Yesterday I had the good fortune to work with another Catholic paramedic. I had never met him before, and I didn't know he was Catholic until we passed by a rural Catholic Church on sprawling treed grounds in a very beautiful setting. I commented on how appealing it was, and he told me there was a monastery tucked away in the back. I immediately told him I was Catholic, and he said he was too, and told me he had spent a year in the seminary prior to becoming a paramedic.
We had an amazing day, talking about our faith in between calls. He showed me the rosary he always carries in his pocket, tucked safely inside a bright red cloth. He asked me if I understood the significance of the red cloth. I said yes, it is a reminder of the Precious Blood; how Jesus suffered and died for our salvation. He said yes, but each time he looks at it, it is also a reminder to him of how he would shed his own blood for Jesus; that he would gladly die for the faith.
There was a time in our history when people were executed for being Christian, but that happens less frequently now. It is much less common to be a martyr for the faith today than it was centuries ago. Which brings me to the title of this post. Could you really renounce your faith if it came right down to choosing evil or salvation at the hands of an executioner? We may never get that opportunity, and being a martyr like the saints of old may never happen for us, because today our faith is being renounced in a different way. It is being eroded one TV commercial at a time; one movie at a time; one magazine, one book at time. Our faith is challenged every season by the fashion industry; it is challenged on the beaches and even in our Churches when we are exposed to liturgical abuses and quasi Catholicism.
We may never get to shed our blood for our faith. We are instead tasked with something that may prove to be more difficult and impossible to accomplish - we must uphold our Catholic faith in the midst of a secular world that tries at every turn to erode and erase the faith of our fathers.
The desert fathers understood how difficult it would be to uphold the faith in our later times. Once, a desert father was asked by a young monk about the devil. The monk inquired if people in later times would be able to persevere in the fasting and all night prayer vigils that the desert monks subjected themselves to. The desert father said, "No. People in later times will be weak and they will barely be able to fast a day without feeling faint. They will not be able to stay awake and pray all night, for they will be too weak."
When the young monk asked why they would be so weak, the desert father replied,"It is easy for us to do these things. We are fighting Satan chained. In later times, people will fight him unchained."