Believing Like Martyrs Have Believed

When the hemorrhaging woman touched Christ, power flowed into her body from His flesh. No wonder it did—the flesh of Christ is divine. The flesh of Christ conquers all sickness, conquers even death.

If you recently flipped through your copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, you may have noticed a reproduction of an ancient painting on page 277. A painting of the woman touching Christ appears at the beginning of the section on the sacraments.

The man that the woman touched dwells in heaven. He touches us through the sacraments of His Church. The same power that cured the woman works in the Church now. The same power that raised the dead—that power lives, and breathes, and gives life, even now, in Christ’s Church.

…Some of us spent last Friday evening watching a movie about St. Thomas More. The script for the movie comes from a play called “A Man for All Seasons,” by Robert Bolt.

Obviously, the playwright admired Thomas More. Bolt admired the English Chancellor who went blithely to the chopping block, rather than break faith with the Catholic Church–rather than undermine the authority of the Pope, even though the pope was not personally so great a man.

Bolt’s play captures St. Thomas as a hero of conscience, who would not betray himself. He would not swear to something he did not believe, even if it cost him his life.

Bolt wrote a very interesting introduction to his script. His words in the introduction drip with admiration, but also with a kind of sadness. St. Thomas More stands before us as a titanic hero–for one reason: because he held the Catholic faith. He believed the Creed. He held the faith unswervingly and without qualification. Thomas More had a mind more subtle and more precise than any in England. He knew how to have a good time, too. He loved his family and friends. But, above all, Thomas More believed—he believed in God, believed in Christ, believed in the Church.

The saint’s playwright, Robert Bolt, on the other hand, could not claim to hold the faith. In his introduction to his script, he wrote: These days, we see things differently. We can’t just profess to believe that Jesus Christ reigns in heaven. We can’t just accept that the Church and the Bible give us communication from an invisible, all-knowing Father. Modern man can’t just jump into the great, dark cloud of faith, like St. Thomas did. His was a different age, a simpler age.

This is the complicated modern world! We know better than our ancestors. We have a scientific world-view and a pluralistic outlook on the multiplicity of cultures, customs, and religions. We have too much sophistication to go blithely to a martyr’s death out of loyalty to a Pope who may or may not be such a great man himself.

Okay, Robert Bolt. Okay, agnosticism. We do not question your good will, and we appreciate your honesty. We thank you for giving us such a beautiful play about St. Thomas More. But we have to question the depth of your self-knowledge.

You say that you cannot go to your death with a smile on your face out of loyalty to the Vicar of Christ. You say you cannot simply and unequivocally affirm that Christ dwells in heaven, and that he rewards those who serve Him faithfully. You say the modern intellectual situation does not accommodate a Catholic—at least not a Catholic like Thomas More.

We can only ask you, dear Robert Bolt, dear modern agnostic: Why not? Why not believe what the Church teaches? Why not believe it with childlike simplicity, like St. Thomas More did? Is it because you’re too smart, knowledgeable, and subtle? Is it because modern man has developed all his intellectual “muscles” so well that he no longer needs to use the faith muscle?

Maybe not. Maybe there is another reason you can’t believe. Maybe you can’t believe the Creed of the Church because you have actually put your faith in other ideas—ideas that are, in fact, considerably less believable than the Catholic faith is.

Which is more believable: That Almighty God created the universe and governs it toward a good end, or that all these gizillions of atoms have always been kicking around in an unending ebb and flow of meaningless time, and somehow they managed randomly to come together to form Lebron James and Sofia Vergara? Which is more believable: the idea that heaven awaits those who serve God with humble love, or the idea that the only outlet we really have for all that burns in our souls is this earthly life, and it’s altogether over when we die?

Let’s put this question to ourselves, dear brothers and sisters in the Lord: Am I ready to smile at my executioner, if that’s what I have to do, because I believe that the Catholic faith is true? True like the martyrs have believed it to be.

We pray and fast for religious freedom in our country. Political situations come and go. The one thing that is always convincing is: Someone ready to die happily at the hands of unjust men for the truth of the holy, Catholic, and apostolic faith.

One thought on “Believing Like Martyrs Have Believed

  1. Thanks for the homily! We were finally able to decide on a baby name! We are naming the new baby Thomas Fulton. Thomas after Thomas More. Don actually played Thomas More in our college’s production of _A Man For All Seasons_ and has a special devotion to him since he is the patron saint of lawyers. And of course Fulton after Vererble Fulton J. Sheen.

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