Monday, April 29, 2013

Meditating on the Martyrs

Once a month a group of Christians goes on pilgrimage to a martyr's shrine, after having selected a topic which the shrine will help to elucidate. The columnist writing on spirituality for the Catholic Times, a member of the group, mentions that he contacted a professor of history familiar with the lives of the martyrs to gather background on the martyrs which would help him participate more fully in the discussion they were going to have at the shrine.

During the conversation with the professor, he asked--what he later described as a foolish question--if she found the study of the martyrs interesting. She said that translating the letters of the foreign missioners, during and after the persecution, brought tears to her eyes. Reading about the cruel persecution of those days and the deaths of the missioners, however, did bring solace and peace into her daily life.  The exchange of letters among the missioners, accomplished under the most trying circumstances imaginable, showed their love for God and for the people which is impossible to express with words. To answer his question more directly, she said that the study of the martyrs was like being near a warm stove during a cold winter's night; it inspired her to love more. Rather than teaching just the history of the martyrs, she explained that focusing on the details of their lives helps us to live with more enthusiasm and joy. She told him it was no exaggeration to say that she has fallen in love with the martyrs.

On the way home on the bus, the columnist found himself musing that now, close to 200 years since the persecution, would be a good time to return to God. The day at the shrine, he said, had been sunny, with a gentle breeze, just like the days, according to historical records, during which the martyrs met their death.

That breeze entered his own being, the columnist said, and seemed to invite him to pattern his life after the lives of the martyrs. The professor mentioned her unrequited but steadfast love for the martyrs. Like the professor's love he hopes that his feeling is not some passing sentiment but a permanent attitude that will be with him as he relates with everyone he meets, and that it will last until he is called by God.