BEFORE THE CROSS | Remembering the past as we face challenges

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

Lisa Johnston | lisajohnston@archstl.org

Imagine a time when nominally faithful people adopted the values of the surrounding culture because it was hard to be different.

Imagine a time when people hid their religious identity so that they could get along with others who didn't share their faith.

Imagine a time when a nation's ruler decided that everyone should abandon their particular religious ideas in order to be united -- and many of the faithful agreed. Imagine that this same ruler offered positions of honor to those who betrayed their faith and persecuted those who did not.

Imagine a time when faithful people were forced by law to act contrary to their faith and conscience.

Imagine a time when those enforcing the law tried to provide an "accommodation" to believers, so they would publicly appear to be following the law, in violation of their faith, while protecting their conscience in secret.

Imagine a time when faithful people refused the accommodation -- and were persecuted more severely for refusing the offer.

Sound familiar?

Actually, this describes the situation of the Jewish people 175 years before Christ. These particular scenarios are described in detail in the First and Second Books of Maccabees, which we read this week.

What's my point in drawing attention to them?

If things look bad for religious liberty right now -- and, in some ways, they do -- we've been here before. This isn't the first time that people who want to be faithful to God's covenant have had to suffer for their convictions. Again and again in history, this situation has repeated itself.

There are great historical examples of how to conduct ourselves under trying circumstances. Our story will end the way this story has always ended: with crucifixion and with resurrection. Let's conduct ourselves with the confidence and grace that comes from knowing that. Let's imitate the great heroes of salvation history and Church history, who zealously kept the faith and courageously suffered for it.

Have you ever seen a football player who scores a touchdown and celebrate like it's the first time it has ever happened? We want to tell them: "Act like you've been here before."

Have you ever seen students who get despondent the first time they're challenged? We want to tell them: "You'll get through this. Don't be petty. Act in a way that will make you proud when you do."

Let's take those pieces of wisdom to heart as we face challenges today -- at this point in the history of the Church in the United States and in our own daily struggles. When we win a victory for the faith, let's act like we've been here before. When we lose a battle in defending the faith, let's act with the zeal and courage that will allow us to hold our heads high when the resurrection comes.

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's calendar

Monday, Nov. 16-Wednesday, Nov. 18

Meetings in Rome

Thursday, Nov. 19

11:45 a.m. Mass followed by staff enrichment at the Cardinal Rigali Center

Friday, Nov. 20

Public Policy Committee meeting for the Missouri Catholic Conference in Jefferson City

Saturday, Nov. 21

9 a.m. Sixth Annual Archdiocesan Pastoral Assembly at the Cardinal Rigali Center — beONE Kick Off

5 p.m. 100th anniversary Mass and dinner at Our Lady of the Presentation Parish in Overland

Sunday, Nov. 22

10 a.m. Respect Life Apostolate Annual Adoption Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis

4 p.m. Mass and reception to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Daughters of St. Paul, at St. Justin Martyr Parish 

Bishop Edward M. Rice's calendar

Monday, Nov. 16-Wednesday, Nov. 18

USCCB General Assembly in Baltimore, Md.

Thursday, Nov. 19

11:45 a.m. Mass followed by staff enrichment at the Cardinal Rigali Center

4:45 p.m. Mass at St. Charles Chapel at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary

7 p.m. Talk for South Side Catholic Boys Club at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church

Friday, Nov. 20

9 a.m. Mass at Academy of St. Louis

Saturday, Nov. 21

9 a.m. Sixth Annual Archdiocesan Pastoral Assembly at the Cardinal Rigali Center — beONE Kick Off

5 p.m. 100th anniversary Mass and dinner at Our Lady of the Presentation Parish in Overland

Sunday, Nov. 22

10 a.m. Rite of confirmation at St. Cronan Parish 

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