Thursday, July 21, 2011

Evidence to Convict Me

Today is the feast day of two modern saints, Teresa Yi Mae-im and Anna Kim Changkeum. They were martyred in Korea in July 1839. This morning's Magnificat related how the police arrested these brave women, but weren't sure at first that they were actually Catholic. Unashamed of their faith and unafraid to die, the women revealed the rosary beads that they carried on their persons, and that was enough evidence to convict them; both were taken away, tortured, and eventually beheaded.

Once I was asked this question: If the times of persecuting the Christians came back and you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

I think about this question a lot, especially now that I'm living on my own instead of with thousands of other practicing Catholics on the Notre Dame campus. Sometimes I imagine what the accusers would say. "She was seen sneaking into a Catholic church on weekday mornings!", I imagine them saying, or "We saw her using rosary beads on the train!" Maybe they'd pull out my purse as evidence - "Look, she carries a Magnificat!" Sometimes I even pretend that the times of persecution actually are back upon us (of course, I don't really want those times to ever come back!), because it makes me feel like a spy, like I'm doing something illegal, adventurous and wild, when really all I'm doing is feeling grumpy about getting up early for Mass.

Some days I have a good time stacking up imaginary pieces of evidence against myself. More often than not, though, I think my accusers would be hard put to find any evidence. If anything, there would be evidence for the other side. There are many days that I skip Mass, or leave my rosary and Magnificat at home, and don't pray at all. "She lost her temper with her sister," I could see my accusers saying, or "she spent too much money on things she doesn't need, and neglected to give a cent in the collection basket on Sunday."  Of course these things are just as true, and perhaps greater evidence than the outward formal signs. After all, they will know we are Christians by our love, not by the religious artifacts we have lying around.

But of course, the funny thing is that the evidence I imagine stacking up for and against me is real. Even though I won't ever be put on trial for my faith in this life (at least I hope not!), I will in the next. I remember one time Sam said something mean about a friend ("Fred"), and he quickly added, "Sorry, saved Fred." "What's that?" I asked. "Did you say Saint Fred?" "No, saved Fred," he explained. "After we die and are resurrected, Fred will know what I said about him, and I'm sorry I said it." I loved the way he put that. Sure enough, on the Judgment Day all the secrets will be made known, everyone will know what I actually said about them and thought of them, and the silly game I play of accumulating imaginary evidence will actually matter.


  1. That's a lot to think about, Tess.I've read that quote many times and I also wonder if there will be enough evidence to convict me! However, I also think that none of us are ever really aware of the impact we have on others during our lives. I think of people who have inpacted me in a positive way over my lifetime (a pretty long one!)and would imagine that they themselves are not really aware of that impact. I think all of that will be part of the evidence as well as the quantity of prayers that we have said. As I've gotten older I think I probably "say" fewer prayers--but I pray in a deeper sense in ways that I wouldn't have thought of earlier in my life.

    Hope you enjoy your time in DC!

  2. Aw T, this is such a cute and thought-compelling idea! Nice metaphor, and good way to think about it.