Another Tumblr post from last year. I’m proud of this one. 🙂
So, as you may know, I go to an all-girls Catholic high school run by the Nashville Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia. I absolutely love my school’s religious curriculum. Juniors take Church History, and we’re all reading Letters to a Young Catholic by George Weigel. If you don’t know, Weigel is a distinguished Catholic apologist from my own hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. Bl. John Paul II actually handpicked the guy to write his biography. This guy is incredible. Mind you, I don’t usually read heavy apologist writings. I mean, I’ve read some stuff from Peter Kreeft, but for the most part, my Catholic supplemental reading revolves mainly around Jason Evert, Mark Hart, and the like. c: You know, light Catholic material intended for people my age.
Anyway, back on topic.
I haven’t yet read any of Weigel’s other dozen or so books (I plan to), but I can see why he, of all the Catholic apologists, won the late and great Pope’s favor. He has a very unique style of writing that helps him to gently ease the reader toward his intended message.
In this book, he’ll start each chapter with a little history lesson or tell us a little about a place that holds significance in the Catholic world. Chapter 2, for example: “Rome —- The Scavi of St. Peter’s and the Grittiness of Catholicism.” Weigel begins the chapter with some background information on St. Peter’s Square.
The Vatican Necropolis, also known as the scavi, is a series of underground excavation sites that hold the ruins and remains of many early Christian martyrs of of Roman persecution, among them St. Peter. Archaeologists have uncovered all of Peter’s remains, except for his feet, which lead us to believe that he lost them during his martyrdom at Caligula’s Circus.
Weigel does not, however, aim to simply give us a lesson about history: at this point in the chapter, he changes the subject to martyrdom itself and what it means to give your life for Christ.
Peter…is being told, gently but firmly, that his love for Christ is not going to be an easy thing. His love is not going to be a matter of “fulfilling” himself. His love must be a pouring out of himself, and in that self-emptying he will find his fulfillment.
All in all, the chapter is really about the “grittiness” of Catholicism, the reality that faith means suffering and sacrifice. Weigel tells us that, especially in the secularized modern world, it is vital that we are willing to make these sacrifices to defend our faith. ”Catholics have relearned that lesson the hard way, in the scandal of clerical sexual abuse and the crisis that scandal caused when it was so badly handled by some bishops—-the successors of the apostles.” Even today, Catholics face the same persecution that the early Christians faced, and more than ever, we really are called to be martyrs, His witnesses to the Truth.
He closes the chapter with a message that really strikes a chord in me, and hopefully it will inspire you, as well.
“Weakness and failure, too, are part of the grittiness of Catholicism,” but “failure is not the final word.”
Today is the saint’s day of one of my dearest saints, St. Maria Goretti, who along with St. Agnes, I invoke every day. She is a modern virgin martyr, a patron of chastity, teenage girls, and crime victims, and a witness and model of purity and forgiveness.
Maria was eleven years old, a poor Italian farm girl, when in 1902 Alessandro Serenelli, a nineteen-year-old farm hand and neighbor, tried to rape her. Alessandro had approached Maria a number of times before seeking sexual favors, but she had always refused; he had tried to rape her at least once before. This time when she refused him, he became enraged. She fought him, imploring him not to do what he wanted to do, a mortal sin, insisting she would rather die than submit. In the end, Alessandro stabbed her eleven times.
Before she died some twenty hours later, Maria forgave her…
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