Friday, January 21, 2011

.... And Some Must Die

Yesterday was not such a good day for me. The local newspaper published an almost full-page editorial which trashed a comment I wrote in support of my Catholic values. I expected my thoughts on the matter would linger, and I would write here today the story of my plight. But as I went into the church this morning, my mood changed.

My self-pity was pushed aside enough to find room for a new thought: later this morning in this church would be the funeral of Officer Larry Nehasil, a Livonia Michigan policeman, killed in the line of duty this last Monday. He left a wife and two sons. The funeral mass at 11AM would be huge, with many thousands in attendance, all praying for and remembering this man, and what he had done. As I thought on and prayed for him at the early morning mass, the worries which started my day seemed tiny, as did any perceived sacrifice I made. Many things were put into perspective.

I’m sure at some points in his career Officer Nehasil must have heard these comments: Why are you doing this? You can make more money elsewhere. This is dangerous. You have a wife and family. Why put yourself at risk? And perhaps he heard this most difficult comment also: Do you really think you can make a difference? Does your sacrifice matter?

I don’t know how he answered those comments and questions, but I suspect that he said something along the lines of: “I’m doing it because it is the right thing to do, and I think it is important.” And so he did the right thing, even if he was criticized for it, even if – by some -- he was disrespected for it. And he knew, he absolutely knew, that his sacrifice mattered. How often are we not able to make such a principled stand, such a virtuous stand, a stand for justice and truth, for even a small sacrifice?

Veritas? Quid est veritas?

Today was the feast day of St. Agnes, virgin and martyr. In the Fourth Century she stood strong in her faith, unwilling to offer sacrifice to the gods of Rome, and so she chose death. She calmly offered the trembling executioner her neck. She was only twelve. Strong faith and strong virtues have nothing to do with age. But they have everything to do with love, love of truth. For what could one so young really appreciate about some of the complex truths of our faith? What could she understand about why there were so many martyrs before her, and what they had died for? No, she could not understand many of these things, but she knew, with the help of the grace of God, she knew the truth of Jesus Christ, and she loved that truth. Quid est veritas – what is truth? Truth is love and Truth is loved. And once you know true truth, the true reason of your very being, you choose to love that truth, and do everything for it, and not count the cost. “It is important.”

Some of us think we know the truth, but are unwilling to stand up for it. If so, then we do not really know the Truth, and we are lying to ourselves. Truth commands love and sacrifice. If we know Truth, we are able to stand up tall, and love the truth, no matter what.

Showing this love, living the life example of Christ means different things to different people. Some must exhibit love and diligence and courage in silence ---and no one, save God, knows of their actions. But, yes, some must bear up to public ridicule, and some must even suffer great physical pains in their life.

And some must die.

That is the way it has always been with the followers of Christ. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you (Jn 15:20). But He tells us that in our times of trial, He will be there with us. He was with me this morning; He was with Officer Nehasil on Monday and his family today, and He was with St. Agnes so many years ago. And therein, I think lies the lesson. Our trials and our sufferings to live out our lives in love of Truth are never forgotten. Whether, like St. Agnes they are remembered publicly throughout the centuries, or whether they are remembered privately in the examples set forth and carried on by their family and friends, or whether they impact strangers who those lovers of Truth will never even see, still, their actions are not in vain. And especially those who give the ultimate sacrifice of love, their lives, their actions are never in vain, for great love yields great fruit. Jesus showed us that.

There was a Man who stood in the courtyard many years ago, being ridiculed and mocked for His love of Truth. Friends and family who He thought so admired and loved Him stood silent, and some even joined in the ridicule. Some must have thought or said: Does your sacrifice matter? But He stood tall through all of it, the little sneers, the loud mockery, and then the deep pains. He put forth a great example for us all to follow --- for those who are able. And even as He underwent all these things, He could see us and the sufferings we would undergo, for love of Truth. And He would be with us. He set the example for all our lives: to attain eternal joy, all must be willing to follow Him, and therefore some must be ridiculed, and some must suffer great pains.

And some must die.

It is a sad thing, but their death, like His, will never be in vain. Never. Their sacrifice matters --- perhaps through all the centuries.


  1. I come away from this post wondering about myself. In my sheltered life would I have the courage to stand up for that Truth? I sort of stand tall every once in a while, but not on the scale that you present. But; we may all have to find the courage soon. A very moving post...

  2. Wow, Tom. I'm echoing KAM here-very moving post.

  3. I guess we all wonder if we are doing enough, if we are doing the things we DO accomplish well enough --- and perhaps, sometimes, if it matters.

    I guess we're all soldiers. Ours is not to wonder why, ours is just to do and die.