On Sunday at Holy Name in Fishtown, where my lay Dominican chapter meets monthly for prayer, mass, and community, the recently confirmed children from the parish were dressed in red robes and sitting in the first pews. I was seated behind them, and it occurred to me that they looked like so many young martyrs. I thought about how the sacrament of confirmation gives the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
When they lead you away and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say. But say whatever will be given to you at that hour. For it will not be you who are speaking but the holy Spirit. Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved. (Mk 13:11-13)Of course, the Holy Spirit strengthens us to be witnesses. The Spirit strengthens us to be soldiers of Christ, but the Spirit also strengthens us for martyrdom.
Sadly, such a thing seems less far fetched these days than it did when I was growing up, and looking at these kids, it makes me wonder how far fetched it will be when they are my age. The increasing hostility in the West to Christianity, while not yet to the point of outright violent persecution and martyrdom, it certainly seems more likely as the governments increasingly chip away at religious freedom and the President arrogates more and more powers to himself, including that of arbitrarily killing American citizens in the name of the "fight against terror."
How long before Christianity gets classified as inimical to the State due to our unwillingness to bow to the zeitgeist? Perhaps we will need this strengthening for martyrdom before long. Perhaps if not us, our children. Let us pray and hold fast to that hope we have in Christ, sealed with the Spirit for the day of redemption.