Tuesday, 26 September 2017 13:05

Martyrdom, an Insanity?

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The Wake-up Project presents in the EUK Mamie site, the latest clip on the persecuted Christians. This time our protagonist is Fr. Ragheed Ganni, a Catholic martyr of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq.  He died at age 34, on June 3, 2007, killed by Islamic State fundamentalists. (Click here to see the video.)

Martyrdom, a distinctive sign of the Church of Christ


In Baptism, we are inserted to Christ:  this sign properly expresses our death and our rebirth to a new life in Christ. But when we are baptized, we are united to Christ in such a way that we are called to live the life of Jesus in our life and, therefore, every baptized person has been called to assume his martyrdom condition in the style of Christ, who from the beginning of his life took up His cross until he died on it: “Whoever wants to follow me, let him pick up his cross daily and follow me.” From the imitation of Christ and the union to Him and his mission, it is derived that the Church has a martyr spirituality.

The Church has a martyr spirituality; indeed, this is part of her essence. And history notes this fact. In the two millennia of Christianity, seventy million Christians have died because of their faith. Of these, 65% were in the twentieth century. The words of the Virgin are in this way fulfilled in Fatima, who told the little shepherds that the twentieth century would be a century of great persecution against the Church. But it continues, because it is estimated that in the present century about 100,000 Christians die every year, and according to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), every 5 minutes a Christian is killed because of his faith.

A life full of meaning 

The word martyr means witness of a fact or of a truth. In the New Testament, this expression acquires a deeper tone, since the witness is also a witness of that faith in the Truth that has been revealed to him, testifying to it if necessary even with the shedding of his blood. “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it” (Lc 9, 24; Mt 16, 25; Mc 8, 35).

Many people live according to some ideology, or according to the paradigms of certain philosophies; there are those who are admirers of certain artists, thinkers, politicians, athletes ... but none or almost none would be willing to give their lives for those ideologies or for the people they follow. In fact, none of that gives meaning to their lives, it simply complements it. However, the true Christian has the immense grace of being able to say that he lives for someone who gives full meaning to his life, with such intensity, that he would be willing to testify - even with the surrendering of his own life – that faith in Jesus Christ is the greatest treasure. Martyrdom is the most perfect act of charity, because the defense of this faith is guided by the supreme love that one has for Jesus.

Do you not have a vocation to be a martyr?        

Nowadays you hear from the mouth of Christians expressions like “I don’t have a vocation to martyrdom” which denote the absence of knowledge of what is actually the essence of Christianity. It is not that the people of the first centuries were made from a “different mold”, or had an iron will capable of facing any difficulty. The 'crux of the matter' is that they understood what it is to be a Christian and its consequences, and many Christians today do not. They seem to have forgotten that Jesus had announced the persecution of Christians 'If the world hates you, know that they hated me before you … If they persecuted me, they will also persecuted you '(Jn 15: 18-21). Therefore, we should not expect a false irenicism with respect to the world, nor seek conciliation at the cost of betraying our own being. It's not masochism; it's fidelity to Jesus Christ.  Apostasy manifested or camouflaged is the great evil of our time. Renouncing to the martyrdom of each day produces sadness, emptiness, nonsense, and, finally, betrayal, abandonment. On the other hand, he who lives in tune to martyrdom, enjoys the proper aspects of the life of the martyr.

Some trademarks of the martyrs

According to the records and testimonies found of the martyrs, there are a number of common traits that are experienced not only in their supreme act of surrendering but also in their everyday lives. These traits are:

- Joy:  We see it in Scripture. When they were beating the apostles for preaching about the dead and risen Jesus, they left joyfully for having been considered worthy of suffering for Christ. The first Christians died joyfully in the circus singing alleluia in the midst of the beasts and torments to which they were subjected.

- Victory of Christ:  Martyrdom is a new victory of Jesus in the lives of his martyrs. He is the one who gives the strength to live and die that way. Jesus, in his martyrs, prolongs his victory over the three enemies of the soul.

- Defeat of the Devil: The fight is not against men, but against the power of darkness. Saint Perpetua, in prison, had a vision and said: “I understood that my combat should not be so much against the beasts, but against the Devil.”

- Preparation for combat: Martyrdom is not improvised. The Christian person prepares his final combat through the daily fight to which he prepares with the Eucharist, prayer, growth in virtues, fasting...

- Hope of the Resurrection: Faith in the resurrection is clear in the martyrs who testify that they do not die forever, because eternal life awaits them.

- Fortitude: It is one of the cardinal virtues and one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that is more self-evident in the life of the martyrs.

- Gratitude: The martyr is grateful to God for the gift of being able to express his love for Him even to the extreme, accepting the sufferings and torments that await him.


For you to ponder:

-Why is it that nowadays you see in many people and ecclesial environments a systematic avoidance of martyrdom? What are the causes?                                                                                  

-Do you know someone who has died a martyr in our days?                                                                                  

-Would you be willing to give your life to defend your faith?                                                                                         

-In what way are Christians currently persecuted? Are you being persecuted?

By Sister Estela Morales, SHM