When I was a journalist, and John Hume was a politician, there were a few things that stood out about him: his courage, his fortitude and his stubborn refusal to compromise his message.
In fact, political reporters, who love something new and unexpected, would often complain that John Hume was forever delivering his single transferrable speech! “Let us spill our sweat and not our blood,” was delivered so often, it was almost irritating.
As a former teacher, he had learned the lesson: repetition works.
If you are still reading this, you might wonder what this has to do with an article for a Catholic Catechetical website.
Have I have reverted to my old job of BBC political correspondent, pondering the SDLP leader’s every move?
Rather, as a former Adoration Sister and a poor follower of Christ, I see John Hume’s life through the prism of faith. Once a student of the priesthood, he has much to teach us about our creed and our catechism.
Firstly: do not distort the truth in the face of criticism. Jesus did not alter his message to suit others. He was consistent in his own single transferrable speech calling for self-sacrificing love and forgiveness.
John Hume’s message of non-violence, justice and political compromise was, like the Christian message, seen by some as weak and unrealistic.
Recall the SDLP being mocked as the Stoop Down Low Party. But isn’t that what you are called to do as a Christian? Take the lowest place in humility. If you are low enough, you are able to wash the feet of your enemies.
Violence is seductive but it is a harder more painful road in the end and it leads to death.
Peace takes sweat and self-control and it’s not always a glamorous path. But it is the one that leads to life.
Then there is John’s nickname. While he was a sinner, with flaws like the rest of us, his nickname – Saint John – tells us everything we need to know about our mission as Catholics: to become a saint.
This road to sainthood will cost you. John Hume, before he rose to receive the Nobel Prize, was cruelly crucified in the media for talking to the Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.
Members of his own party complained bitterly he was sacrificing SDLP votes to Sinn Fein. John Hume put life first.
I read somewhere that John Hume gave his life for Ireland. Not true. John set his sights far higher than that! John gave his life for the eternal Kingdom and its values: peace, love, justice, equality, and respect for life.
That means life in the womb too.
No Catholic can be in favour of abortion. This is the greatest civil rights issue of our time.
Abortion is an act of violence against the smallest of human beings. Yet it’s now law to end the life of a child, right up to birth, if the baby has a disability. This is discrimination because a typical baby has the right to life after 24 weeks.
The pro-life message is not popular. It will cost you. But it is the path of grace, the path of love, the path of justice, the path of equality, the path of peace, the path of life. How appropriate that the gospel at John Hume’s funeral was the good Samaritan. It teaches us that life and love are inextricably linked.
The right to life is an ideal. There are plenty of compelling arguments for abortion. Some appear reasonable and even compassionate. But do not be confused: death cannot be the answer for anyone.
John Hume chose life. He chose an ideal. That’s easy when everything is going well but the test of the heart is trouble.
John, in imitation of Christ, lifted us up to more than we could be.
Be more than you can be.
Become a saint. Choose life.
Martina Purdy is a former BBC Political Correspondent, author and Adoration Sister. She is a pilgrim guide on St Patrick’s Way, Newcastle, Co. Down. (for more information contact: saintpatrickcentre.com/+44 (0)28 4461 9000