Honoring the memory of a martyr

| March 17, 2011 | 0 Comments

One of the features of The Catholic Spirit’s Overheard section is a collection of quotes from newsmakers around the world. Just last month, the page included a quote from Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic who served as Pakistan’s minister of minorities.

“I follow the principles of my conscience, and I am ready to die and sacrifice my life for the principles I believe,” said Bhatti, who refused to stop speaking against his country’s blasphemy laws — which Christians say are being used to persecute religious minorities — despite being targeted for assassination by religious extremists.

Bhatti paid the ultimate price for his principles: He was gunned down in his car March 2 on the way to his office. Up until his death, it was clear he was strengthened and sustained by his faith. One Pakistani bishop recalled Bhatti’s daily routine: “He would go to see his mother, he would pray with her, then he would call me and ask me every morning to pray for him.”

Christians in other parts of the world — including Iraq and Egypt — face similar threats for worshipping and living the principles of their faith.

Called to shine

It’s a reality few of us in the United States can relate to. Almost none of us will ever be in a situation comparable to Bhatti’s — living and working in a place where we face the very real risk of death on a daily basis for practicing our Catholic faith. His courage is something to be respected and admired.

But it is something that also should give us pause.

Why? Because too often, we lack the fortitude to witness to our faith in much smaller ways in our day-to-day lives. We cave in to societal pressure or peer pressure that seeks to relegate faith to a private corner of our lives, or to a single hour on Sundays.

That’s not what Jesus wants. In the Sermon on the Mount, he told his followers not to hide their lamp under a bushel basket, but rather to “set [it] on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house.”

This Lent gives us a good opportunity to reflect on Jesus’ words and deepen our commitment to our Catholic faith, to live like Jesus wants us to — no matter what others might say or think.

How can we do that?

How about starting small and saying grace before meals in restaurants, at the office or at school even if others don’t? That may seem trite to some, but we all know Catholics who hesitate to draw any attention to their faith outside a church building, even for something as simple as prayer. In addition to grace, how about if we make a commitment to pray at a certain time each day, as Bhatti did.

How about volunteering a few hours at a food shelf, pro-life pregnancy center or a parish ministry and inviting a friend or family member to join us?

How about taking a further step and speaking in support of the social teachings of our church, even when doing so is difficult, inconvenient and unpopular? Are we willing to speak out in defense of the church’s teachings on life, family and care for the poor and vulnerable to help create just laws and public policies? Can we step out of our comfort zones to communicate with our legislators in support of bills that benefit the common good (see page 4)?

Honoring his memory

There are numerous ways, of course, of witnessing to our faith publicly as well as privately. We likely will never face the prospect of  becoming martyrs and paying the ultimate price for living our faith.

But we do a disservice to the mem­ory of people like Shahbaz Bhatti when we fail to be courageous — in large as well as small ways.

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Category: Editorials, Spotlight