Bear wrongs patiently

Oklahoma Wesleyan University, in its website’s “talking points” column regarding the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, begins with a quote from the late jurist. “God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools and He has not been disappointed. Devout Christians are destined to be regarded as fools in modern society. We are fools for Christ’s sake. We must pray for courage to endure the scorn of the sophisticated world. If I have brought any message today, it is this: Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.”

One of the Spiritual Works of Mercy is to bear wrongs patiently. Here Scalia was speaking about bearing the wrong of being regarded a fool for believing in Christianity. Whatever one thinks about the late judge, one knows that what he said has been true for 2,000 years (and for hundreds of years before that for faithful Jews, such as the prophets) — believers in the true God have to suffer patiently for what they believe.

OWU’s website quotes a poem by Simon Jenkins, who mused, 

“What ship has a crew of tax men, thieves and fishermen,
who decide in the howling storm to make a small sleeping carpenter their captain?
Yes, a ship of fools, but there are fools and those who only appear to be.”

Jenkins was getting at the point that we appear to the world to be fools for following Christ, but the real fools are those who think they can live their life without God and His guidance.

Long before he became a famous jurist, Antonin Scalia married his wife, Maureen McCarthy, at the old St. Pius X Church in South Yarmouth on Sept. 10, 1960 (they were fortunate to not have gotten married the following day and then have to share their anniversary with the terrorist attacks). 

St. Pius X wrote about mercy many times. In a 1910 encyclical about St. Charles Borromeo, entitled Editae saepe, he wrote (in paragraph 39), “The leaders of the people are called to engage in this very noble apostolate which includes all the Works of Mercy which will be prepared and ready to sacrifice all they have and are for the cause. They must bear envy, contradiction, and even the hatred of many who will repay their labors with ingratitude. They must conduct themselves as ‘good soldiers of Jesus Christ.’ They must ‘run with patience to the fight set before us; looking towards the Author and Finisher of faith, Jesus Christ.’ Without a doubt, this is a very difficult contest. Nevertheless, even though a total victory will be slow in coming, it is a contest that serves the welfare of civil society in a most worthy manner.”

What our saintly founder wrote is good food for thought as we prepare to elect leaders for our country, from the presidency down to the local level. It is also good to meditate on our own leadership roles, be they at home, work or school. If we are being true to our Baptism, we will have to “fight” for Christ, but not as the world fights (which is foolishly following the direction of the devil), but with love and patience. As St. Pius said, we have to wait a long time for victory (but it will be the true victory, so it is worth waiting for).

In paragraphs 40 and 41 of his letter, St. Pius says that St. Charles was a great example of this Spiritual Work of Mercy. “From his example each one of us can find much for imitation and consolation. Even though his outstanding virtue, his marvelous activity, his never failing charity commanded much respect, he was nonetheless subject to that ‘law’ which reads, ‘All who want to live piously in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.’ His austere life, his defense of righteousness and honesty, his protection of law and justice only led to his being hated by rulers and tricked by diplomats and, later, distrusted by the nobility, clergy and people until he was eventually so hated by wicked men that they sought his very life. 

“In spite of his mild and gentle disposition he withstood all these attacks with unflinching courage. He yielded no ground on any matter that would endanger faith and morals. He admitted no claim (even if it was made by a powerful monarch who was always a Catholic) that was either contrary to discipline or burdensome to the faithful. He was always mindful of Christ’s words: ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ He never forgot the Apostles’ declaration: ‘We must obey God rather than men.’ Thus he was religion’s and society’s chief benefactor. In his time civil society was paying the price of almost certain destruction because of its worldly prudence. It was practically shipwrecked in the seditious storms it had stirred up.”

St. Pius said that Christians in 1910 “must be as faithful in their loyalty and respect to ‘wicked rulers’ when their commands are just, as they are adamant in resisting their commands when unjust.” Our bearing wrongs patiently in 2016 does not mean that we have to “go along” with injustice. We need to patiently point it out and resist it, as Christ did. We might be considered to be fools, but Christ’s wisdom will guide us.

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