Are You Willing To Die?
Image of Catholic priest being shot during the Cristeros War.
Saint Joan of Arc was eighteen years old when she led the French army to victory, and later, she was burned alive at the stake, martyred for her faith. Saint Lucy refused to break her vow of chastity and defied the pagan noble, who even attempted to send her to a brothel, in order that she may lose her virginity, but God protected her and she remained strong. At only the age of twenty-one she was tortured, her eyes were gouged out, and she was eventually killed for her faith. Saint Dominic Savio did not die a bloody martyr's death, but it is said because of the holy and noble life he lived, he did not once fall into mortal sin. The list of selfless young saints goes on, and their sacrifice and profound faith should strike us. There was once a time when even the young had the courage to stand up for what was right, even if it meant their own death. Are we willing to die? Are we willing to be martyrs?
Martyrdom is a calling, and God calls every Catholic to martyrdom. We have this idea that martyrdom only entails being burned alive, having our fingers cut off, being beheaded, or undergoing some form of extreme torture, when in fact martyrdom is willingly undergoing suffering with the supernatural in mind as our end. Many of the saints were ordinary men, women, and children like us, and they only became saints because they did the extraordinary. For some, that meant the call to a bloody martyrdom. For others, it was doing their daily duty to the best of their ability, which in itself is a kind of martyrdom. To be ordinary is to live each day trying to please ourselves. However, it takes an extraordinary man, woman, or child to please God. That is what made saints extraordinary. If we wish to be saints, if we wish to be Catholic martyrs, we must in a sense die to the world and put away those things that harm our soul, living to please Christ alone.
Ask a Catholic if they would die for Christ, and their answer would surely be yes. But what Catholic would honestly say they would not? To say no would seem a little too close to apostasy, and our pride would not allow us to do so.
Would we die for Christ? Are we willing to be martyrs?
How can we say that we would die for Christ if we cannot get out of bed on time? We spend most of our days watching tv, scrolling through social media, making TikToks, and fooling around with friends. When was the last time we had a serious conversation, prayed our rosary, went to Mass other than on Sunday, made a good confession, read a spiritual book for more than ten minutes, picked up the Bible, thanked God, or made a devout communion? The fact is, we cannot stand up to the world because we do not even have the strength to stand up against ourselves. We like the idea of martyrdom, but cannot stomach the sacrifice and pain it would take to be an actual martyr.
To be Catholic and live a life of martyrdom is to do away with all that is not of God, and replace it with those things that will bring us closer to Him. The saints' lives were focused on God and Heaven was their end. Every word, thought, and action was made with the intention of becoming closer to Him. We, on the other hand, have made ourselves the focus of our life. We try to maximize pleasure, and minimize pain. Essentially we live a hedonistic life, but go to Church on Sundays. We think of ourselves as good Catholics because we go to mass on Sunday, but it is not only about what we do on Sundays that matter. What are we doing on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday? It is not only Sunday that must be made holy, but every day.
So what is the solution? How can we be martyrs?
The answer is simple, but implementing the solution into our daily lives is much more difficult. If we wish to be martyrs we must do away with everything that is not of God. Of course, it would be impossible to be rid of all worldly things instantly. The road to total detachment takes time, effort, and holiness, and we do this by building a habit of sanctifying each moment of our lives. Even the smallest of actions like eating, drinking, or exercising can be offered up to God.
A great example of this is Our Lady. Each moment of her life was consecrated to God. She replaced her will with God's will. We may find this shocking because Our Lady suffered greatly, seeing her Son and God undergo excruciating pain, but there was not a moment in her life when she was not comforted. There is a level of spirituality where one is able to find comfort in their suffering; that comfort comes from knowing that in their suffering they are doing the will of God, and therefore pleasing Him. Our Lady did not suffer a bloody martyrdom, but she was indeed a martyr. To die to self is a slow and painful martyrdom, and we must follow that example of Our Lady and do the same.
We may not be called to a bloody martyrdom, but we are indeed called to be martyrs. The Catholic Church is in need of strong men, women, and children, who would not only say that they would die for Christ, but who live this spirit of martyrdom each day of their lives by dying to themselves. This martyrdom starts with humility. Take time to reflect on what you have done in the past, what you are doing in the present moment, and what you will do to become closer to God. Without humility, which is the first step toward God, we cannot be martyrs, and we cannot get to Heaven.
Will you die for Christ? Are you willing to be a martyr?