Worshipers locked inside a Catholic Church. An Orthodox Church set on fire while firefighters are prevented from extinguishing the flames. Coptic schools under attack. These are some of the stories coming out of Egypt.
Religious freedom is not awarded everyone. Millions are prevented from publicly practicing their faith. In areas across the globe, there is no Sunday Mass, sacrament of reconciliation, or Eucharist. There is no Christian service of any kind.
Religious intolerance has been present throughout human history. The bible has countless stories about it and the courage, rewards, and consequences of those who resisted suppression.
Saint Theodora witnessed religious intolerance in her lifetime both in France and the U.S. She was born just after the French Revolution and massive religious persecution. Once the French were allowed to practice their faith again, religious men and women, such as the Sisters of Providence in France, opened schools and recruited faithful teachers.
Sister Saint Theodore, now recognized as Saint Theodora, was one of those sisters who brought the faith back to her country. She later extended Catholic education across the ocean, founding schools for children in Indiana and Illinois. She also taught young women the faith so they too may teach.
But from the time she set foot on American soil, she learned of anti-Catholic movements that burned homes and churches on the East Coast. She also witnessed religious intolerance in the Midwest. However, it isn’t likely Saint Theodora ever imagined that prejudice would continue a little over a hundred years after her death when the Klu Klux Klan burned crosses on Saint Mary-of-the-Woods soil.
Even today, Catholics are concerned about limitations to our religious freedom. American Christian hospitals are required to conform to national mandates on birth control and abortion, which is against the foundations of our faith.
But we are not prevented from attending a church of our choice. We have the privilege and the right to go to Mass every morning, if we so wish.
Let’s be proud to live our faith openly, every day. Take advantage of our ability to do so. And let’s pray for those who cannot as well as for the conversion of religious persecutors.
(Photo: Church of the Immaculate Conception)
©2013, Mary K. Doyle