By JOEL DAVIDSON
Christian martyrs, both ancient and modern, were upheld as models to emulate during a Sept. 19 Mass for Lumen Christi High School students in Anchorage.
“The courage that you see in the lives of martyrs exists today too, in particularly in areas of the world where there is a lot of violence,” Anchorage Archbishop Roger Schwietz told a gathering of students, teachers and parents at St. Benedict Church.
Archbishop Schwietz highlighted the violence that Christians face in practicing their faith in the Middle East.
“Christians take their lives in their hands often when they go to worship,” he said. “We’ve had examples in recent years of people who have been murdered in their churches in the process of worshiping.”
On the feast of Saint John Januarius, who was martyred for his faith in the early 4th century, Archbishop Schwietz said contemporary believers “live with the same kind of conviction and faith” as Saint Januarius.
“They are willing to give their lives,” he said. “This is a good example for us to take hold of as we begin the school year.”
But courage to practice one’s faith is not only for Christians in war torn countries, Archbishop Schwietz noted.
““It is as important for us as it is for those Christians in the Middle East who take their lives in their hands as they practice their faith.”
“Normally, of course, we are not martyred in this country in the process of worshiping God,” he continued. “On the other hand, it seems to me, that the courage we see in martyrs, that steadfastness we see in their faith is something that is equally important in our lives, too, if we are going to live up to the expectations that Jesus has for his disciples.”
The homily concluded with a call to live out the famous and challenging message of Christian love that Saint Paul spelled out in Corinthians chapter 13.
“Love,” Archbishop Schwietz said, “draws us out of ourselves and challenges us to treat one another as Jesus would — with great respect for the dignity that God has given us.”
He added that this “may not be as scary as facing death when we go to church, but it is certainly a challenge in its own way — a great challenge to live according to the demands of the Gospel, the demands of our Savior Jesus.”
Lumen Christi High School is a 7-12th grade Catholic school in Anchorage.