How to Keep Faith During Martyrdom: St. Alphonsus August 25, 2016Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, catachesis, Christendom, General Catholic, Glory, Grace, Holy suffering, martyrdom, mortification, persecution, reading, Saints, Tradition, true leadership, Virtue.
If you’ve read many of the lives of the Saints, especially those involved in martyrdom, you may have wondered as I have, at the amazing ability of these Saints to keep their faith through all manner of unimaginable tortures: being cooked alive on a grill, flayed alive, crushed to death, torn limb from limb by wild animals, etc.
While Grace is the most obvious source of their success, Saint Alphonsus notes that God gives more Grace to those who cooperate with it, and that the martyrs had certain behaviors that helped them become Saints where others failed. And it’s important to note that many put to the trial of a blood martyrdom HAVE failed, they have fallen away, and sometimes in great numbers.
That is the subject of Saint Alphonsus’ guidance on the characteristics of successful martyrs I quote today, part of a series of characteristics that I hope to cover over the next several days. All of the above comes from The Victories of the Martyrs, pp. 38-9:
The examples of the martyrs teach us also to have immediate recourse to the assistance of God, by earnest supplication, when we feel ourselves disconsolate or weak under affliction. Thus did the holy martyrs. As their torture increased, they multiplied their prayers and secured the victory. St. Theodore, after a long endurance of his tortures, was stretched upon burning tiles; feeling the pain penetrating to his very heart, he besought the Lord to mitigate the torture, and persevered to the end. There have, on the contrary, been examples of Christians, who, failing to invoke the assistance of the Almighty, have fallen off from the confession of the Faith, and forfeited the glorious crown. An example is found in the acts of the martyrs of Japan. An aged man, having the torture for a considerable time, but failing to invoke heavenly aid, denied his faith a few moments before he expired – a startling warning to all, that perseverance in prayer, in times of temptation and distress, is that which alone can insure us the victory.
But the most important lesson which we learn from the martyrs in the necessity of the love of God: He who loveth not abideth in death (1 Jn iii:14). We cannot manifest our love of God so well by a multitude of actions performed for his glory, as by a willingness to suffer for his sake. St. Gordianus replied to the tyrant, who threatened to put him to death if he did not deny the name of Jesus: “You threaten death! but my greatest regret is, that I can die but once for Jesus Christ.” In a similar manner, St. Procopius exclaimed to the tyrant, who was directing further tortures: “Torment as much as thou wilt, but know that to one who truly loves Jesus Christ, nothing is dearer than to suffer for his sake.” “And did the Saints speak thus,” says St. Bernard, “because they were insensible to torments? No.” continues the holy Doctor, “they were neither frantic nor insensible, but their love of Jesus Christ caused them to esteem it all joy to suffer and to die for his glory.” This ardent love of God is certainly the greatest spiritual advantage to be derived from the perusal of the acts of the martyrs; the recollection of their conduct will make us ashamed to repine under the tribulations which divine Providence sends us, and will strengthen us to receive them with resignation.
I add that death, which is the tribute that everyone must pay, is the greatest of all our tribulations, and that makes not only sinners but the just tremble. Our Savior Himself as man wished to show the fear that He felt in the face of death, so that He began to pray to His Father to free Him from it. But at the same time He teaches us to accept death according to the good pleasure of God by saying: Nevertheless not My will, but Thine be done (Matt xxvi:39). The following is the way in which we acquire the glory of martyrdom: It is by accepting death to please God and conform to His will.……
Incredible though it may have seemed a few short years ago, Catholics in this country have reasonable cause to start preparing themselves for martyrdom, even to the point of blood. No, there is no particular, imminent threat of this, but the general societal trends all point in this direction: the rise of militant atheism, rank indifference and even apostasy among the ranks of self-professed Catholics, a government on acquiring unlimited power and brooking no competition, and a sexular pagan ethos that is increasingly becoming a sort of litmus test to be accepted into a whole range of activities necessary to life.
I pray this meditation on the elements of a successful martyr will be useful to you. Above all, stay as close as possible to Our Lord and Lady at the Foot of the Cross.