Fra Angelico, The Women at the Tomb Italian, 1440-1442 Florence, Museo di San Marco Public domain

Editorial: Be not afraid

  • March 27, 2018

Do not be afraid, the angel said to the frightened women at the empty tomb. Do not be afraid, the risen Christ told His anxious disciples behind locked doors.

Easter celebrates joy and hope, but also courage. The fear that crushed the disciples at the crucifixion eventually became courage after Jesus came to them and sent them out to preach the truth of the risen Lord, and after they were emboldened by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. 

The call for Christians to be brave remains a central Easter message. Do not be afraid. Personify the courage of Easter. Proclaim the Good News. Exemplify Christian values in words and actions even when it is daunting in a culture often dismissive or even hostile to those beliefs.

In many countries, living a faithful Christian life still carries a risk of martyrdom. Canadians are not asked to die for their beliefs, but public displays of Christian morality can bring shaming, ridicule, denunciation. It takes courage to stay strong in a secular world that can be scornful of public witness.

So we commend trustees of the Halton Catholic District School Board for acting amid a torrent of criticism to pass a motion to ensure school fund-raising always aligns with Catholic teaching on life and family. Charitable donations by Halton Catholic schools will no longer go to organizations that “directly or indirectly” support abortion, contraception, sterilization, euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research.

Predictably, in a culture that has diminishing respect for the sanctity of life, the decision was assailed. A Toronto Star editorial panned it as “way off base.” Ontario’s education minister called for further community consulting on the matter. There was no whiff of respect, nor hint of tolerance, for the right of a Catholic institution to act according to its religious beliefs.

There was also dissent from parents and students who saw some of their favourite charities deemed ineligible. This anger was disappointing but not totally surprising. It showed how much work is required still, even in Catholic schools and parishes, to communicate the mission of Catholic education. 

Standing up for life has become one of the great challenges Christians face today. It can be painful. Hundreds of charities will lose government grants to fund summer student jobs after standing on principle and refusing to endorse Liberal abortion ideology. Millions of dollars are at stake. But when Catholic organizations affirm their faith this way, they exhibit the courage of Easter.

Being a Christian today often means refusing to be silent or submissive. It means proclaiming Catholic beliefs and values even when proclaiming them is uncomfortable. 

It means drawing courage from the joy and hope of Easter and then going forth as Christians to believe, defend and proclaim, trusting in the words: do not be afraid.

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