Monday, March 6, 2017

Martyrs and Spirituality

From The Catholic Thing, Fr. Bevil Bramwell, OMI, writes about the martyrs and compares and contrasts them to celebrities:

Martyrs represent more than just names or dates on a calendar. As Saint John Paul II explained – take note – in his encyclical On Faith & Reason, not in a merely devotional context:
The martyrs know that they have found the truth about life in the encounter with Jesus Christ, and nothing and no-one could ever take this certainty from them. Neither suffering nor violent death could ever lead them to abandon the truth that they have discovered in the encounter with Christ. This is why to this day the witness of the martyrs continues to arouse such interest, to draw agreement, to win such a hearing and to invite emulation. This is why their word inspires such confidence: from the moment they speak to us of what we perceive deep down as the truth we have sought for so long, the martyrs provide evidence of a love that has no need of lengthy arguments in order to convince. The martyrs stir in us a profound trust because they give voice to what we already feel and they declare what we would like to have the strength to express.
They are the standard for understanding people – all people – who arise in human history, not just on a gut level, but according to the truth that they express, the truth of Jesus Christ, to which we have committed ourselves by baptism.

Now, we all hunger to see genuine humanity played out in front of us. We see it in the lives of the martyrs. They live out something of the deepest truth of Jesus Christ. So, far from being abstractly pious or merely edifying examples, the martyrs really relate to real people in real time.

Please read the rest there

I did not post any list of best books read in 2016 earlier this year--it's March already!--but if I had done so, Father Servais Pinckaers' book, The Spirituality of Martyrdom . . .  To the Limits of Love would have topped the list. As I said when I read it:

Pinckaers demonstrates that martyrdom is not merely an event: there's a spirituality that is essential to the Christian life, imitating Jesus in His Passion and Death completely. Even if we are not called to martyrdom--that's a line we often hear in modern Western culture--we are called to that imitation of and identification with Christ.

He begins his discussion with the Beatitudes from the Gospels according to St. Matthew and St. Luke. The eighth Beatitude from Matthew: "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" and the fourth Beatitude from Luke: "Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake." Then Pinckaers demonstrates how the early Church and subsequent theologians from St. Augustine to St. Thomas Aquinas have applied those Beatitudes to martyrdom. Soul-stirring and amazing!

I'd recommend it for Lenten reading and I might dip back into myself. It is a marvelous and important book!

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