I’ve been reading about the history of the liturgy which requires considerable reading about the clandestine activities of the early Christians. It’s difficult to grasp how the Church ascended and spread over the first eight centuries. There was always persecution and risk of martyrdom somewhere, even when there was peace elsewhere.
It is no different today. Media sources in 2013 report that about 100 million Christians are persecuted worldwide, with conditions worsening rapidly in Syria and Ethiopia. It is illegal to be a Christian in North Korea. My husband’s parents fled Cuba to raise their children and practice their faith in America. He tells me how quickly our freedoms can be violated by corrupt governments.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has declared a Fortnight for Freedom from June 21 to July 4, a two-week prayer campaign for religious freedom. I watch the news, I know that our President Obama has likened religious education to segregation, accusing Christians of causing division. I know there is an accusation of child abuse for teaching children about God and our faith. I hear the scorn and chiding of some non-believers against the Church and our priests, I see indolence and ennui preyed upon by the powerful, and yes, I wish people would wake up.
But you know what else? There’s a limit to my anxiety. I converted to Catholicism in this country too, in spite of what people say about the Church and religion, and I am probably among the most radical of converts, a convert who embraced the feminist, anti-religious message in an effort raise myself on the social ladder. None of that mattered when it came down to the deepest questions about life and love though, and I’d die before I’d deny the truth I’ve found now.
Maybe we’ll be persecuted in our lifetimes, maybe not, but for now, we still have the freedom that many of our fellow brothers and sisters did not, or do not, have. As we pray and stand up for our religious freedom, we also can exercise it by doing a good job of catechizing our children, attending Mass, availing ourselves of the other sacraments, and evangelizing. We can also pray anytime, anywhere we want, and there isn’t a person or a demon, a law or an insult, that can stop us. Freedom comes from God, and human laws can only go so far to violate our freedoms, for they cannot violate inner peace.