April 24, 2012

The Coming Martyrdom

Today is the feast of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, one of the great Capuchin saints. He was martyred in 1622, which was the founding year of the Propaganda Fide (now the Congregation of the Evangelization of Peoples) and thus became its proto-martyr.

Since I was blessed to have my turn to preach at the community Mass today, I was reflecting a little on martyrdom. It can seem like something far away, from another time or place. But this sense is false. I think of old Fr. Zygmund, who made such an impression on me with his personal knowledge of those Capuchins now numbered among the 108 Martyrs of World War II. Of course I also think of the current conflicts between the faith and our leaders here in the United States. Perhaps martyrdom isn't far behind. More and more one hears the sobering quote from Cardinal George: "I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square."

Anyone who wants to live a devout life needs to accept the possibility of martyrdom. It might be the vocation which God wills for us in the end. The thing is, however, that we might not know this until the last days--or even hours--of our earthly lives. We must be prepared. This is part of the reason we try to practice charity and penance now, so that we might be ready to accept the vocation to martyrdom when it comes.

Around the time St. Fidelis was giving his final sermon, supporters recommended to  him that he run away. They knew he was in danger. No doubt these were good and devout people, and their recommendation was the fruit of a 'pastoral' and 'balanced' discernment. It was his prior life of charity, penance, and mortification that enabled Fidelis to overcome the prudence of the flesh and the 'pastoral sense' of this world at that moment, and to suffer the fullness of his own configuration to Christ crucified which constitutes him as our heavenly patron in the propagation of the faith.

By lives of prayer, charity, and penance, may we too make ourselves willing and available for the coming martyrdom, if it be God's will for us in the end.

St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, proto-martyr of the Propaganda Fide, pray for us.


Mark D. said...

Given the increasingly anti-Catholic tone of popular American culture, and the stark reality that the Democratic Party has gone from being the natural political home for Catholics in the USA to an agent of persecution and oppression against the Church, we need to be preparing ourselves for persecution. Both in small things and in large. This has been something on my own heart lately.

Of course, what the best way to do this? Prayer, Mass, confession, reading scripture, and the lives of the saints. Ultimately, though, it will be the grace that comes through all of those things -- rather than our own efforts -- that will make the difference. On my own, I am weak and will conform to the world and its powers. With Christ, I can have the strength to witness to the truth and resist the powers of the world and the flesh that seek to drive a wedge between Christ and his flock.

Helen said...

Thank you, I often think of Martyrdom. People always say why think of that. I worry that I am not brave enough to stand for the faith when or if my life is at stake. I often have a hard time standing up to family members in reguard to simple faith matters, for example our priest say we must not attend a wedding of a Catholic living in sin, marring out of the church etc.etc. This just happened. I must choose. If I stand up for my beliefs I will be banished from the family. I am fearful of that, never mind standing in a place that would or could actually end my life. I prayed about these things and heard interiorly"practive courage" So I guess we practice courage in the small things now, so we might have courage if we are asked to face martyrdom. I hope I would choose Him over everything.

Brother Charles said...

There was another comment received, but now it doesn't seem to be in the moderation queue. I don't know if this is an error or the comment was withdrawn somehow.

In any case, I had just meant to say: the invitation to pray for courage is the gift of an answer to the same prayer, and the little sufferings and martyrdoms described can at least bring the confidence and comfort that the Holy Spirit has made a home and resting place in your heart, perhaps for purposes that might not be known until the next life. So take some courage from that knowledge, too. Peace.