Embracing Martyrdom

Author’s Bio: Brooke Miller loves words. Right now, she is pondering this quote, “The fatherly and holy conversation between God and man … The child is invited to it; the mystic finds full outlet in it” (Pope Paul VI). She enjoys Saturday morning workouts with her husband Dane, playing football with her young boys, and coffee shop conversations with friends. She can often be found with a book in hand and a song on her heart. Through the intercession of the Holy Virgin Mary, she prays God’s greatest blessings on you!

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“Look With Your Heart” Copyright Christine Hilbert: http://www.christinehilbert.com

Since I was a young girl, I have been deeply attracted to martyrdom. Don’t get me wrong, I am not one to think that martyrdom is easy, nor do I think it is possible with our human nature alone. But it is attractive. As I read the account of Saint Stephen’s death, I shake with joy (Acts 6-7)! This man was a deacon, appointed to prayer and work in service of the Word. And this he did! He was “full of grace and power” and did “great wonders” among the people. This got everyone’s attention, friends and enemies alike. In their anger, Stephen’s enemies brought him before the high priest—the man who had the power to have him killed. What did Stephen do? Did he cower in fear? Did he say, “Just kidding, this whole ‘Jesus thing’ I was making it up to attract attention; I’m not really His disciple.” NO! In no small detail, Stephen narrates the fulfillment of their religion! They were blind to the Truth they should have been intimately familiar with, so Stephen reveals it to them. No wonder they were angry! As I read Stephen’s account of salvation history my excitement rises. With each name in the story—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David—my heart beats faster. In each moment of history, we come closer to the center of it, JESUS CHRIST! Their anger is turned to hatred. They grind their teeth and stone this holy man. Does he reply in anger? No, united to Christ, gazing at Him, Stephen lives the fullness of the beatitudes with his last breath and prays for his enemies’ forgiveness. That is supernaturally heroic.

The Martyrdom of the Seven Brothers

The next story that absolutely captivates me is the Martyrdom of the Seven Brothers (2 Maccabees 7). This story is not for the fainthearted. It is graphic. The secular authorities try with all their might to get this Jewish family to eat pork. If you read the story, you may think, “Why don’t they just eat the meat?!” However, to the Jews this was not something optional.   To eat pork was to deny God. These boys wouldn’t; their mama had raised them better than that! Suffice to say, the mother of these seven boys encourages each of them to endure horrific persecution and death. The Trinity has not been yet manifest, but she is clearly filled with God. I love the line, “With a woman’s reasoning and a man’s courage….” There is something about the strength of a woman here. These boys could face death for their faith because of their mother’s words. Their mother’s face. I’m convinced that even though she watched all seven of her boys die that day she never flinched. Why? She knew that her children were more God’s than hers. She was more God’s than theirs. He was the only One who could bring life from such horrific death, and she lived in union with Him to the depth of her being until her very last breath. That is beautiful!

The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity

It is no surprise then, when I read the Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity, I fell head over heels in love. Their feast day is March seventh, and I assure you, the heavens will tremble! I hope through our participation in prayer, and perhaps if our schedules allow for us to participate in a daily Mass in their honor, earth will too—especially in Des Monies, IA! Perpetua was a twenty-two year old noblewoman married to a loving husband with a brand new baby. She had EVERYTHING according to earthy standards. Still, when her perpetrators asked her to make sacrifice against God, she gave up all earthly attachments and responded with her God-given identity, “I am a Christian.” With her fellow martyrs, she walked into the beasts. The account reads, “Perpetua followed behind, glorious in presence, a true spouse of Christ and darling of God…” In intimate and complete union with Christ, this was the day of her VICTORY! In Christ, she fearlessly beat death! Ladies, this is our heritage. The victory is ours too! My pen is silenced!

How could she do that? By embracing martyrdom, did she reject her earthly loves—her father, husband, and child? I propose maybe not; perhaps she embraced them more fully. She knew God’s love for her so deeply that she was able to embrace the paradoxical, beautiful abyss of the Cross. She lived and died in union with her One True Love, Who gave fuel to all her relationships and meaning to all her activities.

I pray that no matter what you DO for God this Lent, you will take the time to BE His. Slow down. Sit with Scripture beneath His Gaze. Let Him shower you with graces—His words, attention, and time. They are infinitely yours. More than all else, HE DESIRES YOU! None of these martyrs earned God’s love by their own work. They received His love and participated in His unique mission for them. As we follow these Saintly examples, let us joyfully, fearlessly do the same.

Copyright 2018 Brooke Miller