Freedom to Worship is Essential to Life

Last Sunday was a “mission” Sunday in my parish.
That means a missionary offers the homily at Mass, and in most cases, there is a second collection at the Offertory to raise funds for that mission. And, because the speaker is often foreign, like this past week, many a Catholic at that Mass often tunes out, simply for not being able to understand the plea.
Our church was welcoming a Nigerian priest. Because of some university programs in the area where I live, I’ve gotten used to Nigerian priests over the years. I even got to know one or two personally when I was in graduate school at the same university. But I still have trouble understanding their English, which can be a bit song-songy, with opposite inflections used in America.
But on Sunday, I heard a message from this small, soft-spoken man that did not come from his mouth. It came from every part of his being. It pointed to me, a lifelong Catholic, and it asked me just how serious I was about loving God and others.
Nigeria is not exactly the most welcoming place for Catholics or Christians. This man who stood before us and talked about the need and value of second chances, risks his life everyday to praise God and share His message. I let that sink in a bit as he spoke. People in his country want to kill him for being Catholic. But he remains loyal to God, in a BIG way. He spoke about it – talking about how 10 priests were sent to evangelize in one region of Africa, but never returned. The reply was to send 15 more. Nine of those were killed. Yet the Catholics of Nigeria continue to preach.
As far as I know, no one out there wants me dead. If there is someone, it’s not likely to be because I’m Catholic. And yet this priest made me wonder. What would I do in his position? Would I be ready to sacrifice my life for God? It’s really the ultimate religious question, isn’t it? I would like to say I would risk all for God’s love, but I really just don’t know if I would. And yet this man does it daily.
I began to think then of the culture wars occurring in our own country. And I shivered. It’s no secret that Catholicism and Christianity are not politically correct in our world, despite the goodness and service they deliver to all. Simply sharing your beliefs on some topics is enough to get you an unflattering label. Lawmakers today seem to see no need to protect our freedom to worship as we choose. We’re at the top of a slippery slope when it comes to any religion. And it’s looking like we’re in danger of sliding to the bottom.
It may seem silly to some to think the US could come to the same place where Nigeria is standing – a country that allows citizens to be horrifically killed because of their belief in God. But is it?
Today, Christians are being killed around the world, churches burned, and there is almost no mainstream media coverage of these atrocities. In our own country, religious groups like Little Sisters of the Poor are being forced to fund so-called health procedures that violate their beliefs. Catholics everywhere remain quiet about their religion in the larger world, for fear of retaliation from neighbors, employers and activists groups.
Are we really that far away from Nigeria? Do we need to start asking ourselves what were willing to sacrifice for the right to attend Mass on Sundays and bless our children with the Sacraments? Let’s hope not.


4 thoughts on “Freedom to Worship is Essential to Life

  1. NotAScientist

    “It may seem silly to some to think the US could come to the same place where Nigeria is standing – a country that allows citizens to be horrifically killed because of their belief in God. But is it?”

    Yes. Because you’re in the overwhelming majority.

    1. switched Post author

      I’m thinking of any group of people believing in anything, really. But as a Catholic, I would hardly say I’m in the majority…

      1. NotAScientist

        As a version of Christian, you are in the majority, and have zero to worry about as far as it comes to actual persecution.

        What Christians are experiencing right now in the West is a dip in the special privileges that they have received in the past. Which is not the same as actual persecution.

      2. switched Post author

        I hear you. I disagree somewhat, but the real question is still valid. How many of us love our God and religion enough to actually withstand the kind of persecution that happens elsewhere? Answering is a good exercise for those of us who think we are true Catholics/Christians.

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