I've been reading some of the early Church fathers, and it has struck me how they seemed to view persecution, even to the point of death, as something to rejoice in. It makes me think of persecution as a symptom of being a true follower of Jesus...something you would be glad to endure because it would prove you were a Christian. Here are the words of St. Ignatius of Antioch, 3rd bishop of Antioch, in his Letter to the Romans:
"I am writing to all the Churches and I enjoin all, that I am dying willingly for God's sake, if only you do not prevent it. I beg of you, do not do me an untimely kindness. Allow me to be eaten by the beasts, which are my way of reaching to God. I am God's wheat, and I am to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, so that I may become the pure bread of Christ." (The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. I, The Liturgical Press 1970)
Now there is a man with some conviction! I've been wondering how I would respond in such a situation, and it has made me realize how much I flee from 'persecution', which, for me today means shying away from being vocal about my beliefs because I want to be liked. Be liked, or follow Jesus--the choice should be a no-brainer! Maybe you think I have been vocal about my beliefs on this blog, but it's hard for me when I am face to face with someone that I know needs Jesus, but has rejected him.
I came across this amazing prayer, the Litany of Humility, that I have started praying as an antidote to my desire to be likable to everyone. It is very hard to pray, it is very unnatural to pray, but I love the ideas in it and I want to share it:
Litany of Humility
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
From the fear of being humiliated,
deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
That in the opinion of the world,
others may increase, and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I,
provided that I may become as holy as I should.
-Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val