The Courage of the Martyrs

Mar 6, 2024 | Blog Articles

Perhaps someone has wondered why in the liturgical calendar, on the day after Christmas, St. Stephen is celebrated, and perhaps thought it was a coincidence. However, it is not: it was a meditated choice of the Church of the first centuries, which chose to celebrate the companions of Jesus on the days close to his birth. And the day closest to December 25, that is, the 26th, was left for the first martyr of Christianity: the first person in history who was killed because he did not accept to deny the Gospel. The accusation for which he was condemned to death, between 33 and 36 AD, was that of blasphemy. For the same accusation of blasphemy, two thousand years later, several Christians are arrested in Pakistan. Or mercilessly murdered by terrorists in various parts of the world: on a beach in Libya, in a church in Egypt or Sri Lanka, in a village in Nigeria or in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their names remain anonymous, their stories unknown.

In the video in which he explains this month’s prayer intention, the Pope tells a very moving story: that of a woman whose throat was slit by terrorists because she refused to remove the crucifix from her neck. Francis was very impressed when he heard it in Greece, in the refugee camp of Lesbos: both for the story itself and for the spiritual legacy that this woman left to her Muslim husband. In fact, it was he himself who told the Pope about it, saying that he was marked for life by his wife’s witness of faith. As long as we have martyrs, that is, witnesses capable of risking their whole life for the Gospel, “it is the sign that we are on the right path.” Pope Francis says so, and then adds that “the courage of the martyrs is a blessing for everyone.” It is a courage that all Christians need: even if we are not asked for the supreme martyrdom, that of life, there is a Gospel to witness to in everyday decisions, often going against the tide, without fear of losing anything. For, as Jesus tells his disciples, “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:27).

Andrea Sarubbi

Coordinator of The Pope’s Video

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