‘A martyr at any moment’

Pope Francis has frequently said that there are more Christians being martyred today than during the persecutions of the church in the early centuries of Christianity. He would get no argument from the faithful in Egypt, where 29 Coptic Christians — including a number of children — were killed May 26 when masked assailants attacked the bus they were taking to a remote desert monastery. The previous month the same number were killed and dozens injured by two suicide bombers in attacks at separate cathedrals.

Christians in Egypt “are getting the idea that we could be a martyr at any moment,” the spokesman for the nation’s Catholic bishops told Catholic News Service this week.

The truth is any one of us could be a martyr at any moment. Consider the case of Rick Best.

On May 26, the Catholic father of four was riding a Portland commuter train when two women were accosted by a passenger yelling hate speech about Muslims and other groups. Best stepped forward to defend them, and in less than a minute he was slain, slashed in the neck in front of horrified onlookers. Another defender died later in the hospital.

Those killed in Egypt were simply riding in a bus. The heroes in Portland were just riding on a train.

We don’t know what the next moment will bring. We can pray to never be put to such a test, but in light of Portland it’s worthwhile to ponder the depth of our faith and what we are willing to risk to follow and defend Jesus in our everyday lives . . . or in unthinkable moments. — Thomas J. Dermody

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