Do you notice the women who come up to receive the Eucharist with their purse? I have always wondered about that. It seems to be common practice, but why? I should probably throw out my disclaimer that I am not a cradle Catholic, so I wonder about weird stuff that normal Catholics probably don’t think twice about. But, why do they bring their purse to communion? Are they afraid it will get stolen if they leave in in their seat? Are they planning to leave right after communion? Are they just following a common unwritten practice all cradle Catholic women innately have? I have always been puzzled by it but too afraid to ask one of these women. It seems kind of rude. It’s like asking, “Did you really mean to wear that dress to church today?” Yep, rude.
So, let’s change the subject. The Pope has declared that this is the year of faith. As we enter this year, the Lord has really laid the Saints on my heart. He has challenged me to read their stories and admire their beautiful faith. And, of course, all this story reading has gotten me thinking about my own faith. Do I have what it takes? If I were Stephen, would I have the courage to be stoned to death because I love Jesus? If I were St. Lawrence, would I have the courage to be cooked alive because I love Jesus? If I were St. Thomas More, would I proclaim my love for Jesus all the way to the end when they cut off my head? Do I love Jesus more than my own life? Do I trust him enough to lay my life at his feet like these martyrs?
Sure, it is easy to say that I do. I have spent many hours on my knees in surrender. At every Mass, I lay down my life with the words of the Suscipe. At the moment, I have given up my career in education for a much less lucrative career in youth ministry. But I have never been tested like these martyrs were tested. I do not have to fear for my life simply because I am a Christian. I am blessed to live in a country where that fear is not a reality. But what if it was? What if the Christians in my town were rounded up by a crazy person and threatened with execution if they did not renounce Christ? What would I do? Truth be told, I don’t know what I would do. I am a wife and a mother. I am a daughter, a sister, an Aunt and a Godmother. I have family and friends whom I love and people who count on me. Could I trust them to Jesus and allow myself to be killed rather than renounce my faith and my love for Christ? Do I trust the Lord that much? I have ties to this world- strong ties. I have things that I love to do and places I love to go. I have friends and family who make each day better than the next. I am blessed beyond measure. But with those blessings come ties. Don’t get me wrong, these are good ties, but ties none the less.
So, now that I work at my church, I have my own small space in the office. And often, I leave my belongings in there before I go to Mass. That way, I can be completely hands free and I am not concerned with leaving my stuff. This experience has been great. I didn’t realize how much I was distracted by keeping track of my stuff. There is freedom in coming to Mass without my belongings. As I have been experiencing Mass with this bit of freedom, I realize that this is what the Martyrs felt- freedom. They had to. In order to give their lives as they did, they had to be free from all ties.
So, how do we get the freedom found in the spirit of a martyr? We have to trust. We have to be willing to not be in control of our own lives. And we also have to be willing to not be in control of the lives of those we love- especially our children. We have to trust Christ absolutely and completely with EVERYTHING. There is freedom in that trust. When we trust Christ like this, then we open ourselves up to His love in new and more profound ways. This is where the faith of a martyr is found.
So in this year of faith, we need to approach the altar with love AND trust. We need to trust the Lord as much as we profess to love Him. When Jesus sent the disciples out two by two, he told them to take nothing for the journey (Matthew 10:5-15). They didn’t have to worry about keeping track of possessions as they traveled because they left them behind. They trusted the Lord with all they had and went about to do his will. This is what we are called to as well- trust the Lord and do His will. Before we can do His will, we have to let go of our ties and trust. If we truly love the Lord, then we will. We can only love the Lord as much as we let go and trust him. The martyrs show us what it means to completely trust and thus, love.
So faithful Catholic women, let’s leave our purses behind. (Seriously, leave them at home if you need to.) Approach the altar with just the clothes on your back and the shoes on your feet. You don’t need anything more for the journey than an open and trusting heart. Our ties to this world are strong and comfortable. So, let’s get uncomfortable for the Lord. In this year of faith, let’s experience the freedom found in absolute trust of the one who has already given us His life.
“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life….” (Matthew 10:25)