Tag Archives: martyrs

With Forgiveness in Their Hearts

beatification_ceremony_spainOne of the amazing stories coming out of the beatification of the 522 martyrs of the Spanish Civil War on October 13 is the witness of Carmen Cubelle, age 76. Carmen’s aunt, Sr. Josefa Martinez, a Servant of Mary, was one of those beatified. Many family members of the martyrs attended the beatification but for Carmen, her aunt’s courage meant the difference between her own life and death.

Carmen’s father had been arrested and killed for attending night Eucharistic adoration. Her mother, pregnant with Carmen, and her aunt, Sr. Josefa, were arrested a month later. In their jail cell, Sr. Josefa prayed aloud that her sister and her unborn child might be spared, and offered herself as an offering on their behalf.

“Lord,” she prayed, “if this jailer is a father and has a wife, move him to compassion, that he will set my sister free. May the life of her child be saved; may the life of my sister be saved, and may they kill me. I want to die a martyr for her, for the faith, defending the lives of my sister and my nephew.”

Sr. Josefa’s prayer was answered. The sisters bade farewell to each other, saying they would meet in eternity, and Sr. Josefa was taken before a firing squad and shot.

When I talked to a Servant of Mary about the beatification, the main theme that ran through all of the proceedings was a spirit of forgiveness. The martyrs all died, said Bishop Jaume Pujol Balcells of Tarragona, “in imitation of the Lord, with words of forgiveness on their lips.”

Carmen said that her mother was asked if she wanted to press charges against the men who had killed her husband and sister. Her mother said that “she didn’t want to know anything about it because she had forgiven them.”

Read the complete story in the National Catholic Register.

The Age of Martyrs

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen. Not only was he one of the first deacons in the Church (cf. Acts 6:1-6), but he’s also the first recorded post-Resurrection martyr for Christ.

Sometimes martyrdom may some far removed from our own comfortable existence. To counter such a mindset, we offer the following reflection from Servant of God John A. Hardon, the founder of the Institute on Religious Life, who tells us why the present age is truly the “age of the martyrs.” This is taken from a conference he gave on the Precious Blood of Christ.

We believe that by His death on the cross, Christ merited all the graces we need to reach heaven. He won all the graces necessary for our salvation. He gained all the graces that the human race needs to reach its eternal destiny.

But we also believe that what Christ did by dying for us on the cross requires that we die on our cross by cooperating with the graces that Jesus won for our redemption. He could not have been more clear. He told us, “If you wish to be my disciples, take up your cross and follow me.” We must cooperate with Christ’s grace if we wish to join Him in eternity. He was crucified by shedding His blood. We must be crucified by shedding our blood in witness to our love.

All of this is elementary Christian teaching. The Precious Blood of Christ does indeed provide us with the light and strength we need to reach heaven. But we have to do our part, otherwise Christ’s passion and death on Calvary would have been in vain.

The focus of our conference is on the Precious Blood of Christ in the age of martyrs. What are we saying? We are saying that the present century is the age of martyrs par excellence. Ours is THE (all three letters capitalized) age of martyrs.

No words of mine can do justice to this statement: We are inclined to think that martyrs are those ancient men and women in the first centuries of the Church whom we commemorate by name in the first Eucharistic Prayer, when we say, “We honor the apostles and martyrs,” and then name after the apostles, “Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Carnelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian.”

Unless we take stock of ourselves, martyrs are not commonly associated with the later history of the Church, and certainly not with our own times. What a miscalculation!

A conservative estimate places the total number of martyrs who died for Christ up to the liberation edict of Constantine in 313 A.D. at around 100,000. We call that period of massive persecution the age of martyrs. Yet, the number of Christians who have died for their faith since 1900 is several million. In the Sudan alone, during the 1950s, over two million Catholics were starved to death by the Muslims because they refused to deny that Mary is the Mother of God since her Son is the Ibn Allah, the Son of God. There have been more Christian martyrs since the turn of the present century than in all of the preceding centuries from Calvary to 1900 put together.

It is no wonder that the Second Vatican Council in its Constitution on the Church went out of its way to identify martyrdom as one of the marks of holiness in our day. The passage deserves to be quoted in full: Continue reading The Age of Martyrs

North American Martyrs

The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. Today we remember and celebrate the planting of the Church in North America through the martyrdom of the Jesuit martyrs Isaac Jogues, John de Brebeuf, and companions. In honor of these true heroes of the faith, enjoy this short video with Fr. James Kobicki, S.J. of the Apostleship of Prayer.

May the courage of these martyrs, rooted in the love of God, inspire us to live wholeheartedly for Christ today, and to offer our own sufferings in union with Christ for the life of the world.

The Martyrs of Drina

On Saturday, September 24th, the Church beatified five Bosnian nuns who were kidnapped and later killed during World War II. The beatification took place in Sarajevo, Bosnia, with upwards of 20,000 people in attendance. Cardinal Angelo Amato from the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints presided at the celebration.

The new blesseds–Jula Ivanisevic, Berchmana Leidenix, Krizina Bojanc, Antonija Fabjan and Bernadeta Banja–were all members of the Daughters of Divine Charity. They served the poor in the Serbian village of Pale. Serb soldiers burned their convent in late 1941.

The nuns were then marched 40 miles in freezing conditions to military barracks near the east Bosnian town of Gorazde. The soldiers beat and tried to rape them. The nuns jumped out of the second-floor windows, and soldiers later stabbed to death those still alive.

“The news of the deaths of the five sisters spread quickly in Sarajevo. Even though it was a time of war, the people remembered them and prayed to the martyrs of Drina, as they were called, for their intercession,” Sr. Maria Ozana Krajacic recalled in a recent edition of the L’Osservatore Romano.

The holy sisters’ story is recounted in the book, The Drina Martyrs, written by Fr. Anto Bakovic.