June 22, 2016

Solidarity with our Persecuted Brothers and Sisters

Skip Rodgers is a remarkable man.  God has blessed him with a wonderful family and home in Colorado.  He has also been blessed with a very beautiful life of faith.  This faith has moved him into action.

I first met Skip over twenty years ago.  He was not Catholic but he had a lot of questions about the Church.  His fiancee Lee Ann had entered an RCIA program.  Seminary trained and ready to start ministry in his own church, he was puzzled why the woman he loved should be drawn toward a form of Christianity he barely recognized as legitimate.  If he had an edge to him, his questions were straight forward and sincere. It was, in fact, a moment of actual grace when he came to my office.  As he carefully considered what the Church proposed as the authentic expression of our Christian faith, he was eventually moved into action.  He entered our RCIA program and we have been friends ever since.

Now, nearly twenty years later, Skip's faith has moved him to action once again. Really, he has never not been moved to action the whole time that I have known him.  Besides raising a family and living out a beautiful marriage with Lee Ann, his career has allowed him to serve the psychologically suffering through the years. He, in fact, is a man of great compassion.  When he sees the suffering of others, just like when he sees the truth, he knows it is not enough just to think about it.  He is moved to do something.

True faith is lived out.  It is not just lip service. It is never a private affair.  It is an expressed reality.  This is because God expresses Himself in our human reality.  He is at work and He has taken our side. And if we are to stand with Him in faith, we must take up the mission that He entrusts to us.  We know that we are entrusted with a mission, that we must act, when His love moves our heart. What kind of people would we be if the love of God moved us and we did not respond? What kind of faith would we have if we resisted taking up the task that Love Himself entrusts to us?  Letting the love of God move us into action, this is what it means to live out our faith, to give expression to what we believe.

This attitude of faith in action is why Skip  is in the middle of a bike ride.  He learned about the plight of Christians in the Middle East -- Displaced by war and suffering the loss of their homes as well as severe poverty, they are the object of severe brutality and hatred. Under the shadow of overwhelming political, military and cultural forces, they stand firm in their faith. In fact, Pope Francis insists that we acknowledge that what is happening to them is not simply genocide -- as evil as that is -- but even more, martyrdom.  The more Skip learned about how whole families have been killed for their love for God and devotion to Christ, he knew that he had to do something.

In the kitchen of a mutual friend when I was visiting Denver, he shared about this unfolding atrocity of our time, and how he could not be indifferent.  The truth was too poignant. The suffering too dehumanizing.  He had to act. So he is riding from coast to coast, attempting to raise awareness and money for our brothers and sisters who for Christ "have suffered the loss of all things."

Learn more at his blog: http://www.rideforhopeandmercy.com. See this wonderful article for more information: Bike across America.  And going by @freedomriderSR, we can follow him on twitter too.