I am still friends with many people who came through the living hell of being faithful Catholics under Soviet communism.
Adam was 10 years old when the Soviets took over Moldova in 1944. When I met him, he was very quiet and always wore a crucifix around his neck. Eventually he told a little bit of the story of his persecution and the crucifix.
He told how it was torn from his neck at school and they were made to trample it. There were other things he would never talk about but I know how deeply he and his wife were hurt and suffered for their faith.
There are still many places where Christians are persecuted for their faith and there are new martyrs dying daily for the Name of Jesus. There are also insidious attacks on the church and our faith that we need to oppose and make clear how demonstrably wrong they are.
Catholic Social Teaching is exemplary and should be our standard bearer to the world. We should use it as our measuring stick for the morality of legislation. At General Election time, the British Bishops’ Conference produces guidance based on CST and it includes a lot more than “life” issues. Some people I know in USA voted, a few years ago, for the so-called Life candidate and then discovered that they had voted for a candidate who would authorise killing and start wars where many people were killed. I ask if the lives of those poor, vulnerable civilians did not count as “Life”.
All down the years, Christians have been faced with big moral questions which do not have easy answers. When faced with a totally evil state such as Nazism, we have an obligation as Catholics to protect the vulnerable, the disabled, the Roma, the Jews and all those who need help including the unborn. When subject to a totalitarian system like the dictatorships that have dominated many countries during the 20th and 21st centuries, we have an obligation to undermine it with goodness.
Jesus calls us to live His love in the dirty world where we find ourselves.
“He looks upon a wounded humanity with eyes that gaze into the heart of each person… in his or her health condition, discarding no one, but rather inviting everyone to share His life and experience His tender love.” (Pope Francis).
In November 2018, Peter first wrote to me explaining that he had recently recovered from major heart problems and was looking for ways to continue his vocation. “I can no longer drive, nor can I walk more than a few yards so my liturgical and pastoral possibilities are very limited,” he explained. “I have started to write a series of thoughts on St John’s Gospel which might make a good Lenten study. Is any of this any use in your world?”
The answer, of course, was “yes” and since then Peter has written on a multitude of topics. He was not afraid to address hard subjects such as the pain he often endured because of his poor health and his own mortality.
Last month’s column was about his 80th birthday and his reflections on a long life and counting his blessings.
He knew then what was coming and where he was going when it did.
Less than a week before he died, Peter wrote to me for the final time, keen to provide this column in time for the July enews/paper. “Pain is up this week but this writing is very therapeutic,” he wrote, “more later.”
I am sure, as ever, that he is right and there will be more later…