Holy Family

Holy Family

Friday, March 11, 2011

Feast of Blessed Thomas Atkinson

Good morning. I chose for us to celebrate today the life of Blessed Thomas Atkinson, one of 85 Martyrs of England, Scotland and Wales. He was martyred at York on March 11, 1616. He was hanged, drawn, and quartered for fully living his faith. When I read of the lives of the Martyrs, I can’t help but wonder if I would have the fortitude to do the same. Yet, in many ways Christians are challenged, and their beliefs and life choices are socially hanged, drawn, and quartered every day. In the readings for today both from the Book of Isaiah and from the Gospel of Matthew we are reminded of the need to truly live out our faith, that it is not a matter of just going through the motions for all to see.

It seems at times that for many as in the time these scriptures were written Faith has become like an Easter Bonnet, worn for the sake of display. I recall a conversation awhile ago with a renowned individual within the world of psychology. While Sam (Not his real name), another colleague and I enjoyed some sushi together, he shared with us his uncertainty regarding how he and his wife intended to address the issue of faith with their son. He was himself raised Catholic but fell away, and together he and his wife spent some time dabbling into Buddhism as it was rather popular amongst their circle of friends at the time. Of late, he went on, he and his wife were concerned about what to do with the matter of their son and whether he should be provided some type of religious formation. He went on sharing his concern about their son’s schooling and they were leaning toward the possibility of sending their child to a Catholic School due to concerns they had about the quality of the education their son might receive in the public school system in the major mid-west city where they live. He recalled his own childhood experience, and went on noting his belief that their child likely needed some set of beliefs to cling to, and that perhaps he and his wife needed to consider becoming engaged in some type of formal religious routine at least for now as a way to help their child manage his way through childhood. At one point Sam noted their concerns about feeling their son should be afforded the opportunity to choose his religion freely without any kind of bias from either of them, and so they found themselves really struggling with what to do. He continued in this vein, and as he continued it occurred to me that he saw religion more as something socially beneficial and that it was something useful for his son, like Santa Claus, to assist him in managing his way through the uncertainties that arise throughout childhood regarding life and the meaning of it all.

Now initially I found this whole conversation rather bizarre, but as I thought about it further it occurred to me how very common and familiar this position really is. In fact, the matter of “not wanting to influence” their son’s decision regarding his faith is not at all uncommon. Quite frankly, I’ve happened upon numerous folks who think they ought to allow their children to make their own decisions regarding their faith, to allow them to wait until they are older to decide on such matters. And why not, you might ask. Why not indeed! That is, if the matter of faith were as inconsequential as choosing what color to paint the bathroom, or what breakfast cereal to have. Why not indeed! That is, if religion is but a means of obtaining a boost-up socially, to be worn like an Easter Bonnet. But, if one truly believes in their faith, then it is the most important decision we will ever make for our children. Make a great day!

Today we recall the good life, gifts, and works of Blessed Thomas Atkinson.

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