Faith of the Martyrs
I have a difficult time imagining a physical persecution of happening in the United States. I have difficulty imagining how far we’d have to fall to get to a point where the citizenry accepted mass executions of people based on their faith alone.
Yet, today, in Iraq and Syria, Catholics and Christians are literally being crucified in hatred of the faith. I believe that before my life comes to an end, I’ll attend a Mass on the feast day of the Iraqi Martyrs.
My main difficulty in envisioning an America that accepts crucifixion is that I believe that the people charged with enforcing our laws are good and decent people. I have a hard time seeing members of our Armed Forces and Law Enforcement following orders to crucify people for their faith. This is perhaps the greatest asset of the United States, that those charged with our protection are our neighbors who just want to make our communities better.
While the thought of modern day crucifixion is horrifying, at the same time, I find it deeply inspirational. The Church is grown through the blood of the martyrs. The persecutions of the early Christians served only to grow the Church into what we have today. The persecutions of Catholics in England only served to reinforce the local Church.
Reading through the stories of martyrs like Sts. John Fischer and Thomas More and the countless other British martyrs of their era are incredible. Many English martyrs were drawn, hung and quartered. While the title of the execution is pretty benign, if you actually study what it all entailed, it’s shocking that anyone would be able to remain true to their convictions when facing that torture. It was literally the worst possible torture and death that the legal system could imagine. It was long, it was involved, and it was excruciating.
Yet, that’s exactly the point. These martyrs had tremendous faith. They had the fortitude to stay true to who they were as Catholics. Their example and inspiration continues to this day, hundreds of years later, to inspire the Church.
Two-thirds of American Catholics don’t go to Mass on Sundays. Our lukewarm faith has lost touch with the brilliant inspiration and witness of the martyrs, even those who this very day will be killed in hatred of the faith.
Lord, give me the faith of the martyrs.