Blessed Are You Book Club: Chapter 8, Persecution
Welcome to WINE’s Summer Book Club! We are reading and discussing Blessed Are You: Finding Inspiration From Our Sisters in Faith by Melanie Rigney. We’re so happy you are joining us! We pray this book club will bless you and give you tangible ways to live the Beatitudes in your daily lives. We look forward to hearing from you in the comments section, throughout our time together.
By Rhonda Ortiz
When Sarah Damm approached me in May about contributing to WINE’s summer book club, she offered me a choice between the peacemaking chapter (which we just read) and the one on persecution. My response is telling:
That’s a hard decision. I just read something very beautiful on peacemaking, something that resonated with me—and that kind of topic is my usual go-to. However, persecution is something I’m deathly (no exaggeration) afraid of; I hate conflict. Either one works, but if you’re looking for a punchier, poignant post, I’ll go with persecution.
By “punchier” I meant, “An honest confession of how even the bickering of my family and friends on Facebook over hot-button topics sends me running to a corner to suck my thumb.” That conflict makes me sick to my stomach. That I really, really, really like it when people like me.
Punchy or not, I hoped she would say, Oh, that’s okay! You can do the peacemaking chapter! Because who doesn’t love peacemaking?
Instead Sarah—cruel, heartless woman!—replied with:
Perhaps that is the Holy Spirit nudging you 🙂 Whenever I get a bit nervous about something that I know is the “right” thing for me to do, I know it is the Lord. Otherwise, I’d be running in the opposite direction!
Persecution it is. Dang it.
Our Lord tells us that we are blessed when we are persecuted for His sake, because persecution and faith are interconnected. The more we come to believe and live in Christ and His salvation, the more we are willing to suffer insults and even martyrdom.
Melanie Rigney points out that “persecution knows our weak points” (p. 113), that “the form that makes us the most vulnerable is the one that persecution will choose.”
It wouldn’t be suffering if it didn’t hurt, right? The enemy of our souls wants to shake our faith by nailing us in our weak spots. He wants us to cave under pressure.
That I hate conflict, that arguments make me feel insecure, that I’d rather everyone (or, at least those people I really, really want to impress) like me instead of standing up for some unpopular truth of our faith … these are my weak spots. You better believe that the devil will attack me on these fronts. And he will use the misguided words and actions of other people—even people I love—people God loves—to do this.
Our challenge, then, is twofold:
First, we’re called by Jesus Christ himself to “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Righteous indignation is so much easier, but it can also poison the soul, feeding into the devil’s—the true enemy’s—plans.
Second, we must not lose sight of who we are: Christians. This sentence on page 128 struck a chord: “We diminish ourselves when we fail to stand for what is right.” Diminish? As if our very selves fade away, like Marty McFly in Back to the Future. The more we compromise on the truth, the less and less we are the women we’re meant to be.
The only way I know for overcoming my thumb-sucking, kowtowing, people-pleasing tendencies and accept persecution for the sake of the Kingdom is to abide in Christ’s love, every day, every moment. To accept his infinite love, to know that I’m infinitely valued and adored in spite of my weakness. To remember that being a daughter of the King of kings makes me (forgive my cheesy!) a princess.
To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:
- How do you see fear and persecution connected in today’s world? What are the effects of this? How might we counteract the fear?
- Online and elsewhere, we often see both the “holier than the Pope” and the “if only the Church would get with it” wars among ourselves as a Catholic family. What advice might St. Mary of the Cross MacKillop and Bl. Lucy of Narni give us when we feel persecuted by our brothers and sisters in Christ?
- Being a follower of Jesus Christ means that, at some point, we will be persecuted for our beliefs. Are you ready? Why or why not? What practical things can we do to strengthen our faith?
YOUR TURN: Below in the comments box, please share your thoughts, inspirations, and reflections on Chapter 8, and/or your responses to any of these questions.
Next week, we’ll conclude our book club with Chapter 9: Joy. For the complete reading schedule and information about our online book club, visit the Read Between the WINEs Summer Book Club page.
About the Author:
Rhonda Ortiz is a convert, wife and mother, and Lay Dominican in formation who writes on topics of faith, culture, and family across the web. She also writes Scripture for the Scrupulous, a weekly newsletter providing guided meditations for battling scruples, perfectionism, and anxiety in the spiritual life. Follow her work at www.rhondaortiz.com.
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