Pray for the Intercession of the Christmas Martyrs

Brother John Raymond

	The Saints who come right after Christmas are of particular
 interest. First we have St. Stephen the first martyr (Dec. 26), St.
 John the Apostle and Evangelist (Dec. 27), the Holy Innocents (Dec.
 28) and St. Thomas a Becket (Dec. 29). One reason these Saints are
 interesting is that they all are martyrs - St. John was put into
 boiling oil in Rome and although he miraculously was saved. Still he
 was willing to be a martyr. I recall hearing the homily of an
 English Benedictine Priest who in alluding to these feasts spoke of
 "blood upon the white snow."
	Why so many martyrs around Christmas time? I believe it is
 because the Newborn Infant is the King of Martyrs. Some spiritual
 writers tell us that even as an Infant Our Lord already had His
 future Passion before Him. Our Infant King and Martyr on the
 Calendar is surrounded by His Heavenly Court.
	The first person honored after Christmas is St. Stephen. How
 appropriate that the first martyr should be on this first day. He is
 followed by the Beloved Disciple St. John who was present during the
 martyrdom of Jesus on Calvary. Then follow those Jewish children;
 the Holy Innocents who are now Catholic Saints!
	The Holy Innocents, those little Jewish martyrs, are a reminder
 to us that the Passion of Christ can be relived even by little ones
 who had such a short span of life. It is worth noting that these
 first martyrs for Christ were children. Didn't Our Lord remind us
 that we must become like little children to enter the Kingdom of
 Heaven? Perhaps there is a lesson here. Especially during modern
 times these little martyrs should be a reminder to us of the
 "spiritual childhood" of St. Therese of Lisieux.
	Finally, we have the special martyr, St. Thomas a Becket. This
 Archbishop died because he obeyed the Church and his conscience and
 not an earthly king. Now he reigns with the Heavenly King.
	What can we learn from the Church's calendar? Christmas seems to
 be closely connected with martyrdom. The happiness and joy over the
 birth of Jesus are overshadowed by His mission and martyrdom. Joy
 and martyrdom, can they go together? Many of the Saints have been
 witnesses that they can. It is the closest imitation of Our Lord and
 greatest proof of one's love.
	I think it would be a good idea to pray to all these holy martyrs
 for a very special grace - for martyrdom! That's right. "Oh I could
 never be a martyr" you might want to say. One priest jokingly said
 in his homily that he wanted to be a martyr but didn't like to go
 through the pain of it. Well, that is the very reason that martyrdom
 needs grace - we cannot do it ourselves. But for Jesus and for love
 of Him we could ask Him for it. In the early Church to become a
 Christian meant putting your life on the line. Did that stop the
 Church from growing? No, the great witness of those Christians made
 the Church grow. Martyrdom today seems a bit far-fetched to many
 people. Not really when you consider that our present age has had
 more martyrs than any other.
	So the day may come when you and I may be called to be a true
 witness (that's exactly what the word martyr means) for the Catholic
 Faith. Even now being ridiculed and scorned for living the truths of
 the Faith can be a small martyrdom. Countries can change and become
 anti-Catholic almost overnight. It's happened before - it can happen
	Pray to those Christmas martyrs St. Stephen, St. John, the Holy
 Innocents and St. Thomas a Becket for help in being a strong and
 courageous witness for Christ. Let us pray for an increase in the
 virtue of fortitude. St. Thomas Aquinas taught that the highest
 expression of this virtue is martyrdom.
	As St. Thomas a Becket was being martyred he said "For the Name
 of Jesus and in defense of the Church I am willing to die." Let us
 pray we'll be as brave.