One Saturday morning as we walked around the market in the City of Lancaster a stall holder spotted the cross in my lapel, and asked me: are you really a Christian? Yes, I said and some time later was able to prove it by returning to the stall and showing that he had under-charged me for something I had purchased.
I was reminded of my time as a commuter in London when twice I was hailed: are you really a Christian? It was as if some assurance was required that this precious jewel had not disappeared completely from the face of the earth. I have always insisted on making my Christianity known for the sake of those needing such assurance.
This also brings to mind my awareness of the close affinity we have with the Jews. Many years ago, on my first Sunday Parade as an Officer Cadet, I heard the order given, "Catholics and Jews Fall Out!" There followed a single, very smart stamp of a foot on hard gravel: it was mine! I turned sharply to the right, marched out and saluted the Parade Officer and then alone, in front of some 150 or more cadets, marched off to Mass in my best uniform. It was quite lonely on that huge parade square. I would have to do this on every Sunday Parade thereafter. I thought to myself, "you are in for it, Bud", as I marched down the road. Not a bit of it: I was greatly respected for this by all and received many questions. To many I remember responding: "Unfortunately, I don't have any problem, but you have a big problem". I have always believed that if you are uncompromising in your faith, despite opposition, you will win through and gain respect. People seem to detect lukewarmness and shallow beliefs which they, even if they have no faith, treat with disdain. So throughout my life I have boldly declared my colours without a problem.
When I used to commute to the Ministry of Defence, along Hungerford Bridge, I used to muse on the number of Service people accompanying me. They gave themselves away by their smart black shiny toe-caps, and if they had revealed themselves, the whole bridge would have been a sea of multi-coloured uniforms.
Do people really believe that real Christians are as dead as a Dodo? Do you wear something to highlight your allegiance? Fear not, because you will only gain respect and even requests for help. So, one and all, shiny black toe-caps to the fore: show your Christian allegiance in this Year of Faith! Indeed, once again: fellow Catholics and Jews "fall out" of Society and attend to your spiritual duties!