Several months ago, I heard a provocative description of martyrdom from Fr. Robert Cook, President of the new Wyoming Catholic College. His idea was that martyrdom in the modern age is not necessarily one of bloody (red) martyrs who die violently for the Faith. Neither is it the daily, silent and sacrificial (white) martyrdom of humble believers. He says that modern martyrs will manifest their heroic courage economically; that is, we will be called to pay dearly for our principles, not necessarily at the cost of lives, but at the cost of dollars. This is "green" martyrdom, and it has nothing to do with the environmental movement.
The pagan enemies of Christianity today are not honest enough to put a gun to our heads and demand that we renounce Christ, even though they often express their unmitigated contempt for us in various ways. One has only to witness the blasphemy of the recent Fulsom Street homosexual festival in San Francisco to know that vitriolic hatred for Christianity is alive and well in our society. Our enemies know, however, that even though many Catholics would undoubtedly give up their lives for Christ, people find it much harder to give up their jobs for Christ. When faced with a choice between fidelity to a clear teaching of the Faith or compromising on that principle for the sake of "keeping peace at home" or saving one's reputation, etc., the pagans know that it takes a heroic person to choose the abstract principle. Yet, a sacrificial commitment to principle is where the call to martyrdom lies in the modern age, and increasingly so, for Catholics and all men and women of good conscience. Standing on principle costs us dearly.
Nowadays, Catholics are facing all types of persecution of our values: Catholic healthcare professionals are being intimidated into cooperation with intrinsically evil practices in medical facilities; Catholic pharmacists are being run out of their profession for refusing to dispense abortifacient contraception; Catholic businessmen are being asked to look the other way when certain immoral practices are standardized in their workplaces, and they feel that they can't object without serious repercussions. Catholic parents not towing the line on sex education programs in the schools fear that their kids will be the ones who are ostracized and ridiculed, and Catholic married couples are roundly mocked for having more than the culturally-acceptable number of children in their families. These situations are just the tip of the iceberg and are only going to get worse.
Even the bishops are not safe from values coercion. The Supreme Court recently refused to hear a case of the Archdiocese of New York seeking to avoid paying for contraception for its employees. They have now been ordered by a court to pay for other people's immorality, and to disobey that order is going to cost them. I also noted when the Connecticut bishops agreed to allow Plan B in the Catholic hospitals that from the top of the hierarchical ladder on down we must be willing to fight our pagan persecutors if our values are to mean anything. That will sometimes mean bleeding green in lawsuits, financial losses, firings and confiscations for the sake of the Kingdom. So be it. Doesn't the Lord say that it is "better to lose part of your body than to have it all cast into Gehenna"? Well, Gehenna is here, and we have to choose.
In a time of economic prosperity, the pagans in charge of our society's institutions only tolerate us, but ultimately, they will not allow us to stand in the way of their agenda to remake the culture in their image and likeness. The heroism of our modern-day martyrdom will be found in our willingness to sacrifice, even financially, to preserve the integrity of our values. We will be tested, but the rewards promised to the faithful will be ours: "Everyone who has given up home, brothers or sisters, father or mother, wife or children or property for my sake will receive many times as much and inherit everlasting life."