thomas is fidgeting with a shell he picked up a few minutes back. Suddenly Peter stops, turns in the sand to face the others, and in a decisive tone says “I am going fishing.” He doesn’t know if it’s the right thing to do but it’s the only familiar thing he can think of and it’s definitely better than just tensely pacing along the shore waiting for something to happen. The other disciples had probably been thinking the same thing but didn’t want to be the one to say it and so are glad Peter finally did.
       So they get in a boat and start to fish. Nothing. But fishermen are stubborn like farmers so they keep at it…all night…what else do they have to do? And in the morning – still nothing. Suddenly they see a figure on the beach who calls out to them, inquiring about their catch. Something about this is familiar. “Cast your net over the right side!” directs the stranger. They do so. This is unbelievable. The catch is huge, the net is so heavy! This is really familiar now. Peter’s minds flashes back to the last time he was fishing…
       Three years prior they had been on the beach tending their nets when a popular rabbi commandeered one of their boats to preach from. After preaching, he, though not a fisherman himself, directed them to a phenomenal catch. Peter was so amazed that in fear he begged the man to leave him. Jesus, of course, was this popular rabbi and he did not oblige Peter’s fear but instead spoke to them the words known by every vocations director the world over. “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
       Back to today: Peter is still thinking but John puts the details together quicker. He shouts out, “It is the Lord!” And so in that moment all of their past three years following Jesus comes back to them. Peter acts on his heart immediately, not even waiting for the boat to get to the shore. His heart is burning too much to wait. As soon as he hears John’s words he drops the net and in one motion quickly strides the length of the boat, dives into the sea. He swims to shore, eager to see the Lord.
       This would be enough, in and of itself to make a fine reflection. We ought to have the zeal for the Lord such that at the sight of him we are willing to drop what we are doing and dive in. But there is more. The details are no accident.
       This takes place on the Sea of Tiberias, aka, the Sea of Galilee, and it it’s not the first time in the Gospel that something important has happened here. The Sea of Galilee is a body of water that often features in Jesus’ ministry. It was on these very shores that Jesus called his first disciples, Peter, Andrew, James and John. He taught from a boat on these waters, walked on them, calmed storms on them, fed thousands beside them and, yes, directed massive catches of fish from them.
       On the shore there is a charcoal fire burning. This is for Peter. There is only one other appearance in all of scripture of a “charcoal fire” and it is the one around which Peter is warming himself when he denies Jesus three times. We can almost imagine Peter coming up from the water, all dripping wet with an eager smile only to see Jesus, see the charcoal fire and understand immediately that this is not about to be a laughing, back-slapping reunion. Peter can tell Jesus has something serious to say. He certainly does. He asks Peter  three times “Do you love me?” and three times Peter affirms “You know that I love you, Lord” thus symbolically undoing his previous denial. Not only did the Lord forgive Peter he sought Peter ought and laid the path to repentance right there before him
       There are lessons for the rest of the disciples as well. When they were fishing that last time three years ago, they were having no success at fishing until Jesus arrived and provided a miraculous catch. This day also they are fruitless until they follow the directions of Christ. The disciples tried to go back to their old way of life and they were not fruitful but when they followed the Lord they were fruitful beyond their expectations. The message was clear for them and it should be clear for us as well. As Christians we are called to conversion, to be someone better than we were before, not settling into old ways, and with Christ we will exceed our expectations.
       These lessons of Peter are also for us. Like Peter we will sin, we will deny the Lord but we must not despair. When we feel sorrow for our sins we should turn immediately to the Lord and accept the forgiveness that he is constantly offering. Remember, he does not wish any of His sheep to be lost.
       Let us indeed also be willing to dive in whenever we hear the Word of God calling us and once we have done so let us not return to our former ways that were not fruitful. Let us return instead to the ways of the Lord, especially in this Easter season of rebirth.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Reflection for February 20, 2013 – Wednesday of the First Week in Lent (The Sign of Jonah)

            It’s been 7 days since Ash Wednesday and unless we gave up bathing for Lent (eww...) that physical reminder is gone from our foreheads for another year. Yet, the Church, in her wisdom does not allow us to forget the lesson.
            When Jonah was first called by God, he wanted to avoid it. We probably felt that way too  when we realized Lent was getting close. But just like Jonah found himself unavoidably in Nineveh so we are in Lent. We’re here, so we might a well do it right.
            So, how do we do Lent right? Of course the right disciplines for Lent are different for every person and so it isn’t my purpose here to give any kind of listing for what specific things you should be doing. Rather I would like to point out nature of the response of the Ninevites and suggest that we do likewise.
            As Jonah was proceeding through Nineveh announcing that in 40 days it would be destroyed the people of Nineveh, who obviously did not want to be destroyed, responded to his voice with fasting and putting on of sackcloth. What I think we should note is the reason given for their repentance. The passage does not say that they repented and put on sackcloth because they believed Jonah but rather because they believed God. Jonah clearly was the one who was speaking yet it was God that they believed. They recognized that it was God speaking through Jonah that they ought to listen to and they did so to their own great benefit.
            In today’s Gospel Jesus makes reference to the story of Jonah for a two-fold purpose. The first purpose is to rebuke them for seeking a dramatic sign to “prove” him. Jesus’ ministry isn’t about flashy signs. The Jews would have known this story and gotten his point immediately. The second purpose, related to the first though more subtle, is that he identifies himself with Jonah. We might say that Christ is like Jonah in that he calls for repentance, but it would be more accurate to say that Jonah prefigures and points to Christ. Either way, Christ is calling the people of Israel to repent but not just them, us as well.
            Jonah was not God yet God spoke through him and the people listened. Christ is God and does the will of his Father in heaven and so we ought to listen to Him all the more. In this season of Lent let us be quick like the Ninevites to repent and turn from our former selves so that we may not be destroyed by our sin but that God may show us his mercy.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Secular Culture Didn't Understand the Pope Before so Why Would It Now? (Don't Feed the Trolls!)

Everyone cares about the Pope all of a sudden. I mean, everyone. It's for an obvious and legitimate reason, of course but it's still fascinating for so many non-Catholics to be concerned about what the Pope is doing. It's the kind of fascination that often happens when a well-known world leader does something out of the ordinary. I'm not criticizing that.

In contrast to other world leaders however, the Pope (and more generally the Catholic Church) is often lambasted severely, usually with little good reason. The Pope/Church says "Hey modern culture, you're kind of screwing this up. How about changing directions huh?" and modern culture says, without really reading what he said or thinking it through, "What? How dare you tell us how life is supposed to be lived. The newest ideas are always the best ones. You're the ones that are all messed up!"

Catholics have come to be accustomed to this so you'd think that all the drama that has come with this surprise resignation of the Holy Father would be like water off our backs. If only it were so easy! No matter how used we get to people saying ridiculous things about the Church it's still often very difficult to handle the commentary.

Yesterday a random person on twitter replied to me contradicting a tweet ("All of this is about God, not about any of us, not about Pope Benedict himself. ") of mine. Their reply (which I won't quote) was hardly more substantial than "Nuh-uh!". Of course my instinct was to reply with something like "Yeah-huh!" You know, something to really show them what's up!

Fortunately (I suppose) I've made that mistake before so instead of replying in haste I had a look at their profile to see what their other tweets were like, to see if they were someone looking for trouble or for real dialogue. It was a string of low-content, negative tweets directed to people who had obviously said something positive about Pope Benedict/the Papacy/the Church. (I'm not using hyperbole. That's really all it was.)  "Aha!" I thought to myself, "a troll!"

But what does one do with a troll, with a provocateur, especially one pushing buttons on matters of religion? You want so bad to respond. It's so tempting. They're just so wrong! DON'T DO IT! You'll be playing right into their hand.

In Romeo and Juliet the character Tybalt is a troll, an agitator. (Don't be impressed. I had help with this reference.) He starts arguments and wants a fight not because he has any real purpose but just because he likes causing trouble. There is nothing to be gained by fighting with him. So also there is nothing to be gained by fighting with an internet rabble-rouser. They'll just bring you down and get you stuck in a pointless exchange. It's tempting to try and be the shinning savior but at some point we must remember that God is on our side and that there have always been and there will always be people that misunderstand the Church and anything and everything to do with it. It's part of being a Catholic but we have comfort in knowing that Christ is with us through all trials and all days, to the end of time. In some arguments there are no winners so just give them to God and leave them be* and I guarantee you'll be much happier in the end.

*I am all for intelligent and thoughtful discussion, however. If someone is genuinely curious and hoping to learn more, by all means, engage their curiosity and answer to the best of your ability.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Reflection given for Ash Wednesday Prayer Service - "Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned."

            Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned. If we weren’t sinners we wouldn’t be here. There would be no need to make this sign of penance, this putting of ashes on our forehead. But as it is, we are sinners, and so we rightly, with the psalmist, ask for God’s mercy and mark ourselves as repentant.
            In our sinful nature, ironically we think quite highly of ourselves. We are prone to spend a fair amount of energy insisting and trying to prove that we are the greatest or at least better than those others. It is pride that makes us forget that no matter how much we exalt ourselves God will always be greater.
            Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned. We mark ourselves with ashes, with simple dirty ashes, to remind ourselves that compared to the unfathomable greatness of God we are but slight and of no account.
            Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned. We have exalted ourselves and tried to take the Lord’s place and yet He does a curious thing. He humbles us…yet does not leave us there. In His infinite wisdom the humility He shows to us has the surprising consequence of exalting us up to be like Him. He makes us far more than we could ever make ourselves.
            Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned. Through our humility the Lord will create a clean heart within us. He gives us joy in salvation and a willing spirit to sustain us. If we but humble ourselves the Lord gives us joyfully all the things that we would in pride try to take but in humility he gives even greater things that we never thought of, gifts that eye has not seen and ear not heard.
            Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned. So let us today remember that we have fallen, that we are sinners in need of the Lord’s mercy. But let us also remember that the Lord truly is merciful and that he loves us so much that He humbles us so that he may later exalt us and lead us to the place prepared for us in heaven.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Reflection for Feb 6th, 2013 - Memorial of Saint Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs

No one lives a perfect life. Of course this is true in regards to sin but it is also true in regards to the trials that we all must endure. If someone were to insist to me that their long-term state in life was merely a string of happy coincidences where there were no obstacles to overcome, well…I would probably just nod and slowly back away from that person because they are not living in reality. The reality is that while in many ways we are highly blessed by God He also does allow us to endure trials for our own good.
          The author of the letter to the Hebrews reminds us: “Do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him, for whom the Lord loves he disciplines.” Many a teenager or would-be atheist would decry God saying “If he really loved us he wouldn’t allow us to suffer.” but any good parent knows that’s not how it works. If children are protected from every trial and never allowed to overcome a challenge they never cease to be children. And so would be our case if God did not allow us to endure trials, trials that can bring us to spiritual maturity.
          Of course, the trials experienced are different in nature and degree for everyone, that is, we all have lesser or greater crosses to bear. The trials of today’s saints, Paul Miki and his companions, martyrs in 16th century Japan, were much different from ours yet they accepted them from God just as we ought to. When they were arrested for being Christians they did not deny it but rather, to the great confusion of their executioners, took great joy in dying on crosses just as Christ had done. God gave them this opportunity to accept discipline and because they did they are forever exalted among the company of saints! God called them to the highest discipline of martyrdom and they joyfully complied. It is unlikely that we will be asked to suffer physical persecution for our faith but we are still called to give of our lives over to God and through his discipline find our path to greater holiness.