We've been learning about Martyrdom in the Prudence, Fortitude and Temperance class at the Angelicum taught by the ever so wisened Fr. Williams. Martyrdom requires among other things a willingness to suffer injury and ultimately death for the sake of witnessing to the faith. "What makes the martyr" according to Augustine "is not the suffering but the cause." We can sometimes speak of martyrdoms of purity or obedience but the true martyrdom, which the Church honors to the highest degree, are those who give their lives in the service of the Gospel. As John 15:13 says, "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends" and truly for the sake of the Gospel. The photo below is a fresco from San Stefano Rotondo that has images of many martyrs on each of the walls of the church. This is just one.
photo by sacred_destinations
After class I was speaking to one of the sisters from Pakistan and we were talking about final vows and ordination dates and she said, "Oh you must visit when you are a priest." I responded, "I will wait until it is safer perhaps." This brought on a much more serious tone to our conversation and a stark reality. The majority of the houses of her congregation are in Lahore, Pakistan which is currently under attack by Muslim extremists. You can look here or here for more info on it. She recently told me that one of these bombs destroyed the front of one of the Catholic churches in Lahore and damaged a convent so that the sisters there had to move in with another community.
map by thewazir
She explained that "When we go out, we do not know if we will return." How real is that? How real martyrdom is for some of the very people I am currently studying with.
Fr. Williams recommended a great book on martyrdom which is Robert Royal's book on the Martyrs of the 20th century.
Who knows what this new century will bring. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.
Holy Martyrs, Pray for us.