Tag Archives: martyrdom

Are you willing to die?

16 Mar

This week, St. Paul reminds us that “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). As married people, we are called to imitate Jesus by laying down our lives for our spouses, a theme that runs through many of our most cherished love stories.

We see great nobility in one spouse taking a bullet for the other, even though it usually doesn’t come to that!

If we are literally willing to die for each other, we must also be willing to die to ourselves in little ways–while our spouse is still a sinner.  Here are some ideas:

  • Pick up those socks without comment.
  • Answer a bad attitude with lavish affirmation.
  • Do one of your spouse’s chores without getting noticed.
  • Seek understanding instead of the “last word.”
  • Listen to your spouse without trying to “fix the problem.”

Build a more joyful marriage at www.JoyfulMarriageProject.com.

The foregoing is this week’s installment of the “Marriage Minute,” produced by the Marriage and Family Life Office of the Archdiocese, which attempts to view the Sunday readings through the lens of the Sacrament of Marriage.

Deacon Companions

7 Aug

Pope Sixtus and companionsI’ve often wondered about the saints who go down in Church history as “companions.” For example, today the Church celebrates the feast of Pope St. Sixtus II and companions, who were martyred in 258 A.D. during the persecution of Emperor Valerian.

Clearly the “companions” are the “supporting actors and actresses” in the drama of Church history, supporting saintly protagonists in bearing witness to their Savior. These humble servants remained faithful to the end, and their blood became the seed for the Church in their respective eras.

But who are today’s companions? Well, Valerian issued a decree to the effect that all bishops, priests, and deacons were to be summarily put to death because of their opposition to the pagan worship of the empire. Pope Sixtus was executed on August 6, 258. His “companions” in martyrdom were six of his seven deacons (cf. Acts 6:1-6). Their names were Januarius, Vincentius, Magnus, Stephanus, Felicissimus, and Agapitus.

Who was the seventh deacon? Did he flee from the persecutors? Did he go into hiding? Hardly. It was none other than St. Lawrence, perhaps the most beloved deacon in the history of the Church, who was martyred a few days later, on August 10. The universal Church celebrates his feast on Saturday. While Lawrence was a distinguished servant (diakonos) of the Lord and the “right hand man” of his beloved Pope, I suspect he also took great delight in simply being known as a “companion” of his brother deacons.

Where’s the Blood?

19 Oct

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

This ancient Christian maxim hits home in a particular way today as we celebrate the feast of Sts. Isaac Jogues, John de Brebeuf, and companions, commonly known as the “North American Martyrs.” I remember what an awesome and humbling experience it was to stand in the very spot in Auriesville, New York, where Rene Goupil, the first of the group to be martyred, shed his blood for Christ.

Yet the northeastern United States and Canada, where the North American Martyrs labored so courageously for Christ in the 17th century, are hardly hotbeds of Christian faith today. What do we make of this? Continue reading

End of the Innocents?

28 Dec

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the little boys who were massacred by Herod in an attempt to put the Christ Child to death. These “innocents” are now venerated as martyrs.

There is an obvious connection between the Holy Innocents and the victims of abortion, whose deaths are also made possible by political regimes that really want to kill God. After all, not only does Christ present Himself as an alternative to Caesar, but His Church is the definitive bastion of the natural law, objective truth, and moral goodness in the public square.

In other words, the Church is the leading voice against the “tyranny of relativism” imposed by modern-day Herods.

But there is another set of innocents. I’m thinking of today’s youth, whose psychosexual development has largely been left in the same hands as those who wanted them killed in the womb.  And so, in the name of “sex education,” today’s youth are robbed of their human dignity, their reproductive capacity, and ultimately the spark of the divine that makes them capable of receiving the gift of eternal life.

Against these odds, we have the Feast of the Holy Innocents to remind us that God’s mercy and goodness will triumph, though our witness requires courage and possibly martyrdom.

Long Live Christ the King!

23 Nov

Bl. Miguel Pro at his martyrdom

This past Sunday we began the last week of the liturgical year with the Solemnity of Christ the King. Pope Pius XI initiated this feast day in 1925, at a time of growing secularism, which led to a loss of respect for the Christ’s sovereignty in our lives and in our world. I think the same concern applies to contemporary debates regarding the role of faith in political life, as the U.S. Bishops beef up their defense of our religious liberty.

I especially like this quote from Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Quas Primas, which introduced the new feast:

“Nations will be reminded by the annual celebration of this feast [of Christ the King] that not only private individuals but also rulers and princes are bound to give public honor and obedience to Christ. It will call to their minds the thought of the last judgment, wherein Christ, who has been cast out of public life, despised, neglected, and ignored, will most severely avenge these insults; for his kingly dignity demands that the State should take account of the commandments of God and of Christian principles, both in making laws and in administering justice, and also in providing for the young a sound moral education.”

As one of today’s saints–Bl. Miguel Pro–said at the moment of his remarkable martyrdom, “Viva Cristo Rey!”  Long live Christ the King!

St. Maria Goretti, Chastity, and Modern Living

5 Jul

Tomorrow  the Church celebrates the life of St. Maria Goretti, a pious, young Italian girl who a little over a century ago was stabbed to death, preferring to die rather than give in to the demands of a rapist.

A few months back, my family viewed an excellent documentary on St. Maria Goretti entitled Fourteen Flowers of Pardon. Ignatius Press also has a fine video on this saint with accompanying study booklet.

A few thoughts on this beautiful saint:

(1) She is considered a “martyr” by the Church. That’s not a big deal at first blush, but think about it. She wasn’t asked to deny an article of the Creed. She wasn’t told by her assailant (who incidentally underwent a conversion in prison and was present at her canonization) to “reject Christ or die.”

Rather, she adamantly refused to cooperate in any form of sexual impurity. She accepted death rather than sacrifice her chaste virginity. She was a devout young lady who knew the seriousness of sins against the Sixth and Ninth Commandments, how they are more than capable of severing our relationship with Christ. She died rather than compromise her relationship with Christ, and so is honored as a martyr.

From this it is easy to see why St. Maria Goretti is a fitting patron saint for today’s youth, whose faith is undermined not only by poor religious instruction and secularist ideologies, but often in more concrete fashion by the pervasive sexual immorality of our culture.

Yes, virtue still matters! Continue reading

A Saint for All Seasons

22 Jun

One of the saints for today is St. Thomas More, the 16th-century Chancellor of England under King Henry VIII. St. Thomas deeply loved his country and was a loyal advisor to the king, but in the end he accepted martyrdom rather than repudiate the Catholic faith.

He is an apt saint for us today, as we too strive to be faithful citizens of our country and, even more, loyal sons and daughters of the Church.

There are several excellent biographies of St. Thomas More that we recommend for your summer reading or viewing.  In particular, check out the following: 

Thomas More: A Portrait of Courage (Gerard Wegemer, Scepter): Wegemer delivers on his title, providing a meticulously researched overview of the saint’s life, in which a multi-faceted, truly human portrait of More emerges.

The King’s Good Servant, But God’s First: The Life and Writings of Saint Thomas More (James Monti, Ignatius): Comprehensive book, perhaps most notable for its extensive presentation and analysis of More’s apologetics works in Reformation England, particularly his exchanges with William Tyndale.  Excellent treatment also of More’s protracted drama with King Henry VIII.

And of course there’s A Man for All Seasons (Columbia Pictures): Paul Scofield provides an outstanding performance as Thomas More in a movie that won six Academy Awards, including Best Actor and Best Picture. Why not rent it from your local library or Netflix today?