From Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC, author of the po... Read more
Mary and Martyrdom
There is an ancient saying in the Church, stemming from the writings of the Church Father Tertullian: "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."
Sown plentifully in the early days of Christianity, both in the Roman empire and wherever the Gospel was being newly proclaimed, the blood of the martyrs has proven to be spectacularly fruitful. Wherever the martyrs live out their role as witnesses (for the word "martyr" means "witness"), there the Gospel is heard and received. There the power of the Spirit is unleashed, for there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends. Martyrs are those who lay down their lives for the sake of their friendship with Jesus, their relationship with God almighty. They truly love Him, and where there is true love, there is God, for God is love (see 1 Jn 4:16).
It was divine love that brought the world into existence, and divine love that combines justice and mercy on the Cross of Christ. It is divine love, the Holy Spirit, which conceived Jesus in Mary's womb and which animates the Church today. It was Mary's perfect response of self-giving love to divine love, the Holy Spirit, that allowed her nature to be supernaturalized, for her to clothe the Son of God in human flesh and be full of grace all the days of her life — perfect human love meeting infinite divine love and welcoming the Incarnation into the world.
Yes, the love of the martyrs and the love of Mary, the Queen of the Martyrs, are two of the most powerful forces in the entirety of creation. Why? Because they are infused with the same Holy Spirit.
So it's very appropriate that on April 28, the Church celebrates both the feast of the missionary and martyr St. Peter Chanel (1803-1841), as well as the feast of the great promoter of total consecration to Jesus through Mary St. Louis de Montfort (1673-1716). Saint Peter Chanel laid down his life in the service of the Gospel on the islands formerly known as the New Hebrides near Australia, and soon after, the whole of those islands were converted to Christianity. What grace his self-gift must have unleashed! Saint Louis de Montfort offered to the world the swiftest, surest path to holiness through total consecration to Jesus through Mary. What tremendous graces have flowed from that path to holiness!
Both men modeled trust in God; both, the sort of evangelical charity that helps convert the world. Both men speak to our own times, for the age of the martyrs is not over, and Marian consecration is making a comeback as a result of the combined witness of St. John Paul II and Blessed Mother Teresa, as well as programs like Hearts Afire: Parish-based Programs (HAPP) and books like 33 Days to Morning Glory.
Indeed, the powerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary is one great response to the very forces making martyrs of so many Christians. The power of the Rosary was made manifest at the battle of Lepanto, when the Christian fleet defeated the invading Islamic fleet as Catholic Europe prayed the Rosary and the admiral's ship bore a copy of the recently created image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Our personal holiness, helped along by total consecration to Jesus through Mary and made possible by the Divine Mercy, is another great bulwark against the darkness.
So let us pray to Sts. Peter Chanel and St. Louis de Montfort that we and all our brethren in Christ may turn to the powerful intercession of Our Lady for the conversion of ourselves and our enemies. Let us use the great spiritual weapons of total consecration to Jesus through Mary, the Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe to help our persecuted brethren and bring light into the darkness seeking to overwhelm our age.