Wednesday, August 12, 2009


The little girl in Flannery O’Conner’s short story, “A Temple of the Holy Ghost” thought that “she could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick. She could stand and be shot but not be burned in oil.”

I suppose I think of martyrdom much the same way. It seems like an easy in (said with only mild seriousness.) Much harder I believe is living day in and day out the life of a good man or woman. Not culminated in one brilliant, shining moment of sacrifice and love, but the day in and day out living through life’s joys, difficulties, temptations, graces, grievances, injustices, illnesses, gains, losses, insights, and love. How much more challenging! How many more graces available! How many more chances to get it right or at least better!

Along with this Catholics are amoung the few who believe in redemptive suffering. That pain in this life can have great spiritual and sometimes more earthly benefits. God is so great that anything offered to Him He can change into something for the good. Julian of Norwich even points out that the honest sinner can even offer His failings to God through prayer and the sacrament of confession and He can use that sin (not committed for the this purpose) to draw him closer to Himself.

When we suffer in this life never fail to offer that suffering to God. In the midst of suffering our prayer becomes greater when we unite ourselves with the sufferings of Christ. In suffering we continue to reach out in love through prayer thus purifying our praise and adoration.

In a minor way about two weeks ago I had my wisdom teeth out. There was a certain amount of discomfort involved - nothing of great note. But the discomfort I offered to God on behalf of the community that I was sent to minister to and for my loved ones and sometimes for those with whom I have difficulty dealing.

When you are passing through difficulty and it need not be physical, offer prayer through the mist of our pain. Unite yourself with the sufferings of Christ. Remember those who need prayer. Use your pain and do not be merely used by it.


Wayne said...

So, what are your thoughts on those who, may have lived their lives for a good cause, but whose teachings were not necessarily in line with those of the Catholic Church, and who were murdered for that cause. Would they be considered martyrs by the Catholic Church?

Second question for clarification, are martyrs "automatically in" or do they, too, need to go through the process of canonization as in the case of any other saint. I'm assuming it is the latter, but just curious.

Anonymous said...

Fr. thanks for that. I frequently thank God for the good things that happen but offering up failings etc could, I suspect, feel really beneficial.

Fr. V said...

Wayne -

Anybody can be a martyr for anything but I suppose you mean a martyr in the sainthood Church type thing. That is a bit different. To be a recognized saint (there are saints that are not recognized of course) their cause would have to be for truth - and in this case truth as recognized by the Church. Does that make sense?

As to automatically in - that is a question once again of if they are officially recognized and promoted by the Church - in that case some investigation would have to be done in order to not find the CHurch in the embarrasing position of having to recant later on.

Hope that helps.

Thanks Anon.