Thoughts for December 29 from Fr Willie Doyle

St Thomas Becket

Jesus, you know my longing to become a saint. You know how much I thirst to die a martyr. Help me to prove that I am really in earnest by living this life of martyrdom.

O loving Jesus, help me now not to fight any longer against You. I really long to do what You want, but I know my weakness so well and my inconstancy. I have made so many generous resolutions which I have never kept that I feel it is almost a mockery to promise more. This record of my feelings and desire at this moment will be a spur to my generosity; and if I cannot live up to the perfection of what You want, at least I am now determined to do more than I have ever done before. Help me, Jesus!

COMMENT: The cross is always at the centre of the Christian life, in one way or another. It was present in Bethlehem with its poverty and lack of comfort. The day after Christmas we celebrate the feast of the first martyr, St Stephen. Two days later we celebrate the feast of the Holy Innocents and today we celebrate the feast of St Thomas Becket, the martyred Archbishop of Canterbury who was killed because he defended the freedom of the Church against the dictates of the State.

Even in this joyful Christmas season we find these heroic examples of martyrdom. St Thomas’ example is very relevant for us today. A form of aggressive secularism seeks to squeeze the Church from the public square. We may not have to face physical martyrdom like St Thomas, and we do not have to feel an inner calling to martyrdom like Fr Doyle. But we are called to stand firm and defend the Church against unjust restrictions on its freedom. Sometimes this may mean a kind of dry martyrdom which may lead to a loss of opportunities or scorn and abuse. For some this dry martyrdom may involve even greater suffering than traditional martyrdom. If this is the case, let us copy the example of Fr Doyle by calling on Jesus to give us the grace and assistance that we need.

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