Pray for the Intercession of the
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.