Martyrdom

Good King Wenceslaus, Saint Stephen and Martyrdom

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But his deeds I think you know better than I could tell you; for, as is read in his Passion, no one doubts that, rising every night from his noble bed, with bare feet and only one chamberlain, he went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched.

              Cosmas of Prague, writing in 1119 about Saint King Wenceslaus

It has always seemed appropriate to me that the hymn Good King Wenceslaus, written in 1853, ties together Saint Stephen and Saint King Wenceslaus.  Saint Stephen is the original martyr of Christ, the first of that glorious line of Christians who have testified to their Faith in the God who died for them by surrendering their own lives for Him.  The Apostles had cut poor figures indeed on the night when Christ was betrayed, and Saint Stephen heroically and unforgettably demonstrated a better example, that would be followed by the Apostles themselves who later died as martyrs.  Bravery in the face of a martyr’s death takes a great deal of courage and faith, and we Catholics have ever honored our martyrs.

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Wenceslaus was born in 907 into a turbulent time and place.  The eldest son of Duke Vratislaus I of Bohemia, Bohemia was a country that was only beginning to convert to Christianity and was riven by conflicts between pagans and Christians, Germans and Czechs.  His mother Drahomira was the daughter of a pagan tribal leader and had only converted at the time of her marriage.  His father’s father was a Christian convert.   

At the death of his father, in battle, in 921, his paternal grandmother, Ludmilla, briefly held the regency.  His mother, Drahomira, who was a real piece of work, remained a pagan at heart, and had Ludmilla strangled. (Ludmilla, who had always been noted for her charity and her strong Christian faith, was canonized shortly after her death.)  Wenceslaus was now under the control of his murderous mother.  In 924 or 925 Wenceslaus began to rule and exiled his mother, understandably enough. 

During his reign he was noted for his charity and the strong impetus he gave to the evangelization of Bohemia.  He placed great reliance on Catholic missionary priests from Germany and this stirred resentment not only among his pagan subjects, but among some Czechs.  Taking advantage of this opposition, his brother Boleslav had Wenceslaus murdered as he was walking to mass in 935.  From the instant of his death, Wenceslaus was hailed as a martyr and swiftly became the patron saint of Bohemia.  Holy Roman Emperor Otto I, bestowed the title of king upon him, posthumously.  His brother, who would reign for almost four decades, was remorseful for what he had done, helped spread Christianity throughout his kingdom during his reign and venerated the man he had murdered as a saint.  His feast day on September 28 is celebrated as a national holiday in the Czech Republic. Continue reading

Scandalous Priest and Glorious Martyr

 (This post is from 2012.  I will be reposting it each July 9.)

 

When July 9 rolls around each year I am always reminded of my personal belief that before our end, perhaps especially for those of us sunk deep in sin, God gives us an opportunity to atone and turn aside from the downward path.

In Sixteenth Century Holland one of the longest wars in history began between Spain and Dutch rebels.  The war was waged on both sides with sickening atrocities.  Among the most violent were the Sea Beggars, Dutch patriots or pirates depending upon one’s point of view.  In June of 1572 the Sea Beggars took the Dutch town of Gorkum, and captured nine Franciscan priests, Nicholas Pieck, Hieronymus of Weert, Theodorus van der Eem, Nicasius Janssen, Willehad of Denmark, Godefried of Mervel, Antonius of Weert, Antonius of Hoornaer, and Franciscus de Roye, of Brussels.  Two Franciscan lay brothers were also captured:   Petrus of Assche and Cornelius of Wyk.

The Sea Beggars also captured the parish priest of Gorkum, Leonardus Vechel of Boi-le-Duc, and his assistant, Nicolaas Janssen.  Also imprisoned were Father Godefried van Duynsen and Joannes Lenartz of Oisterwijk, director of the convent of Augustinian nuns in Gorkum.  Later imprisoned was a Domincan priest Joannes van Hoornaer who bravely came to Gorkum to minister to his imprisoned colleagues and joined them in their captivity,  Jacobus Lacops of Oudenaar, a priest of Monster, Holland, Adrianus Janssen of Brielle, and last, and no doubt he would say least, the subject of this post, Andreas Wouters of Heynoord.

To be blunt, Andreas Wouters had been a lousy priest.  A drunkard and notorious womanizer,  he had fathered several children.  Suspended from his duties  he was living in disgrace when the Sea Beggars captured Gorkum.  This was his cue to run as far away as possible, based on his past history.  Instead, perhaps understanding that God was giving him maybe his last chance to redeem himself, he volunteered to join the captive priests and brothers. Continue reading

40 Martyrs of England and Wales and Cardinal Newman

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In so many ways we moderns are pygmies who stand on the shoulders of giants.  One group of giants for all English-speaking Catholics is the 40 martyrs of England and Wales who were canonized by Pope Paul VI on October 25, 1970.   They deserve to be remembered for their heroic deaths for Christ, and here are their names:

3 Carthusians:

  • Augustine Webster  d.1535
  • John Houghton  1486-1535
  • Robert Lawrence   d.1535

1 Augustinian friar:

  • John Stone  d. 1538

1 Brigittine:

  • Richard Reynolds  d. 1535

2 Franciscans:

  • John Jones   d. 1598 (Friar Observant – also known as John Buckley, John Griffith, or Godfrey Maurice)
  • John Wall   d. 1679 (Franciscan  – known at Douai and Rome as John Marsh, and by other aliases while on the mission in England)

3 Benedictines:

  • John Roberts   d. 1610
  • Ambrose Barlow  d. 1641
  • Alban Roe   d. 1642

10 Jesuits:

  • Alexander Briant   1556-81
  • Edmund Campion   1540-81
  • Robert Southwell   1561-95
  • Henry Walpole    1558-95
  • Nicholas Owen   1540-1606
  • Thomas Garnet    1575-1608
  • Edmund Arrowsmith  1585–1628
  • Henry Morse   1595-1644
  • Philip Evans   1645-79
  • David Lewis   1616-79

13 Priests of the Secular Clergy:

  • Cuthbert Mayne   1543–77
  • Ralph Sherwin    1558-81
  • Luke Kirby    1549-82
  • John Paine    d. 1582
  • John Almond    d. 1585
  • Polydore Plasden    d. 1591
  • Eustace White   1560-91
  • Edmund G(J)ennings   1567-91
  • John Boste    1544-94
  • John Southworth   1592-1654
  • John Kemble    1599-1679
  • John Lloyd     d. 1679
  • John Plessington   d. 1679

7 members of the laity

4 lay men:

  • Richard Gwyn  1537-84
  • Swithun Wells  1536-91
  • Philip Howard  1557-95
  • John Rigby  1570-1600   and

3 lay women, all of them mothers:

  • Margaret Clitherow  1586
  • Margaret Ward  1588
  • Anne Line  1601

They were torches that God sent to us to light our way in a frequently dark world.  They were representatives of hundreds of martyrs who died for the Faith in England and Wales in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.  With the Anglican Ordinariate established by Pope Benedict perhaps what Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman said in the Nineteenth Century will come true in the Twenty-First: Continue reading

Von Galen on Martyrdom

 

In my first post on Blessed Clemens August Graf von Galen, which may be read here, we examined the life of this remarkable German bishop who heroically stood up to the Third Reich.  Today we examine a sermon that he preached at the Cathedral of Saint Victor’s in Xanten, Germany on February 9, 1936, long before the three sermons that he preached in 1941 which made him famous around the globe.  Prior examinations of his 1941 sermons may be read  herehere and here.

I have just consecrated a new altar in your venerable and splendid cathedral,in a small space deep beneath the choir. But why? Your church is already so richly endowed with altars.

Beginning a sermon with a question is an approach that I wish more priests and bishops would use.  It engages the minds of the listeners from the outset.

You know the answer. The researches of the past few years have given proof that there below us lies a holy and particularly venerable place. Not only has the tradition been substantiated, according to which several previous churches were said to stand on the site of this present church, the oldest of them dating back to the time of the martyrs, to the fourth century A.D. We are also provided with fresh evidence that holy martyrs, who with their blood bore witness to Christ, were interred here, to await the resurrection. We believe in the resurrection of the body. Christ’s words have given us this promise: The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God. Whosoever does not
believe in the independent life of the individual soul, in its continued existence after the death of the body, in its reunification with the bodyand in life everlasting, this man is no true Christian. We hold these beliefs, because we believe in Christ, who is the truth. Because we hold fast to the beliefs of the Apostles and of our Christian forebears. The entire history of your city, speaking to you through the its towering churches, which are monuments in stone, proclaiming itself in the stones found lying beneath them, is evidence of our faith.

The martyrs have always been the human bedrock for Catholicism, from Saint Stephen, the first of the ever glorious martyrs, to our own day with the recent martyrdom of the brave Shahbaz Bhatti. Continue reading

Shahbaz Bhatti: Martyr For the Faith

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Hattip to Ed Morrissey at Hot Air.  Courage and Faith.  Abstractions to many, meaningless phrases to some, to others they are a way of life.  Shahbaz Bhatti was in the last category.  His faith was obvious to all.  As a Roman Catholic in overwhelmingly Islamic Pakistan he was tireless in spreading the Truth of Christ, and in standing up for the rights of Christians in Pakistan.  Appointed Minister of Defense of Minorities in the Pakistan government, he took on the position, knowing full well that he was signing his death warrant.  Death threats against him were constant.  As constant was his speaking out for the rights of Christians and other minorities in Pakistan.  After leaving his government office each day, he would head over to the offices of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, working late into the night to continue aiding Pakistan’s embattled minorities.

He never married, thinking it unfair to put a wife and children in the cross-hairs in which he lived.  On March 2, 2011 he was visiting his mother.  After he left his car was sprayed with bullets and he was killed.  The murderers of Al Qaeda and the Taliban have claimed responsibility. Continue reading

Russian Christian Soldier a Martyr of the Chechen War

This is an fascinating story: a Russian soldier who was killed on his 19th birthday in 1996 is being venerated in his home country as a martyr and an icon of him is giving off aromas of myrrh:

Today according to Inferfax of Russia in  Penza, an Icon of Evgeny Rodinov  gave off aromas of myrrh in the St. Lukas Church at the Penza regional oncologic dispenser. Russian soldier Rodionov was executed in Chechnya in 1996 after refusing to renounce Orthodox faith and take off his cross.

“Myrrh came out in two spots, in a palm of his hand and where one wears the cross,” the church Rector Alexy Burtsev told journalists.

According to the Church Rector, it happened during the All-Night Vigil on February 15.  Those in attendance, at the Church, stood behind praying, and took in the strange pleasant aroma.

The priest noted that on February 15, 1996, Penza-born Evgeny Rodionov was captured in Chechnya, imprisoned for hundred days and when he refused to renounce Christian faith, militants beheaded him.?

Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Rodionov (Russian: ???????? ??????? ?????????????) (May 23, 1977 – May 23, 1996) was a Russian soldier who was kidnapped and later executed in Chechen captivity. The purported manner of his death has garnered him much admiration throughout Russia, and even prompted calls for his elevation to sainthood.

Rodionov was born in the village of Satino-Russkoye, near Podolsk, Moscow Oblast. Though he aspired to be a cook, he was conscripted into the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in 1995. Private Rodionov was deployed to Chechnya, he served in border troops and on February 13, 1996 he was captured by Chechen rebels. They held him captive for more than three months.

On his 19th birthday Rodionov was beheaded on the outskirts of the Chechen village Bamut. According to his killers, who later extorted money from his mother in exchange for knowledge of the location of his corpse, they beheaded him after he refused to renounce his Christian faith or remove the silver cross he wore around his neck.

Yevgeny Rodionov was posthumously awarded the Russian Order of Courage. There is a growing movement within the Russian Orthodox Church to canonize him as a Christian saint and martyr for faith. Some Russian soldiers, feeling themselves abandoned by their government, have taken to kneeling in prayer before his image. One such prayer reads:

Thy martyr, Yevgeny, O Lord, in his sufferings has received an incorruptible crown from thee, our God, for having thy strength he has brought down his torturers, has defeated the powerless insolence of demons. Through his prayers save our souls.

As of 2003, religious icons depicting Yevgeny were becoming increasingly popular. Yevgeny’s mother has one herself; she has suggested that the icon of her son sometimes emits a perfume which she believes to be holy, to the extent that it actually drips with it.

Evgeny Rodinov, pray for us!

_._

Reprinted with permission by Eric Sammons of The Divine Life.

Age of Martyrs

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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.

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