Hattip to Southern Appeal. The executions of Saint John Cardinal Fisher and Saint Thomas More as portrayed in The Tudors. It was largely because of the courage that these men showed, and the courage hundreds of other men and women demonstrated who were martyred under the Crowned Monster Henry VIII, his son, and Bloody Elizabeth, that a remnant of the Catholic faith survived for centuries in England, Wales and Scotland, in the face of bitter persecution, until Catholic Emancipation in 1829.
Martyrdom has always been a great factor in spreading, and preserving, the Faith. People, unless granted a special vision, cannot see God in this life, but they can see martyrs, men and women like them, who are willing to have taken away from them the precious gift of life in order to hold fast to God and His Truth. It is too easy for religion to simply fade into the background of life for most people, even those who practice their faith. Martyrs remind us that the worship of God is the most important thing, even more important than our lives.
When we think of the Age of Martyrs, I suspect most of us call to mind the early Christians and their persecution by the Romans. Actually, the greatest Age of Martyrs in the history of the Church was probably in the last century when at least one million Catholics were martyred for the Faith. I pray that in this century such persecutions of Catholics will not occur. I also pray that if they do, that Catholics will once again be willing to die for the God who died for them.