Of speaking truth to power, close hair cuts, and you

salome-with-the-head-of-saint-john-the-baptist-onorio-marinariSpeaking of St. John the Baptist, here is what the print (and digital) readers of the UK’s best Catholic weekly the Catholic Herald were able to read in the present issue:

We celebrate liturgically the births of Our Lord (25 December), His Blessed Mother (8 September) and the prophet who was more than a prophet, the greatest man ever born of a woman (Matthew 11:9-11; Luke 7:28), St John the Baptist (24 June – d 28-29).  On 29 August we celebrate the Beheading of St John, murdered by a feckless politician, the pusillanimous Tetrarch Herod. John was imprisoned because he denounced Herod’s illicit, sinful “marriage”.  Herod then had John killed because, blinded by lust for his niece, he was too craven to back down from a rash offer he blurted in his lechery.

St Augustine of Hippo (d 430) in s. 380 reflects on how John was martyred for Christ because he was murdered for the Truth.  England’s own Venerable Bede (d 735) preached, “St John gave his life for [Christ]. He was not ordered to deny Jesus Christ, but was ordered to keep silent about the Truth”.

Speaking the truth to power, and to wider society, about sexual mores, about illicit and immoral unions, can earn you a close haircut.  And yet, the “greatest man ever born of a woman” bore witness to the Truth.  It is the right thing to do.  The lives of martyrs are no less examples for imitation today than they were when they were fresh models to our ancient forebears in the Faith.

In 2012, Benedict XVI taught about the martyrdom of the Baptist in a General Audience.  He said, “Celebrating the martyrdom of St John the Baptist reminds us too, Christians of this time, that with love for Christ, for his words and for the Truth, we cannot stoop to compromises. The Truth is Truth; there are no compromises. Christian life demands, so to speak, the ‘martyrdom’ of daily fidelity to the Gospel, the courage, that is, to let Christ grow within us and let him be the One who guides our thought and our actions. However, this can happen in our life only if we have a solid relationship with God.”

Speaking of speaking truth to power, to paraphrase Edmund Burke (d 1797), in Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents (1770), the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.  United in prayer and our Faith, we must together bear witness to the Truth in our troubling times, as martyrs and confessors did in theirs.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Father Zuhlsdorf,

    How does “duxerat” in the Gospel for this feast come to mean “married”?

  2. acardnal says:

    Lot’s of Herods. Let’s review to avoid confusion.

    King Herod the Great (74/73 BC – 4 BC) was appointed king of Judea by the Romans after Herod appeared before the Roman Senate and made his case that he should be king; under the influence of Mark Antony, he was appointed King of Judea in 40 BC. Herod the Great was not a Jew by birth. He an Idumaean and a convert.

    Herod was a great builder and was also a brutal ruler. He had at least nine wives and a number of children. . . many named Herod, too. It was one of his sons, Herod Antipas (21 BC – 39 AD), who became Tetrarch and ruled in the region of Galilee and Perea after Herod the Great’s death. It was Herod Antipas who killed John the Baptist. Eventually Antipas was removed and his territory was governed by the Roman legate in Syria.

    Herod Philip (20 BC – 34 AD), another of Herod the Great’s sons, ruled in what is known today as the Golan and parts of Syria after Herod the Great’s death – a mainly Gentile region at the time. His wife, Herodius, was a granddaughter of Herod the Great. She divorced Herod Philip to marry his half-brother, Herod Antipas. Herod Philip died childless. After his death, his territory was placed under the Roman legate in Syria.

    So who was ruling Judea after Herod the Great’s death in 4 BC? Another son, Herod Archelaus. But he proved so incompetent that the Romans appointed a Roman governor to replace him in 6 AD. (Pontius Pilate was prefect from 26 AD – 36 AD.)

  3. acardnal says:

    I should have added, it was Herod Antipas whom Pontius Pilate sent Jesus to for a declaration of guilt. Why? Because Jesus was a Galilean and under Herod Antipas’ jurisdiction. Coincidentally, the northern ruler just happened to be in Judea in Jerusalem at that time. Why? It was Passover.

  4. ACatholicGuy says:

    If I remember right, a man leads (ducere) a woman and a woman veils (nubere) for a man.

    As far as speaking truth to power, where I’m stuck is what is the right thing to do when one is married and has children? It’s well and good for to speak up against power, but if I’m brought down over it, how do I support my family? Is it better for me to judiciously stay quiet for the sake of carrying out my husbandly role?

  5. un-ionized says:

    Acatholicguy, people talk about prudence but I can’t answer your question. I guess everyone has their own PQ, prudence quotient. It may very well be that it is for others to take the extreme risks as you go about the crucial business of raising a family. If I end up in prison please send me a cake with a file.

  6. Blaine says:

    As I contemplate my future in the reserves, I need to think more of St. John the Baptist, St John Fisher and St. Thomas More, don’t I? Thank you for this timely post, Fr. Z.

  7. JonPatrick says:

    Just watched “Man for all Seasons” for the first time last weekend. Sometimes not speaking, not burning a pinch of incense to the false gods, can be as much of a radical statement as speaking out.

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