Spiritual Reading for the Second Saturday after Epiphany ~ St Alphonsus Liguori

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Spiritual Reading

THE MARTYRS TEACH US PATIENCE, THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER AND THE LOVE OF GOD.

From the Patience which the Martyrs displayed during their tortures, we should learn to suffer with holy resignation the crosses and afflictions of this life. Poverty, sickness, persecution, contumely, injustice, and all other evils are but trifling when compared with their sufferings. The reflection that it was the will of God that they should suffer for His love, was their only solace. We also in our tribulations should remember the necessity of resignation to the Divine will; and, calling to mind the more grievous sufferings of the Martyrs, should blush to complain. St. Vincent de Paul used to say: “Conformity to the Divine will is a sovereign remedy for all our trials.”

It may be useful here to remark, with St. Augustine, that it is not the torture but the cause which makes the martyr. Whence St. Thomas teaches that Martyrdom is to suffer death in the exercise of an act of virtue, from which we may infer that not only he who by the hands of the executioner lays down his life for the Faith, but whoever dies in order to comply with the Divine will, and to please God, is a Martyr, since in sacrificing himself to the Divine love he performs an act of the most exalted virtue. We all have to pay the great debt of nature; let us therefore endeavour in holy prayer, to obtain resignation to the Divine will — to receive death and every tribulation in conformity with the dispensations of God’s Providence. As often as we perform this act of resignation with sufficient fervour, we may hope to be made partakers of the merits of the Martyrs. St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi, in reciting the Gloria Patri, etc. in the Office, always bowed her head in the same spirit as she would have done in receiving the stroke of the executioner.

The example of the Martyrs teaches us also to have immediate recourse to the assistance of God by earnest supplication, when we feel ourselves disconsolate or weak under affliction. Thus acted the holy Martyrs. As their torture increased they multiplied their prayers and secured the victory. St. Theodore, after a long endurance of his tortures, was stretched upon burning tiles; feeling the pain penetrating to his very heart, he besought the Lord to sweeten his suffering.; and so persevered to the end. There have been on the contrary examples of Christians, who, failing to invoke the assistance of the Almighty, have fallen off from the confession of the Faith, and forfeited the glorious crown. An example is found in the Acts of the Martyrs of Japan. An aged man, having been condemned to a protracted Martyrdom, endured the torture for a considerable time, but failing to invoke heavenly aid, denied his Faith a few moments before he expired — a startling warning to all, that perseverance in prayer in times of temptations and distress is that which alone can assure us the victory.

But the most important lesson that we learn from the martyrs is to love God: He who loveth not abideth in death (Jo. iii. 14). We cannot manifest our love of God by a multitude of actions performed for His glory so well as by a willingness to suffer for His sake. St. Gordianus replied to the tyrant who threatened to put him to death if he did not deny the Name of Jesus: “You threaten death! But my greatest regret is, that I can die only once for Jesus Christ!” In a similar manner St. Procopius exclaimed to the tyrant, who was directing further tortures: “Torment as much as thou wilt, but know that to one who truly loves Jesus Christ, nothing is dearer than to suffer for His sake.” “And did the Saints speak thus,” asks St. Bernard, “because they were in a state of stupor or insensible to torments?” No, says the holy Doctor, it was neither stupor nor insensibility, but their love of Jesus Christ which caused them to esteem it all joy to suffer and to die for His glory. This ardent love of God is certainly the greatest spiritual advantage to be derived from the perusal of the Acts of the Martyrs; the recollection of their conduct will make us ashamed to repine under the tribulations Divine Providence sends us, and will strengthen us to receive them with resignation.

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