A Time of Martyrs

Lucas Cranach the Elder. Beheading of John the Baptist. 1515.

Lucas Cranach the Elder. Beheading of John the Baptist. 1515.

I said to some priest friends at dinner tonight that after I was ordained nearly seven years ago, whenever I preached about martyrdom I would do so in terms of “white martyrdom” (suffering for the faith, not dying for it), saying that it would probably not happen to us that we would ever face “red martyrdom” (dying for the faith).

Well. How times have changed.

The image of the 21 Egyptian Christians forced to kneel on the beach before being decapitated is forever seared into my mind. And then… to hear the reports of how some of them were calling out the name of Jesus before they were killed! Thanks be to God! I hope I would be able to respond the same way in such a situation… but I fear I would shrink back in cowardliness. May God give me the grace.

(NB: I have not watched the video footage of the slayings, and will not watch it.)

So it seems that “red martyrdom” is much more a reality of our time than many of us previously thought. Look at how much has changed in such a short time in our world. Here in Alabama, for example, where I live, one of the last states where one would expect to find gay “marriage”, it has recently been forced upon us by judicial fiat. Seven years ago that was hardly on the radar either.

What is coming next? What is awaiting us here, in the United States of America? Only God knows. But we would do well to pray seriously, and ask the Lord for the grace to withstand whatever may be required of us to give him glory and fulfill his plan for us. He has chosen us to live in this time and place, and he will give us the graces that we need to do so well.

A blessed Lent to all!

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3 Responses to A Time of Martyrs

  1. treetop45 says:

    What an inspiring article, Father. Many of your same thoughts have passed thru my own mind, lately. When these beheadings began, some months back, I immediately thought of St. John the Baptist. It’s so hard to imagine another living soul, asking for a fellow Human’s head on a plate. How horrible.!!
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and prayers for us to ponder. May God continue to bless all of us with the Grace of courage, to face our futures, as bravely as we can, as Christians!
    Sincerely,
    Laura Mancuso

  2. Maria deSouza says:

    Yes, Father. I couldn’t bear to watch either the beheading. Please God, if I am ever in a situation like that, I too will stand for Jesus, and call on His name. Here in Canada, the Supreme court has unanimously supported Physician Assisted Suicide. I know some Catholic doctors who are sick to their stomach about this ruling. I think this Lent is truly a season for praying and fasting… Thank you for saying that God has chosen us to live in this time. It’s true. My prayer is that I fulfil what He has asked me to do. God bless you, and I wish you a holy Lent, Maria P.S. I continue to keep your sister, her baby and her husband in my prayers on Saturday during my regular visits to the Blessed Sacrament.

  3. I’ve also had the same thoughts. Years ago, I wrestled with the question of being able to die for my faith. My friends and I had many discussions over it. Then I read Corrie Ten Boom’s book. She also had the same fears and told her father about it. He asked her when it was that he gave her a train ticket when they went to town. She replied that it was just before they boarded. He said that that was how God would handle it. We would not get the grace before we needed it. If we live our lives in everyday sanctity, striving to become the saints we were meant to be, then I believe that God will give us the grace when we need it. I just hope we never have to need that particular grace!!! I also tell my friends to pray as hard and sincerely for the persecuted Christians as if we were in their place.

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