In the Acts of the Apostles (6:1-7). Scripture tells us that The Seven were chosen by the Apostles, prayed over, consecrated, and made sacred ministers—deacons! Immediately following their transformation (or ordination, as we know it today), we know that their immediate focus became one of caring for widows, distributing meals, and, broadly speaking, attending to those at the margins of society. Outside of these important responsibilities, these seven deacons also attended to spiritual matters such as baptizing and preaching boldly, which resulted in many conversions to the Christian faith.
Venerable Fulton J. Sheen reminds in his Life of Christ, that Jesus Christ is the only person who “came into the world to die.” St. Stephen (whose Feast Day is December 26th) was the first to conform to Him in his death and, as such, is considered a protomartyr.
Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth against him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together upon him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.Acts of the Apostles, 7:54-60
Two-thousand years after the stoning of St. Stephen, not much has changed for those who seek a world without Christ. While no longer using stones, a growing number of leaders (in government and industry) have chosen a different weapon; that is, “cancelling” those who refuse to comply with their godless agendas. In his May 2022 essay entitled A Fanatical Faith, author David Warren describes their thoughts regarding Christians who identify with and seek to live their lives according to Jesus and His Church.
But turn your back and you will find these Christians – Catholics especially – discreetly praying, and making suggestive signs. Who has not been alarmed, to see a secret Christianist crossing himself when he thought no one was looking, or sneaking into a building where, reportedly, the Christian religion is being observed. They practice all their secret cults in there, including elaborate Catholic rituals where these have not been systematically abandoned – such as admitting their supposed sinful behavior to a priest in a little closet or box. (This now happens rarely, but everyone who was once Catholic, or knew one, remembers this and shudders.) Who knows what else they may be trying, when in church, or when they slip out, to wander about the city?
Regarding “practicing one’s faith,” in a “Dear Father Joe” column (Faith Magazine, September 1, 2010), Father Joseph Krupp provides good counsel:
“In terms of the sacraments, a practicing Catholic has an active sacramental life. He or she goes to Mass a minimum of once a week and lives the Communion they receive by being in union with the Church and her teachings. Since we are talking Communion, we need to remember that the sacrament of reconciliation is a huge part of this. Anytime we have committed a mortal sin, we have to get to confession as soon as possible before we attempt to receive Communion. We also need to hit our holy days of obligation. Besides public prayer, a practicing Catholic prays every day in private. Each day, a Catholic responds to God’s call to personal communion through quiet time and reflection. A practicing Catholic prays with his family everyday and never lets a schedule get in the way of that. The personal and communal prayer of a practicing Catholic compels her to go into the world and spread the Gospel of Jesus in the way she lives and loves. In terms of the social issues of our day, a practicing Catholic dedicates his financial, emotional and physical resources to those things that reflect the Kingdom of God on earth: We help our parish continue to function and minister effectively. A practicing Catholic votes and lives pro-life – we do not support abortion under any circumstances or in any form. We oppose capital punishment and unjust wars. We support initiatives that help the poor and downtrodden and give our time and treasure to helping the “least among us.” In short, her every action, political or social demonstrates a firm conviction that every person is a gift from God and must be treated in the same way that we would treat Jesus.”
As we begin a new year, may we be reminded that practicing our faith is difficult. But as the Apostles and saints have attested to, with Jesus, anything is possible. St. Pope John Paul II, in his 1987 visit to Los Angeles, had this to say to young people [and to those of us who are “young at heart”].
I would like to invite each of you to listen to His voice. Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid! Open your hearts, open your hearts to Christ. The deepest joy there is in life is the joy that comes from God and is found in Jesus Christ, the son of God. Jesus Christ is the hope of yours and is my hope. He is the hope of the world.