You've perhaps heard good and devout Catholics, fervent ones, say that they aspired to be martyrs. Saints often desired this: The sacrifice of self. Immolation. And, strange as it seems, in a good cause -- sent by God (not generated by the person) -- martyrdom is a powerful gift.
Grace comes from it -- to the martyr in eternity, firstly, but also through the martyr, to others.
Many sainthoods have been and still are based on this.
Look at the poor priest who was slain by ISIS in France.
And in that domain, we also think of a martyr who, though major, is relatively unknown. That would be Blessed Jose Ramon Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez of Mexico City, better known as "Padre Pro," whose church, with a small but potent museum, we visited recently. You could feel (and perhaps photograph) the Grace at the altar (above).
Here was a man, a Jesuit, who was executed when Masonic secularists took control of Mexico's government during the revolution and arrested him on trumped-up charges. His arms spread out, as if on the Cross, Rosary in one hand, Crucifix in the other, Padre Pro blessed those who prepared to kill him and declining a blindfold was shot in 1927. "May God have mercy on you! May God bless you! Lord, Thou knowest that I am innocent! With all my heart I forgive my enemies!" He also shouted the defiant cry of the Cristeros, "Viva Cristo Rey!" ("Long live Christ the King!"). When the initial shots of the firing squad failed to end his life, a soldier shot him at point-blank range.
Said John Paul II at his beatification: "Neither suffering nor serious illness, neither the exhausting ministerial activity, frequently carried out in difficult and dangerous circumstances, could stifle the radiating and contagious joy which he brought to his life for Christ and which nothing could take away. Indeed, the deepest root of self-sacrificing surrender for the lowly was his passionate love for Jesus Christ and his ardent desire to be conformed to Him, even unto death."
A ticket to Heaven. Despite governmental threats, forty thousand attended his funeral.
And that's what life is all about, is it not?
Direct entry, upon passing, into the Arms of God. No aim is higher. We have that opportunity. While we walk this earth, we all are martyrs. We all suffer "little martyrdoms." They come to us every day in every way in the normal course of life and by the end of life may add up to something as substantial as the more obvious, beatified martyrdoms.
Don't sell yourself short.
There are little martyrdoms in how we handle other people. There are little martyrdoms in avoiding temptations. There are martyrdoms in turning the other cheek. There are little martyrdoms of patience. There are martyrdoms of longanimity. Endurance is a martyrdom. Not getting angry is a martyrdom (when someone does something rude). There are little martyrdoms of pain. A cold is a little martyrdom, if there is no complaint (a key: no complaining, which diminishes grace).
It doesn't have to be a shot from a rifle.
It can be a chore. It can be arthritis. It can be emotional. It can be traffic. It can be withstanding persecutions within a family. It can be spiritual warfare. It can be financial struggle. It can be insult. It can be misunderstanding. It can be the jealousy of others. It can be the loss of loved ones -- for sure. It can be loneliness. It can be unfairness. It can be overcoming gluttony, or other addictions. It can be simple labor: what we are tasked with doing every day, in a humble way. Humility itself, in this proud world, is a martyrdom.
A martyrdom is often unselfishness and simplicity. It can be the martyrdom of fasting.
There is bigness in smallness.
Little martyrdoms add up to large ones.
Only God knows the full extent of anyone's martyrdoms.
What are yours?
Meditate on it.
How are you handling them?
They are offered every day (in many ways). "Take up your cross every day and follow Me" (Matthew 16:24).
So don't sell yourself short. They add up. You too are "blessed." You can be sanctified. What is good is difficult and what is difficult is good, when handled the right way -- when handled as Jesus handled it. Cleaning the house is a martyrdom!
Little sacrifices. Little martyrdoms.
Just meet them the way Padre Pro met his -- with patience, with longsuffering, arms outstretched, eyes raised to Heaven.