Things Worth Dying For

10-29-2023Letter from the PastorFr. Don Kline, V.F.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Retired Archbishop Charles Chaput wrote a book called, “Things Worth Dying For.” In the earliest chapters, he writes about our ability to possess even now, the same love the martyrs showed for Our Lord. This radical love is our calling and is deeply connected to our call to holiness, our call to become saints. Archbishop wrote, “The supernatural love of God in Jesus Christ that gives courage to the martyrs helps us to better understand the loves of family, friends, honor, and integrity. The power of these loves - a power so great that we can live and die to remain true to them - does not come from within.” The Archbishop asserts that it isn’t about the one who loves but rather their capacity to love someone - a mother or father for his or her child is the clearest example. Good parents will do and sacrifice everything for their children which makes many parents holy parents.

This radical kind of love is difficult to find today, primarily because our world works against radical love in many ways. With so many life choices, we often fall victim to the sin of self-love. Archbishop Chaput states that, “The most telling feature of our era is that it weakens bonds. It seduces us to live without love.” Even in family life, which is a school for sacrificial love, those who take on the duties of sacramental marriage and child rearing, have declined significantly in the west. Sacrificial love seems to cramp the lifestyle of so many people today.

We have all witnessed the loneliness and isolation due to social media, technology, and overworking. Such things do not foster a spirit of martyrdom. Rather, these sorts of things can and do promote cynicism and skepticism about martyrdom and holiness. Without possessing sacrificial love, we doubt the love of real martyrs in the Christian tradition and label their love as fanatical. Why would one sacrifice his or her life for others or for the sake of the Gospel, for Our Lord and His Church? I think of some of the Saints who adorn our church. Saints like John De Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues and their companions. These missionaries endured unspeakable torture for the sake of the gospel willingly and without hesitation. Eyewitnesses record that despite this, they died happy deaths. Can the same be said for so many today who live only for themselves?

The final moments of so many martyrs were preceded by the outpouring of tremendous love to the people whom they served, some of whom put them to death. All this seems so hypothetical to us, ancient stories of honor and devotion that many don’t feel called to emulate in the modern era. If you are feeling that the call to lay down one’s life is something of the past, know that the 20th century had more Christian martyrs than the first 19 centuries of Church history combined!

Before we would ever be convinced of “red martyrdom” (to spill one’s blood for the faith), we must seek to live what the Church calls, “white martyrdom.” This sort of martyrdom describes people who did not die for their faith but who have gone before us after having lived holy lives of patient suffering for the faith. They are the people we know who have gone to heaven because of their sacrificial love and faithfulness for Our Lord despite the hardships they endured during their lifetime. As we approach All Saint’s Day, let us give thanks for the Saints, the holy men and women who encourage us to live and love sacrificially as the red and white martyrs and now enjoy eternal life.

God Bless,

Fr. Don Kline, V.F.