August 17, 2016

From St. Stephen to the Present, All Martyrs for Christ Have This in Common

The Crucifixion of St. Peter
The Crucifixion of Saint Peter,
Caravaggio, 1600-01. 
[Christ said unto them] If they persecuted me, they will persecute you. — John 15:20
The word martyr derives from the Greek word meaning "witness." A martyr is one who willingly suffers death rather than renounce his Faith. The one thing all martyrs for Christ share is that they would rather die than lie.

Despite being crucified, stabbed, stoned, dragged, skinned and burned, every Apostle of Jesus (save Judas) proclaimed the truth of Christ’s Resurrection until their last breath. In refusing to abandon their beliefs in the face of vicious persecution, today’s Christian martyrs give their lives to grow the Church. The Holy Father has said, "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church… It is true that during the times of Nero many Christians were persecuted, and today there are just as many." Francis explained the role martyrs play as witnesses:

"We know that there is no growth without the Spirit: it is He who is Church, it is He who makes the Church grow, it is He who convokes the Church’s community. But the witness of Christians is necessary too. And when historical situations require a strong witness, there are martyrs, the greatest witnesses. And the Church grows thanks to the blood of the martyrs. This is the beauty of martyrdom. It begins with witness, day after day, and it can end like Jesus, the first martyr, the first witness, the faithful witness: with blood."

In all ages, the Church is oppressed and hated. We pray, O Lord, through your holy Saints, that we may be blessed with the freedom to worship and adore You. May You bless your Church throughout the world with the grace to persevere with love in the face of persecution just as You did on the Cross.

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