Some were burned alive, others thrown to wild beasts. Some had their skin flayed off. One had her breasts cut off, another, her eyes gouged out. Some were beheaded, others thrust through with swords. These are the Martyrs and great heroes of the early Church. They suffered much and gained everything. Their death was like seed that caused the Church to grow by God’s grace. New life comes from the Cross. Jesus proved it and the martyrs demonstrate it. The more the world hates and kills us the stronger we become. After almost every widespread persecution the Church grows more numerous and more intense. It is the words of Jesus Christ that foretold this: “And I, when I be lifted up from the earth (i..e on the Cross) will draw all people unto me.” (Jn 12:32). Where ever the Church is persecuted, Christ is still lifted up on the Cross in his mystical Body. Sure enough, in this way he draws even more unto him.
So many of us have it easy compared to the martyrs. They were willing to suffer death for the faith, many of us cannot even bear to be unpopular for it. Pray for courage from the intercession of the martyrs. It seems it will become increasingly necessary in the years ahead.
I put this video together to commemorate the Early Martyrs, especially those listed in the Roman Canon. Along with the pictures is a hymn to the Martyrs, Monteverdi’s setting of Deus Tuorum Militum. Here is the translation:
Deus tuorum militum O God, thou who art the portion
Sors et corona, praemium the crown and the reward of thy soldiers,
Laudes canentes Martyris absolve from the chains of sin, those
Absolve nexu criminis singing the praises of thy martyr.
Poenas cucurrit fortiter Bravely he/she ran the way of torture,
Et sustulit viriliter and suffered courageously,
Fundensque pro te sanguinem and shedding his/her blood for thee,
Aeterna dona possidet. (now) possesses eternal gifts.
Laus et perennis gloria Praise and continual glory be
Deo Patri et Filio to God the Father and Son,
Sancto simul Paraclito likewise the Holy Spirit
In sempiterna saecula. Amen unto eternal ages. Amen