Catholic Free Press
St. Agnes of Rome, pray for us.
Tough question. Recently I read a story with my daughter in her 1890 Catholic National Reader. The story described a praetexta and bulla-wearing boy of ancient Rome during early Christianity. His father had been martyred. Returning from school one day, he was jubilant but hesitant to tell his mother how his head had been injured.
The teacher had asked the children whether a real philosopher should ever be ready to die for truth. The other children had given flat answers, but the martyr’s boy, having been instructed firmly in the faith, had given his answer so passionately that the word “Christian” accidentally escaped his mouth. In those days Christians were “obliged to live as strangers in their own lands” for fear of their lives.
Moved by the conviction of the boy’s answer, all the students applauded except for one named Corvinus. Noticing the betraying slip, Cornivus became jealous and angry, vowing to harm his classmate and turn him over to the authorities. After school Cornivus challenged the martyr’s son to fight, but the Christian peacefully vowed that he never intended anyone harm. When he turned to leave, the crimson-faced and furious Corvinus smashed the martyr’s son in the head, knocking him to the ground while the other children cheered.
The martyr’s son told his mother how he stood up to his persecutor and, even as he admitted temptation to fight back, the hardest struggle of his life, flesh and blood so strong within him, he remembered her lessons and prayed that the good angels would conquer the demon at his side. He thought of Christ being beaten and humiliated, yet meek and forgiving, and rather than fighting back he stretched out his hand and replied to Cornivus, “May God forgive you, as I freely and fully do; and may He bless you abundantly.”
The conviction of this boy convicted me. In many ways my jean and sneaker-wearing children also live in times when Christians are strangers in their own lands. Am I preparing them to die for truth? Would they be martyrs? Have I taught them seek the counsel of angels and remember the meekness of Christ? Or have I become complacent in this modern confusion of political correctness? As we closed the book, my daughter and I opened a new discussion. As much as I pray no harm comes to her, I now pray even more that my children courageously confront whatever the world deals them as true children of God.
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