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"I Fail at Things So Often, and Fail at Love Continually; Was I Failing an Opportunity for Potential Martyrdom, Here?"

Posted on the 13 August 2013 by Brutallyhonest @Ricksteroni

The Anchoress is doing some navel gazing and isn't liking what she's seeing:

It is not unusual to see new faces pop in and out of Adoration — this particular parish has a bustling GunandAmmosoup kitchen that runs during this final hour, and sometimes people who are awaiting a meal will come into the church and sit quietly for a moment; I once saw a man wash his face with some holy water and then wipe it with the American flag that stands sentry, so a camo hoodie wouldn’t be enough to pique my curiosity.

But the canvas bag and the man’s behavior held my attention. He did not make the customary bow or two-kneed genuflection common to Adoration, but slipped into the pew between me and the rest of the adorers and then looked around and around, mostly at the people praying. Again, this is not suspicious behavior; the church is minimalist and there isn’t much to look at, but this man was unsettled and fidgety. He couldn’t seem to get quiet. Finally he stood, headed over to the choir section and — seating himself there — began to sing the Panis Angelicus a capella, in a clear, strong and tuneful voice.

And now, I became a bit concerned. The rest of the adorers did what is usually done when a stranger comes in and behaves oddly: they tuned him out and kept up their own worship. None of them, however, had seen the man enter; they hadn’t seen the long, heavy-looking canvas bag.

Imagination is a useful thing and in these strange days; the ability to imagine a thing happening can mean the difference between living and dying. One of my sons, a natural planner, would begin each semester at college imagining the best way to deal with a violent intruder within each particular classroom; he would note the exits, and the placement of all possible weapons that might be used to distract a shooter. If that seems strange to you, to a young man raised in an era of school shootings it was merely a practical exercise and a reasonable use of his time for the world in which we live.

My imagination began to percolate: here was bizarre behavior being exhibited by someone carrying something that seemed like it could be a rifle; who knew what the cold-bag could be meant for? He was in a church, close to the point where a priest or deacon would be raising a monstrance in blessing. Through my (admittedly unwell) brain flew images of Oscar Romero, slain at the altar; of newscaster’s voices describing carnage at Christian churches in other parts of the world. And there was that troubling bag, which — as Ray Stantz said,“I couldn’t help it; it just popped in there” — reminded me of Kevin Spacey in “Seven.” I wondered, would this guy conclude his hymn and then unleash hell?

Like my son, I began to consider what could be done to stop this man, were he inclined to open fire upon us. I had my cane. If I could hobble over to him, and not get shot doing it, I could whack him upside the head with it. But I’m a large target; chances are I’d be splat on the ground after my first step. What could people do? Throw missalettes at a gunman? Could we charge him with the flagpole? It seemed to me that, should something terrible unfold, nothing could save these people, short of hiding beneath a pew and playing dead. I thought of what that would mean, and suddenly Flannery O’ Connor showed up in my conscience, mocking me as she drawled: “She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick.”

I fail at things so often, and fail at love continually; was I failing an opportunity for potential martyrdom, here? I pondered all those moments in prayer when — overtaken with love — I had assumed I would willingly die for Christ, should it be required of me, or perhaps more correctly, offered to me. This particular circumstance did not seem to meet the case, though. Shouldn’t martyrdom be less vague, less opportunistic? The Carmelite Martyrs of Compiègne handled the guillotine with supernatural grace, and here I was, wondering if I could hide in a confessional. Failure again. I looked at the Master, and the Master looked at me — teaching me to my need — and I had to look away. Lord, I am not worthy.

You'll want to read the rest.

I was moved to send this to her in email:

Don’t beat yourself up Elizabeth… I think you did what was right to do…  

It’s one thing I think to face martyrdom when you’re the only one who will be victimized.  It’s quite another thing to be involved as part of a group, some of whom are likely nowhere near willing to die for the kingdom.

I believe you acted wisely and prudently and… faithfully.

I allow that I could be wrong.  And perhaps I too am unwilling at this juncture to give all for my faith.  But I do believe firmly in this moment that she's being a bit tough on herself.

What say you?

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