THE MARTYRS TEACH US TO ACCEPT DEATH ACCORDING TO THE GOOD PLEASURE OF GOD.
PRAYING TO THE HOLY MARTYRS
Death, which is the tribute that everyone must pay, is the greatest of all our tribulations and makes not only sinners but the just tremble. Our Saviour Himself as Man wished to show the fear that He felt in the face of death, so that He began to pray to His Father to free Him from it. But at the same time He teaches us to accept death according to the good pleasure of God, by saying: Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done (Matt. xxvi. 39). We can all acquire the glory of Martyrdom by accepting death to please God and conform ourselves to His will. For, as we have remarked with St. Augustine, it is not the pain, but the cause or the end for which one submits to death that makes Martyrs. It follows that he who in dying courageously accepts death and all the pains that accompany it, in order to accomplish the Divine will, though he does not receive death at the hands of the executioner, dies, however, with the merit of Martyrdom, or at least with merit very similar. It also follows that as often as any one offers himself to undergo Martyrdom for the love of God, so often does he gain the merit of Martyrdom. We have seen how St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi, when she inclined the head at the Glory be to the Father, imagined at the same moment she was receiving the stroke of the executioner. Hence we shall see in Heaven a great number of Saints crowned with the merit of Martyrdom without having been martyred.
Finally we should be moved to recommend ourselves every day with great confidence to the intercession of the holy Martyrs whose prayers are most efficacious with God. When we suffer some grievous pain, or when we desire a special favour, let us make a Novena or a Triduum in honour of the holy Martyrs, and we shall easily obtain the grace we ask. Let us not fail to honour them, says St. Ambrose, for they are our Princes in the Faith and our powerful intercessors. If the Lord promises a reward to him who gives a drink of water to a poor man, what will He not do for those who for His sake sacrificed their lives in the midst of torments! Let us here observe that the Martyrs before receiving the mortal blow, without doubt prepared themselves many times for those many tortures and for death, so that when they closed their earthly career they died with the merit of not only one Martyrdom, but with the merit of all those Martyrdoms that they had already accepted and offered sincerely to God. Hence we may imagine with what abundance of merits they entered Heaven, and how valuable is their mediation with God.
A Prayer to the Holy Martyrs to Obtain their Protection
O ye blessed Princes of the Heavenly Kingdom! Ye who sacrificed to Almighty God the honours, the riches, and possessions of this life, and have received in return the unfading glory and never-ending joys of Heaven! Ye who are secure in the everlasting possession of the brilliant crown of glory which your sufferings have obtained! — look with compassion upon our wretched state in this valley of tears where we groan in the uncertainty of what may be our eternal destiny. And from that Divine Saviour for Whom you suffered so many torments, and Who now repays you with such unspeakable glory, obtain for us that we may love Him with all our heart, and receive in return the grace of perfect resignation under the trials of this life, fortitude under the temptations of the enemy, and perseverance to the end. May your powerful intercession obtain for us that we may one day in your blessed company sing the praises of the Eternal God and, even as you now do, face to face, enjoy the Beatitude of His vision!