The Strength of the Martyrs

My favorite preface among those prayed at Mass is that of martyrs: “For the blood of your blessed Martyr N., poured out like Christ’s to glorify your name, shows forth your marvelous works, by which in our weakness you perfect your power and on the feeble bestow strength to bear you witness, through Christ our Lord.”

This preface reminds us that it’s not human power, but God’s own power that’s revealed in the act of martyrdom. This is a hopeful message for those of us who wish we had the strength and courage of the martyrs!

During this month of October, the Church dedicates three days to the memory of martyrs: Saint Denis and his companions (October 9), Saint Ignatius of Antioch (October 17), and Saints John de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues and their companions (October 19). All the baptized are called to bear witness to Christ; martyrs do so in an extraordinary way, even to the point of shedding their blood. That said, there is another kind of martyrdom – the martyrdom of resisting the daily temptation to sin and following the law of the Lord. As we read in a beautiful sermon by Saint Ambrose (in the Office of Readings on the feast of Saint Denis): “The true witness is one who bears witness to the commandments of the Lord Jesus and supports that witness by deeds.”

The life of the founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, Blessed Basil Moreau, was a continuous martyrdom. Father Moreau desired nothing more than to be so conformed to Christ, that he could say with the holy Apostle: “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20). In addition to the faithful witness of his vowed life and priesthood, Father Moreau offered the witness of his apostolic zeal and of his enduring many trials for the sake of the Gospel. May Blessed Basil Moreau pray for us, that through the work of grace and of the Holy Spirit, we who are feeble might be given strength to bear witness to Christ through our words and deeds!


Fr. John DeRiso, C.S.C.
Director of Vocations

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