You know that feeling. The heartsick compassion when persons thousands of miles away, in another culture, another world, suffer from tragedy. Earthquakes, tsunamis, war—how horrific, the pain inflicted on others. Yet deep down, there is a sigh of relief:
It’s not happening here.
Twenty-one Coptic Christians brutally beheaded by terrorists in Libya. Other atrocities captured on video, including the execution of 300 Syrian soldiers, a man being burned alive, a child shooting an alleged Israeli spy. We watch with horrified eyes.
Thank God, it’s not happening here.
In February, a friend who lives in the area asks for prayers because someone she knows has been kidnapped by the Islamic State (ISIS). That poor man, and his family, and my friend.
Still, it doesn’t happen here.
Until last week. It happens here, in my town, to a person I know. Another Catholic. While ministering at a local hospital, terrorists threaten this person and this person’s family if the person does not convert to Islam. The police are notified, this person’s house put under surveillance.
Its shadow has arrived.
A few days later, our church offers a Mass for the twenty-one Coptic martyrs. I lector and my family attends. And a shadow of dread flutters through my heart because we are the hated enemy, praying for victims who died for their faith. Casualties in the war against us. During the Mass, the apprehension slips from my mind. But it returns on the way home.
It’s only a matter of time…
I worry about my children and my home and my neighborhood. We pull into our driveway, and I’m confronted by the statue of the Holy Family in my front yard and the angel under a tree. Declarations of the people who live here. For a brief moment, I panic. I have to get those things out of sight. But courage overshadows the fear. No, I don’t have to hide anything. They’re just where they’re supposed to be, proclaiming who we are.
Have no fear. I am with you.