Category Archives: Martyrdom

Oct 17 – Enthusiasm for Martyrdom!!! :)


-fresco of St. Ignatius from Hosios Loukas Monastery, Boeotia, Greece

“The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” -Acts 5:41

Catholics are NOT NOT NOT to actively seek martyrdom!!!! That would make them Marcionites, who did, and NOT Catholics!!!!!! Catholics are to accept it if unavoidable. Enthusiasm, however….

I have two dear friends who are sisters. They are practically giddy protesting/dissuading/resisting outside abortion clinics. While there they may sit in a car together to rest or respite from the elements. Their giddiness stems not only from their holy action, but from the dream of martyrdom while so engaged. They also dream of the rocketing of their causes for beatification to the top of the list!!!! I imagine an attacker with a shotgun taking them both out while they sit in the front seats of the car together. Only Catholics!!!!

I have decided the color (and here) for our current martyrdom of reputation is black, as in “to blacken the name”.


-by Elijah Dubek, OP

“The letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch (35-108 AD) were some of the first writings of Church Fathers I ever read. One of my friends bought me a copy of The Apostolic Fathers, and the summer before I entered seminary, I read through them. Saint Ignatius’ excitement, even enthusiasm, for martyrdom, was striking and memorable:

Fire and cross and battles with wild beasts, mutilation, mangling, wrenching of bones, the hacking of limbs, the crushing of my whole body, cruel tortures of the devil—let these come upon me, only let me reach Jesus Christ! (St Ignatius’ Letter to the Romans 5:3)

This martyr begs the Roman Christians not to interfere with his impending martyrdom, but if they must, they should coax the beasts to devour him completely, that his body may not be left behind as a burden for anyone.

When I first encountered these words, the enthusiasm was contagious. As I return to them, it is their courage that strikes me. Here is a saint who knows that the only way to follow Jesus Christ is to take up one’s cross, which led St. Ignatius to his own death. His fear, however, is not of the wild beasts that will tear him apart and cause him pain. No, he worries that fellow Christians, well-intentioned perhaps, will “save” him from this cross. “For I am afraid of your love, in that it may do me wrong….I implore you: do not be unseasonably kind to me” (1.2, 4.1).

Violent martyrdom of this kind, especially enthusiasm for such, is often hard for us to swallow. It is not that we don’t hear the words of the Gospel: “Whoever wishes to follow me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mt 16:24). Perhaps we have the same difficulty that Peter and the disciples had when Jesus first began predicting for them his coming Passion—Peter himself even tried to rebuke our Lord! We are happy to follow our Lord, but we fear the cross.

Saint Peter, of course, comes to understand, even enduring martyrdom himself, and perhaps it was St. Peter’s preaching that St. Ignatius heard in Antioch decades before his own martyrdom in Rome. So why are they no longer afraid of the cross, even eager to embrace it? Like St. Paul, they know that “the sufferings of the present time are nothing compared to the glory to be revealed in us” (Rom 8:18). Despite his enthusiasm, St. Ignatius is certainly not excited for mutilation, mangling, wrenching, and hacking for their own sake. No. He says, “Let these come upon me, only let me reach Jesus Christ!” The sufferings of the present are bearable because of the promise of Jesus, because through them, Jesus brings us to Himself.”

We MUST imitate Him in ALL things!!!!

Love & Martyrdom!!!!
Matthew

3 (or 4) types of martyrdom


St Perpetua, a red martyr, pray for us!

n.b.  Catholics are NOT to actively seek martyrdom.  If, in due course of loyalty to the faith, martyrdom is presented and cannot be avoided without sin, Catholics are to accept this witness.  Heretics, like Marcionites, have taken the approach of actively seeking martyrdom, in their case from the Romans.  Actively seeking martyrdom has never been approved by the Church.


-by Philip Kosloski

“The word “martyr” originally derived from the “Greek word martus [signifying] a witness who testifies to a fact of which he has knowledge from personal observation.” In Christian usage this was at first applied to the apostles, who witnessed first hand the life of Jesus Christ and His resurrection.

Later on in the first centuries of the Church the term was used exclusively to denote those holy men and women who gave witness to Christ by shedding their blood. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Martyrdom is the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: it means bearing witness even unto death. The martyr bears witness to Christ Who died and rose, to Whom he is united by charity. He bears witness to the truth of the faith and of Christian doctrine. He endures death through an act of fortitude. ‘Let me become the food of the beasts, through whom it will be given me to reach God.’” (CCC 2473)

Over time, however, the Church reflected on the original meaning of the word martyr and recognized different kinds of martyrdom to express other ways of reaching heaven; ways in which a Christian could faithfully witness to the Gospel without being killed for it.

An ancient homily from Ireland (Ed. who else?), written around the end of the 7th century, gives a perfect summary of the three types of martyrdom:

“Now there are three kinds of martyrdom, which are accounted as a cross to a man, to wit: white martyrdom, green and red martyrdom. White martyrdom consists in a man’s abandoning everything he loves for God’s sake, though he suffer fasting or labor thereat. Green martyrdom consists in this, that by means of fasting and labor he frees himself from his evil desires, or suffers toil in penance and repentance.”

From this account, as well as other writings, white martyrdom is typically defined as being persecuted for the faith, but never shedding any blood. It consists of living a life boldly for Christ, yet never being asked to die for it.

Green martyrdom, on the other hand, is more specific and focuses on extreme penance and fasting out of love for God. This type of martyrdom is usually associated with the hermits of Egypt, who greatly influenced Irish monasticism. This accounts for why many Irish monks sought out places of extreme solitude and harsh weather; the monastery atop Skellig Michael (Ed. of recent Stars Wars acclaim. Did you see the Celtic cross?) being a perfect example of both.

Red martyrdom, of course, refers to giving one’s physical life, bearing witness unto death. Red in this case is associated with the shedding of blood.

These three martyrdoms represent different paths to heaven, but all share one thing in common: a heart on fire with the love of God. One could even say these are “three paths of love,” ways that we can express our love of God and His mercy toward us.”

n.b. There is also what is called a “dry martyr”, of which St Claude de la Colombiere, SJ, is an example.

Love,
Matthew

Martyrdom? Want fries with that?

web-christian-martyrs-lion-last-prayer-jean-lc3a9on-gc3a9rc3b4me-public-domain

The word “martyr” means witness. While we generally associate it with death for a cause, Christian life has a more general, and beautiful, imho, understanding. In Catholicism, there is an expression, “state-of-life”. What is meant by that is that one is truly a Christian witness in a faithful, and faith-filled holy state-of-life: marriage, holy orders, religious life, single, chastity, etc., never associated with sin intentionally, one is bearing true witness to the Author of Life, to the Risen Lord. None of this is easy. The sinner deceives themselves into thinking some pleasure or distraction will make this life easy. There is none. The Prince of Lies still deceives effectively the many who listen to his lies.

The day-in-day-out fidelity to that state-of-life is not purposeless or meaningless suffering or drudgery, hardly, although it may seem very much like “Groundhog Day”. Living one’s Christian vocation, life, and state-of-life, is and can be and often is a heroic “living martyrdom”, a living prayer of action, of praise of Him Who is Author, Creator, Unmoved First Cause, to be Thomistic, of Life. One’s state-of-life, while not a sentence, and always able to be improved in Christian definition, is to be borne patiently, with strength, determination, maturity, and resolve, made only possible through prayer and that interior, intimate relationship, with Him, Who “allows us to do ALL THINGs”(Phil 4:13), because it is He, Himself, Who strengthens us!!! Praise Him!!! Praise Him!!!

In living this “living martyrdom” we atone for our own sins, or we add to the “treasury of merit“, where we atone for the sins of others, who have not the will nor wisdom nor the resolve, or whose sins are so grievous, they can never atone for all by themselves, infinitely in cooperation with and in praise of the Master’s most supreme salvific act on the Holy Cross, in this life. Catholicism is a community. We pray, we suffer, we love, we rejoice, we atone, together, no matter where in the world we live, or at what time we lived. For all of time is but a single moment to Him, Who is the Author of time, yet outside its bounds and constraints.

mcteigue-2016-cropped
-by Fr Robert McTeigue, SJ

“What kind of martyrdom are you preparing for?” That seems an odd question—for two reasons. First, it suggests there’s more than one kind of martyrdom—something other than submitting to being killed for the Faith. Second, in North America at least, it seems alarmist to urge Christians to prepare for martyrdom, as if Christians were being herded for slaughter as they were in ancient Rome. Let’s look at both issues.

Strictly speaking, to be a true martyr, one’s blood must be shed unto death, by those who hate the Faith. More broadly speaking, drawing on some sources of Celtic spirituality, some speak of “red,” “white” or “blue” martyrdom. According to this tradition, red martyrdom is suffering unto death undertaken for Christ; white martyrdom is a renouncing of the goods of the world for the sake of purity and self-control; blue (sometimes translated as “green”) martyrdom is a life of tears, fasting and penance undertaken for the repentance of one’s sins. (Leave it to the Irish to work out a full taxonomy of suffering.) Love of God may afford us the opportunity to lay down our lives all at once (as in red martyrdom), or as a daily offering over many years (as in white or blue martyrdom).

In recent conversations with faithful Catholics, I’ve heard the term “white martyrdom” to refer to those living the duties of their state in life, at great cost, day by day: Parents caring for very sick children; students accepting the severe discipline that academic excellence may require; doctors and nurses who daily confront disease and death with no end in sight.

So understood, I think of a Jesuit who taught chemistry to high school boys for over 40 years—who knows what depths of resolve he had to call upon day by day. And I think of my father, who retired early and spent the last 15 years of his life caring for my sick mother. These men bit by bit, day by day, year by year—for great love, offered themselves in sacrifice. I must believe that God always blesses such offerings.

It’s easy to imagine Christians in the Middle East for example (but not only there) considering the real possibility or even likelihood of red martyrdom. In North America, at least, sectarian violence is still shocking because it is rare. Europe is somewhere between the two. Who has any assurance that anti-Christian hatred, both sporadic and systematic, will not spread and persist?

Meanwhile, cultural and civil animus against Christianity is heating up in North America. Even if Christians here are not subject to systematic violence, they are becoming more and more unwelcome in the post-modern, post-Christian West. It will require heroism, love, duty, honor, and a radical openness to grace to persevere during the storms that are about to break upon us. And how are we as a culture and people of faith preparing?

Apparently, our youth have become so delicate that at least one university is offering 24/7 counseling to students upset by Halloween costumes. The office of “campus ministries” of a self-identified Catholic school is offering a retreat and asking students to dress as their favorite Disney characters. In other words, exaggerated sensitivities and decorated fantasies are being offered our “best and brightest.” Can we expect them to endure times of trial and persecution? Can we honestly describe infantilized adults as the crowning achievement of our culture?

This was my father’s favorite Bible verse: “When you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, undisturbed in times of adversity. Cling to Him, forsake Him not; thus will your future be great. Accept what befalls you; in crushing misfortune be patient. For, in fire gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation. Trust God and He will help you. Make straight your ways and hope in Him. You who fear the Lord, wait for His mercy. Turn not away, lest you fall.” (Sirach 2:1-7)

We may well be called to martyrdom in one form or another. We must certainly take up our cross to follow Christ. Those who wish to distinguish themselves in the service of Christ the King can expect burning hatred from the world and purifying fire from Heaven. Saint Ignatius Loyola warned: “Nothing worthy of God can be done without earth being set in uproar and hell’s legions roused.”

Martyrs or not, we are all called to bear witness to Christ and to be faithful to the end. Knowing that, let’s take up what the Church has always offered to those who would be saints: Scripture, Sacraments, prayer, penance and fasting. With these, God has made many saints. With these, God can make saints of you and me.”

Love & blessed martyrdom in the Master’s love & service & praise, and the grace of imitating Him in every way,
Matthew

Jan 9 – Sts Julian & Basilissa of Egypt, (d. 319 & 304 AD), Husband & Wife, Martyrs

Basilissa_Julian

-“Christ with Saints Julian and Basilissa, Celsus and Marcionilla”, Pompeo Batoni, 1736-8, currently held in Los Angeles, Getty Museum.  Note they each hold the palm of martyrdom, the palm of victory.  The palm branch is a symbol of victory, triumph, peace and eternal life.  In particular, the species of palm is known as Phoenix, and has relation to the ever resurrecting from ashes bird of ancient Egypt. 

You know the old catechetical joke! “Johnny/Sally: what are the seven sacraments? Reply: Baptism, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Extreme Unction, Ordination, and….Martyrdom!!!” Well, that might not be as far from the truth as we might like in this case!

I LOVE married saints!!!!  Julian and Basilissa were married, served the poor, ill, and destitute, during the reign of Diocletian.

While little substantive information is known of the lives of this holy couple, it appears that Julian was forced by his family to marry. To comply with their pressure, Julian selected Basilissa as his spouse, and together, they both pledged to live in celibacy, preserving their chastity before the Lord. Basilissa eventually founded a convent for women, of which she became the superior. Similarly, Julian gathered a large number of monks to himself and served as their spiritual director. Together, the two converted their home into a hospice for those in need, housing approximately 1,000 people at any given time. The sisters and monks provided daily food and care to the ill, poor, and dying, and accepted no money in return. As their hospital was located in Egypt, and many were introduced to the faith through their work, conversions were numerous. As word spread of their heroic and Christian work, they attracted the attention of those who were actively persecuting Christianity.

Saint Basilissa died a holy death after years of Christian persecution, worn out from hard work and constant threats. Before her death, she foretold that her husband would die a martyr. Saint Julian survived for some time, keeping the hospital running, and providing the Lord’s care to all who needed it. Eventually, he was arrested, interrogated, and tortured during the reign of Diocletian and beheaded for refusing to recant his faith. His interrogation and his tortures were accompanied by astonishing prodigies and numerous conversions of his captors and tormentors. Following his burial, numerous miracles were reported at his tomb, including the cure of ten lepers in a single day.

Saints Julian and Basilissa devoted their life to service to the Lord through service to those around them needing the most help. In their hearts grew the flame of Christian love, illuminated for all to see. In their touch, those in need found the healing and redemption of a life in Christ.

Relics of Sts. Anastasius, Celsus, and Julian rest in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Notre Dame University reliquary chapel, South Bend, Indiana.

Joy & Peace, and special prayers to those called to the vocation of Christian marriage, as the means and vehicle by which they are to work out their salvation.

Love,
Matthew