I wrote the following last week in in response to the Week 7 discussion prompt in the Church History class I’m taking. Looks like it even formatted properly here!
One passage from Scripture can sum up my three points from this week: “do not be afraid of those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Mt 10:28, NABRE). The points I would like to highlight from this period will hopefully drive home the importance of this teaching and how seriously it was taken in the Middle Ages; they should provide an example for us in our own age. So, the first: “Boniface was only one example of hundreds of Benedictine monks who worked and died to establish the Catholic faith in Europe.” 1 The Church was very blessed with so many dedicated, faithful people! How many does it have today? Could we claim to follow in these monks’ footsteps? We, too, should be willing to work and die as necessary to establish the Catholic faith—whether it be in our loved ones, in our communities or societies, or even in ourselves. In doing so, we must remember the Beatitude, “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me [Christ]” (Mt 5:11). Which “absolute value,” as they say in math, is greater—that of temporal suffering or that of eternal joy? This leads to my second point, which is that the Church employed torture to the end of bringing heretics back to the true faith and thus saving their souls. 2 What I want to highlight in bringing this up is the how much more important eternal happiness than it is than temporal happiness. This isn’t to say I think we should physically torture others to get them to believe in the Catholic faith, but that we should be willing to suffer discomfort—again, as necessary—to help bring others and ourselves to heaven. St. Francis (upon whom my third point centers) is a perfect example of this. He was willing to expend whatever effort it took to physically rebuild Christ’s churches; but when the task turned out to be harder, and involve a life of poverty so as to rebuild Christ’s Church herself, he willingly took up that as well. 3 Now maybe we aren’t all called to “[hold] up the pillars of the Church” in the way St. Francis was; 4 but we are called to help uphold ourselves—we who are members of God’s Church. This Lent, let’s try to follow St. Francis’s example in ourselves, and rebuild what is lacking of God’s Church (and of God’s plan in general) in ourselves and others when we’re given the chance, and strive to grow closer to Him through the sacraments and Church teaching and prayer, not fearing but joyfully embracing any difficulties it might entail.
1 Alan Schreck, Ph.D., The Compact History of the Catholic Church, revised ed. (Cincinnati, OH: Servant Books, an imprint of Franciscan Media, 2009), 39.
2 see Schreck, Compact History, 58.
3 see Schreck, Compact History, 59.
4 Schreck, Compact History, 59.