‘Father, pray for me. I will not survive’

It’s hard not to think of the man begging for mercy as he died in a Nigerian Catholic Church on Christmas Day today on the feast of the first Christian martyr, St. Stephen.

As Robert Royal puts it:

Today, December 26, is the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr. The Church calendar places him right after Christmas Day. With good reason:  Christ came into the world and redeemed us alright, but the Redemption immediately begins a process that challenges the usual worldly powers, which the world does not like, and reacts violently against, in every age. It’s still going on – in China, Africa, the Middle East, and in lesser forms almost everywhere.

Yesterday has consequences, as I write in my syndicated column this week, filed before the attacks in Nigeria — being Christian does. The lives of Shahbaz Bhatti and teen Amariah Masih this year demonstrate this; they said they believed something and they held by it to their deaths, killed because they were Christians, living Christianity.

We may not all be called to literal, physical martyrdom like Bhatti and Masih, but we are called to something radical. To not look away as religious freedom is threatened. To not look away at injustice. To not be cowards in the face of Christophobia. To not walk away from the call to the radical life of love that is represented in the magnificent humility of the Nativity under a tree near you this octave.





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