The Price of Our Faith: Do You Know How the Apostles Were Martyred?

It is too easy to take our faith for granted. We can complain at the slightest requirement. Perhaps the Mass is “too long.” Perhaps the air conditioning or PA system is less than ideal. Perhaps the Church’s moral teaching seems too demanding or “out of touch” with modern thinking. Perhaps some  aspect of the Liturgy seems “boring.” And so forth.

But have you recalled that martyrs died so you could have this faith? Every one of the Apostles except St. John the Evangelist died a martyr’s death for our capacity to know that Jesus is Lord and that he died and rose for us.

  1. Andrew was crucified on an X shaped cross after being scourged. He preached to his tormentors to his last breath.
  2. Bartholomew had his skin flayed off
  3. James the Great (Son of Zebedee) was beheaded
  4. James the Younger was cast off the Southeast pinnacle of the Temple. When the 100 foot drop did not fully kill him he was beat to death with clubs.
  5. John the Evangelist was thrown into a vat of boiling oil and when he miraculously survived he was sent to prison on the Isle where Patmos where he died years later.
  6. Jude was shot through with arrows
  7. Simon was Crucified
  8. Matthew was killed with a sword
  9. Phillip was beheaded
  10. Peter was crucified upside down.
  11. Thomas was stabbed to death with a spear
  12. St. Matthias was stoned then beheaded.
  13. Mark was dragged to death by horses.
  14. Paul was beheaded
  15. Luke was Hanged to death

What will you suffer for handing on the faith? The martyrs went to death to proclaim Christ but some us cannot bear if some one merely raises an eyebrow at us or scoffs. Merely being less popular or excluded from  the world’s admiration is too high a price for many. The next time you recite the Creed at Mass remember those words are written with blood. The next time you kids protest going to Church or your teenager scorns the faith you insist they practice, remember that others have faced far more formidable does than an unhappy child. The next time you are challenged for your faith and merely have to  risk ridicule, remember others suffered (and still suffer) prison. Many were (and still are) killed for it.

Remember the Martyrs and stay faithful, dedicated and courageous. Stand firm in the Faith and never give up.

28 Replies to “The Price of Our Faith: Do You Know How the Apostles Were Martyred?”

  1. Msgr. Pope:
    Thanks for the timely reminder The revison of the sanctoral cycle in 1970 eliminated many of the martyrs feasts from the calendar perhaps it is time to add them again.

    1. The bishops meeting at Vatican II concluded that the calendar of the universal Church contained too many feasts of saints who were of only local interest, and they decreed that the calendar be simplified: only those saints of universal interest would remain on the calendar of the universal Church, while saints of local interest could continue to be celebrated locally (Constitution on the Liturgy, article 111). In the course of the Middle Ages, the calendar of the diocese of Rome had been made into the universal calendar, and consequently the universal calendar celebrated obscure Roman martyrs such as Abdon and Sennen (July 30) and Chrysanthus and Daria (Oct. 25). Most of these were dropped from the universal calendar in 1970 in accordance with the Council’s mandate.

      On the other hand, more important martyrs were added to the calendar: for instance, St. Paul Miki and the Japanese martyrs of 1597 (Feb. 6), St. Charles Lwanga and the Ugandan martyrs of 1886 (June 3), St. Andrew Kim and the Korean martyrs of 1839, 1846 and 1866 (Sept. 20), and St. Andrew Dung-Lac and the Vietnamese martyrs of 1820-1840 (Nov. 24). I’ll take them over Abdon and Sennen any day.

  2. I will save this in my wallet. It makes clearer the relative values of Monday through Saturday. God bless us all.

  3. Nice article Msgr. Pope. Maybe I could suggest adding St. Stephen, and St. Barnabas to the list of original martyrs. I believe Stephen was the very first martyr after Christ, our Lord. Pope Benedict’s book on The Apostles is good reading for more information on the Apostles lives and deaths. St. Andrew asked to be nailed to a different shaped cross, so the diagonal or X-shaped cross was the instrument of his death. I love this beautiful prayer associated with the passion of Andrew (p. 63 of The Apostles) which I will share with you: “Hail, O Cross, inaugurated by the Body of Christ and adorned with his limbs as though they were precious pearls. Before the Lord mounted you, you inspired an earthly fear. Now instead, endowed with heavenly love, you are accepted as a gift. Believers know of the great joy that you possess, and of the multitude of gifts you have prepared. I come to you, therefore, confident and joyful, so that you too may receive me exultant as a disciple of the One who was hung upon you….O blessed Cross, clothed in the majesty and beauty of the Lord’s limbs!…Take me, carry me far from men, and restore me to my Teacher, so that though you, the one who redeemed me by you, may receive me. Hail, O Cross; yes hail indeed.”

  4. I like the article, but why is the apostle Simon not on the list?

  5. Thank you for this reminder to have an attitude of gratitude for our faith. We need the challenge to offer up the little inconveniences of the daily rather than joining in yet another “whine festival.”

  6. This is a tough sell now days with all the material comforts and materialism commercialized through the multiple maze of subliminal mind seducing media gadgets and outlets. This country has become far too much generations of comfort and easy living. It is in mankinds suffering that the Spirit reveals Itself and it will be in much suffering that these generations may find that Spirit which is the comfort thereof. May God have mercy on such souls.

  7. Except in a few cases, we have no sound historical evidence concerning the Apostles after the events mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles: we don’t know what each one of them did, where he went and how he died. The stories about their martyr’s death mentioned above are fables for the most part. And the fables that have been transmitted over the centuries don’t even agree. The Martyrology that used to be read at the Office of Matins says that Philip died crucified while above we are told that he was beheaded; the Martyrology says that Thomas died from being shot with arrows while above we are told he was stabbed to death with a spear. The Church no longer accepts these stories as credible, and they are no longer read at the Liturgy of Hours. It does no one any good to be encouraged to believe them when the Church herself rejects them. This is not a matter of Tradition, but of the traditions of men.

    1. It’s been constant tradition that all were martyred except John. The details are details.

      More importantly, this is a worry over nothing. “It does no one any good”? Really? It’s certainly been instructive as to the value to be placed on faith for most commenting here, and certainly for many over the centuries. I don’t need to be absolutely certain that St. Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross in order to learn from his martyrdom–from his placing the faith over himself, which is the point–nor to recognize the St. Andrew’s Cross and have him brought to mind.

      Be wary of transferring the rigors we apply to dogma to devotion. It doesn’t have to be big-T tradition to learn from, and it *wouldn’t* be big-T tradition even if we were sure of it–big-T tradition has to do with dogma, and not every detail of the lives of the saints.

  8. Prayer for me Msgr Pope. I’m standing in the gap for so many right now, I can’t keep count. Talk about doing penance for others. That’s me. I feel like Martyr.

  9. St. John the Evangelist was also poisoned with wine in which he survived. Hence the tradition of blessing a bottle of wine on his feast day. I think this and the boiling oil is why he is listed among the martyrs though he died of old age.

    1. It seems that I am not as well versed as others here. Perhaps someone could cite a source for John dying in exile? I recall that the Early Church suffered from short, bloody crackdowns and purges followed by years of tension. If his exile was during the reign of Domitian, things would have settled down by his death in 96.

      I was also under the impression that the Gospel and the later Epistles of John were written shortly after 100 A.D.,, when John was nearing the end of his earthly life.

      1. Sources are murky in these matters. What is cite here is tradition and to some extent legend. You may be right, I surely would not die on the hill of insisting that these descriptions of their death is 100% correct. The main fact of note is that all but John died martyrs deaths.

      2. From ‘The History of the Church’, Eusebius (d. circa 341AD), Book III, C.31 vs 2 & 3:

        2. The time of John’s death has also been given in a general way, but his burial place is indicated by an epistle of Polycrates (who was bishop of the parish of Ephesus), addressed to Victor, bishop of Rome. In this epistle he mentions him together with the apostle Philip and his daughters in the following words:

        3. “For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the last day, at the coming of the Lord, when he shall come with glory from heaven and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who sleeps in Hierapolis, and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and moreover John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and being a priest wore the sacerdotal plate. He also sleeps at Ephesus.”

  10. Although not an Apostle, I love reading the account of St. Polycarp’s martyrdom:

    “Then, the proconsul urging him, and saying, ‘Swear, and I will set you at liberty, reproach Christ’; Polycarp declared, ‘Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?'”

  11. What about the Proto-Martyr, St. Thekla? Who traveled and worked with Paul and Barnabus. They tried to kill her many ways; but failed. I believe that she is still recognized by the Orthodox Church?

    1. I am unfamiliar with this tradition, thought the list focuses mainly on the Apostles. Hence as others ahve noted St Stephen was not included in the list either.

      1. , , , as a young man and Alter Boy I remember how our priests (Redemptorist) would talk to us about the days mass as we helped them vest. It was as the church started going away from it’s traditions that I (and many friends) began to fall away as well. We need to restore many of our old ways, the ways that made us stand out.
        , , , it is my understanding that St. Thelka was the First Female Martyr. She was called “Equal to the Apostles”. She was associated with Paul and Barnabus in their early work thoughout Turkey. My wife, a convert, is preparing to be confirmed in two weeks and is choosing her as her Confirmation Saint. Even St. Thelka’s own parents had local government officials attempt to put her to Death – unsuccessfully. Over time she was burned at the stake, fed to lions all also unsuccessfully. She lived out her life in a cave that had been home to Paul. Eventually she was swallowed up by mountains surrounding her in a gorge to save her from her tormentors.

        St. Thekla, Protomartyr and Equal to the Apostles

        Commemorated on September 24
        Thekla was born in Iconium (modern Konya, Turkey) to wealthy parents. After having heard St. Paul speak when she was eighteen years of age, she decided she must follow Christ and abandon her plans to marry. Her mother and her fiancé were opposed to this decision, and their accusations to the governor landed St. Paul in prison. St. Thekla slipped away from her house to visit St. Paul, having bribed the guards with her gold jewelry to gain entrance.
        At his trial, St. Paul was banished from the city, and Thekla refused to change her mind against the threats from her mother and the governor. She was firm in her conviction to devote herself to Jesus Christ the Bridegroom. Her mother, enraged, persuaded the judge to sentence Thekla to burn to death. Emboldened by her love for Christ, she made the sign of the Cross over the flames and was surrounded by a light, untouched by the flames. Rain, and hail extinguished the fire, and, with thunder, helped to drive away those who wished to put her to death.
        She sought out St. Paul and his companions, including St. Barnabas, who were hiding in a cave near the city, and proceeded to spread the Gospel of Christ with them in Antioch. Throughout her life, she performed many miraculous feats and suffered many tortures to give glory to God. Having retired to a desolate region of Isaurian Seleucia with the blessing of St. Paul, Thekla continued to preach God’s word.
        When St. Thekla had reached the age of 90, pagans appeared with the purpose of killing her. St. Thekla called on Christ, and a large rock split open, covering her. Thereafter, she offered up her soul to the Lord.

        Troparion (Tone 4) –

        You were enlightened by the words of Paul, O Bride of God, Thekla,
        And your faith was confirmed by Peter, O Chosen One of God.
        You became the first sufferer and martyr among women,
        By entering into the flames as into a place of gladness.
        For when you accepted the Cross of Christ,
        The demonic powers were frightened away.
        O all-praised One, intercede before Christ God that our souls may be saved.

        Kontakion (Tone 8) –

        O glorious Thekla, virginity was your splendor,
        The crown of martyrdom your adornment and the faith you trust!
        You turned a burning fire into refreshing dew,
        And with your prayers appeased pagan fury, O First Woman Martyr!

  12. With the exception of the fourth Pope St. Clement I (d. 89AD), the first 32 Popes up to and including the African Pope St. Miltiades (d. 314AD) are all martyrs (A History of the Popes, Fernand Hayward, Paris 1929).

    There isn’t another martyr Pope for 212 year until, curiously, one takes the name of the only Apostle not to be martyred, St. Pope John I (d. 526AD).

  13. Father in citing Eusebius in reply to Patrick above, I came across an account of St. Clement who tells us one story of what St John did after he left Patmos and went to Ephesus. Please, please suffer me to reprint it for all:

    [The History of the Church, Eusebius, Bk III, C.23, vs 6-19]
    6. Listen to a tale, which is not a mere tale, but a narrative concerning John the apostle, which has been handed down and treasured up in memory. For when, after the tyrant’s death, he returned from the isle of Patmos to Ephesus, he went away upon their invitation to the neighboring territories of the Gentiles, to appoint bishops in some places, in other places to set in order whole churches, elsewhere to choose to the ministry some one of those that were pointed out by the Spirit.

    7. When he had come to one of the cities not far away (the name of which is given by some ), and had consoled the brethren in other matters, he finally turned to the bishop that had been appointed, and seeing a youth of powerful physique, of pleasing appearance, and of ardent temperament, he said, ‘This one I commit to you in all earnestness in the presence of the Church and with Christ as witness.’ And when the bishop had accepted the charge and had promised all, he repeated the same injunction with an appeal to the same witnesses, and then departed for Ephesus.

    8. But the presbyter taking home the youth committed to him, reared, kept, cherished, and finally baptized him. After this he relaxed his stricter care and watchfulness, with the idea that in putting upon him the seal of the Lord he had given him a perfect protection.

    9. But some youths of his own age, idle and dissolute, and accustomed to evil practices, corrupted him when he was thus prematurely freed from restraint. At first they enticed him by costly entertainments; then, when they went forth at night for robbery, they took him with them, and finally they demanded that he should unite with them in some greater crime.

    10. He gradually became accustomed to such practices, and on account of the positiveness of his character, leaving the right path, and taking the bit in his teeth like a hard-mouthed and powerful horse, he rushed the more violently down into the depths.

    11. And finally despairing of salvation in God, he no longer meditated what was insignificant, but having committed some great crime, since he was now lost once for all, he expected to suffer a like fate with the rest. Taking them, therefore, and forming a band of robbers, he became a bold bandit-chief, the most violent, most bloody, most cruel of them all.

    12. Time passed, and some necessity having arisen, they sent for John. But he, when he had set in order the other matters on account of which he had come, said, ‘Come, O bishop, restore us the deposit which both I and Christ committed to you, the church, over which you preside, being witness.’

    13. But the bishop was at first confounded, thinking that he was falsely charged in regard to money which he had not received, and he could neither believe the accusation respecting what he had not, nor could he disbelieve John. But when he said, ‘I demand the young man and the soul of the brother,’ the old man, groaning deeply and at the same time bursting into tears, said, ‘He is dead.’ ‘How and what kind of death?’ ‘He is dead to God,’ he said; ‘for he turned wicked and abandoned, and at last a robber. And now, instead of the church, he haunts the mountain with a band like himself.’

    14. But the Apostle rent his clothes, and beating his head with great lamentation, he said, ‘A fine guard I left for a brother’s soul! But let a horse be brought me, and let some one show me the way.’ He rode away from the church just as he was, and coming to the place, he was taken prisoner by the robbers’ outpost.

    15. He, however, neither fled nor made entreaty, but cried out, ‘For this did I come; lead me to your captain.’

    16. The latter, meanwhile, was waiting, armed as he was. But when he recognized John approaching, he turned in shame to flee.

    17. But John, forgetting his age, pursued him with all his might, crying out, ‘Why, my son, do you flee from me, your own father, unarmed, aged? Pity me, my son; fear not; you have still hope of life. I will give account to Christ for you. If need be, I will willingly endure your death as the Lord suffered death for us. For you will I give up my life. Stand, believe; Christ has sent me.’

    18. And he, when he heard, first stopped and looked down; then he threw away his arms, and then trembled and wept bitterly. And when the old man approached, he embraced him, making confession with lamentations as he was able, baptizing himself a second time with tears, and concealing only his right hand.

    19. But John, pledging himself, and assuring him on oath that he would find forgiveness with the Saviour, besought him, fell upon his knees, kissed his right hand itself as if now purified by repentance, and led him back to the church. And making intercession for him with copious prayers, and struggling together with him in continual fastings, and subduing his mind by various utterances, he did not depart, as they say, until he had restored him to the church, furnishing a great example of true repentance and a great proof of regeneration, a trophy of a visible resurrection.

  14. John,the beloved disciple who was immersed in boiling oil, did not die later on Patmos! This teaching is contrary to the Gospel of St.John and indicates disbelief in the very words of Jesus,Himself!John is in the company of of Elijah ,Enoch (and St. Patrick of Ireland,who will return once again,in order to reconvert “The Irish People to Catholicism,”) now that Ireland is “a Christian- Pagan” Country, (as opposed to the Innocent-Pagans,of St.Paul’s time!)The people of Ireland will slowly become aware of the fact that ‘George Orwell’ would have ‘made’ a good Christian!

  15. , , , our disagreements and confussion(s) on these and many other things, certainly in at least a small way must be because of the way we have wandered from our traditions and culture as the one true Church. With fewer Catholic Schools, fewer Catholics who can afford to send their children to them, and deminishing numbers of religious teaching in those Catholic Schools remaining the problem I fear will only get worse over time. Add to this fewer vocations and the fear many religious have of spending very much time in close company of our Catholic youth (for fear of the preception of inpropiety in light of the never ending abuse scandles) this leaves us with taking the opportunity to not only use the mass as our primary form of worship; but to also use it more as a teaching opportunity as well, hence a return to a more traditional Mass, a Holier Mass – so what if it lasts a few minutes longer. I’m not saying that we need to go back to teaching everybody Latin (though personally I wouldn’t be against that either), but why have we been in such a hurry to be like EVERY OTHER christian church oout there. ALL other christian churches I’ve been in leave me feeling like I am in an “EMPTY” building even when they are full of people. One step towards furthering the Mass as a teaching tool would be to return to the Celebration of the Common of the Saints – after all, they are the ones who gave so much, (many giving ALL, as this article began with) devoting themselves to the growth of the church having kept it alive for us down through the ages. Add a minute to the mass, add an hour to the mass – it doesn’t really matter, the same people will be leaving early, as fast as they can anyway (remember – Judas was the FIRST to leave the Eucharistic Feast early). Even in my, our, small parish we have almost a 1 to 10 ratio of Eucharistic Ministers to Communicants so the Feast doesn’t take so long. We have to, we must, stop allowing the Eucharistic Feast of our Lord and Saviour from becoming “FAST FOOD” or Take Out, instead of remaining, returning, to the Blessing I, (though not a priest or religious), believe our Lord intended it to be. I don’t know what to tell the young men and women in our local Youth Group and Catechism classes any more. People pass before the Sanctuary, the tabernacle – don’t genuflect, cross themselves. People carry one in church before mass in ways that would have brought me a swift crack on my $#^ or some where. These are the examples the young men and women see. When I was in 4th., or 5th, grade I once ask Sister Mary Evelyn, “why do we have to go to mass every sunday”? Her reply was honest, simple and straight forward, I rremember it to this day. She didn’t have to think about her answer for a second. She simply said, “If you don’t go to mass on sunday – you will GO TO HELL”. Whether Mass was an hour or two hours even Six Hours – I was there, in my family death would have been the only way out of it anyhow, but when I was that young Sister Mary Elevyn’s answer was all of the reason I needed. Where are all of the Sister Mary Evelyn’s today.
    Sorry I got a bit carried away here; but I feel better – Thanks for listening ! ! !
    frank b.

  16. Thank you very much for this “reality check” posting. What struck me most was the reference to Saint Peter being crucified upside down. I’ve heard that, as an expression of humility, he asked for that so that his cross would be different from that of Christ. A few months ago I made a post that went much more public than I expected where I pointed out that groups who try to degrade the cross by turning it upside down end up honouring the cross of Saint Peter and the foundation (as stated by our Saviour) just as an X shaped cross represents the cross of Saint Andrew. I then went on to declare that no matter who does what (even God’s self declared enemies) it will fit into God’s infinite plan because He is perfect and; God is in charge. Period.
    The next night I went to work at a driving job and people in black cars who were wearing black suits regularly boxed me in so that I couldn’t move without coliding – then made a rude gesture involving the second finger before departing. After numerous such occurances I wondered if I was about to become a martyr and the anticipation of the thought overpowered any fears which tried to surface. Anyhow, my shift ended and no more ocurrances of the kind have ocurred.

  17. Rome has bowed the knee to Multi-Culturalism in Vatican 2 shamefully declaring Muslim and Christians worship the same God. The Quran refers to “Allah” as the “Hiyar al-Makareen” (Surah 3:54, Surah 8:30); look up the Arabic root letters Meem, Kalf, Rah in any Arabic dictionary, the Muslims do not translate this word correctly because they don’t want you to know the truth a proper English translation would render that as “All is the greatest of all deceivers”). This is a title equivalent to the “Father of Lies” (John 8:44) which is the devil. So Vaitcan 2 is guilty of Blasphemy equating God with Satan. It is time for all who love the true god to reject the blasphemy of Vatican 2. If the official position of the church equates Satan and God it is no longer a valid spiritual authority.

  18. Thank-you for this reminder of the faith of our first fathers in Faith in Jesus Christ. None of us knows by what means we are going to die, but we can do our part to be ready, as the Apostles were ready. Let us draw ever so close to Jesus, the Son of God. Let us receive all of God the Father’s fathering of us, every day. Let us move in every thought, word, and deed led by the Holy Spirit. Let us lead lives of Godly love, mercy, repentance and forgiveness. Let us be His, completely, trusting in God utterly, that we will be ready for His Will in all things in our lives, including death. Let us pray with St. Therese of Lisieux, that our lives be all humility and love that we go into Jesus’ arms at our deaths, whatever manner it comes to be. God’s dear strengthening and blessings to us all. Our lives here may well come to martyrdom due to our love of God and His commands.

Comments are closed.