We think of martyrs who lived a very long time ago, who may have been skinned alive or marched off to be beheaded.
Not too long ago, there were two young girls who went to the same high school. It was a very typical April day.
Later, they were each confronted by the teen gunman. He pointed the gun to one of the girl's heads and shot her point blank and had asked if she believed in God. But he probably knew she did. Many of the students there did believe in God. He went to the other girl and asked her if she believed in God, when she said, "Yes". He shot her, but she lived, and he later died.
- Columbine High school 1999
A young journalist was captured in Syria by ISIS. It was said he prayed his Rosary prayers by using his knuckles to keep count. Later, he was led out by ISIS and beheaded, a gruesome and horrible death. - James Foley, 2014
We can never forget these that have lost their lives so courageously.
Nor can we ever forget the twenty one Coptic Christian farmers who were marched out the day of their execution. There were twenty and one Ghanaian, but he later converted to Christianity and said, "Their God, is my God".
All twenty one were lined up side by side kneeling in their orange jumpsuits. Each Christian had his own executioner standing directly behind him. The ISIS executioners were clad in black with their heads completely covered. They stood ready to execute holding their dull butcher knives ready to execute with the deadliest pain possible. Each humble Christian man whispered just before his death, "Lord, Jesus Christ".
It is said, Christ looked compassionately into each humble man's eyes. - Libya Massacre 2015
We will witness the brave and very heroic souls who died for Christ; Christ, our first martyr, who died for us.
"It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
- Robert F. Kennedy
American Politician and Civil Rights Activist
(1925- [assassinated] 1968)
St. Luke the Evangelist
Luke the Evangelist is one of the Four Evangelists—the four traditionally ascribed authors of the canonical Gospels. The Early Church Fathers ascribed to him authorship of both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, which would mean Luke contributed over a quarter of the text of the New Testament, more than any other author.
The New Testament mentions Luke briefly a few times, and the Pauline Epistle to the Colossians refers to him as a physician (from Greek for 'one who heals'); thus he is thought to have been both a physician and a disciple of Paul.
Since the early years of the faith, Christians have regarded him as a saint.
The Roman Catholic Church and other major denominations venerate him as Saint Luke the Evangelist and as a patron saint of artists, physicians, bachelors, surgeons, students and butchers; his feast day takes place on 18 October.
He first mentions all those "of the circumcision" -- in other words, Jews -- and he does not include Luke in this group. Luke's gospel shows special sensitivity to evangelizing Gentiles. It is only in his gospel that we hear the parable of the GoodSamaritan, that we hear Jesus praising the faith of Gentiles such as the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian (Lk.4:25-27), and that we hear the story of the one grateful leper who is a Samaritan (Lk.17:11-19). According to the early Church historian Eusebius Luke was born at Antioch in Syria.
Only in Luke's gospel do we hear Mary 's Magnificat where she proclaims that God "has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty" (Luke 1:52-53).
In our day, it would be easy to assume that someone who was a doctor was rich, but scholars have argued that Luke might have been born a slave. It was not uncommon for families to educate slaves in medicine so that they would have a resident family physician.
He is believed to have been a martyr, reportedly having been hanged from an olive tree, though some believe otherwise.
St. Mark the Evangelist
Mark the Evangelist
is the traditionally ascribed author of the Gospel of Mark. Mark is said to have founded the Church of Alexandria, one of the most important episcopal sees of early Christianity. His feast day is celebrated on April 25, and his symbol is the winged lion.
According to William Lane (1974), an "unbroken tradition" identifies Mark the Evangelist with John Mark, and John Mark as the cousin of Barnabas. However, Hippolytus of Rome in On the Seventy Apostles distinguishes Mark the Evangelist (2 Tim 4:11), John Mark (Acts 12:12, 25; 13:5, 13; 15:37), and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (Col 4:10; Phlm 1:24). According to Hippolytus, they all belonged to the "Seventy Disciples" who were sent out by Jesus to disseminate the gospel (Luke 10:1ff.) in Judea.
There is a tradition which says that Mark was the youth who witnessed Judas' betrayal of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. Of the four evangelists, only St. Mark relates the incident: And there followed Him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him: And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked (Mark 14:51-52). His mother had a house in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 12:12), which some suppose to have been in or near the Garden. Perhaps the youth was awakened-the betrayal occurred at night-and ran out to see what the commotion was about. It is, in any case, a plausible explanation of why he was undressed.*
According to Eusebius of Caesarea (Eccl. Hist. 2.9.1–4), Herod Agrippa I, in his first year of reign over the whole of Judea (AD 41), killed James, son of Zebedee and arrested Peter, planning to kill him after the Passover. Peter was saved miraculously by angels, and escaped out of the realm of Herod (Acts 12:1–19). Peter went to Antioch, then through Asia Minor (visiting the churches in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, as mentioned in 1 Peter 1:1), and arrived in Rome in the second year of Emperor Claudius (AD 42; Eusebius, Eccl, Hist. 2.14.6). Somewhere on the way, Peter encountered Mark and took him as travel companion and interpreter. Mark the Evangelist wrote down the sermons of Peter, thus composing the Gospel according to Mark (Eccl. Hist. 15–16), before he left for Alexandria in the third year of Claudius (43).
According to tradition, in AD 49, about 19 years after the Ascension of Jesus, Mark travelled to Alexandria and founded the Church of Alexandria – today, the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria, and the Coptic Catholic Church claim to be successors to this original community. Aspects of the Coptic liturgy can be traced back to Mark himself. He became the first bishop of Alexandria and he is honored as the founder of Christianity in Africa.
According to Eusebius (Eccl. Hist. 2.24.1), Mark was succeeded by Annianus as the bishop of Alexandria in the eighth year of Nero (62/63), probably, but not definitely, due to his coming death. Later Coptic tradition says that he was martyred in 68.
"As St. Mark was celebrating the divine service, a mob of pagans broke into the church and seized their prey. The holy Apostle was bound with a rope and dragged through the streets of the city, as his captors shouted mockingly, 'We're taking the ox to the stall!' He was thrown into prison, his body lacerated by the sharp stones over which he had been mercilessly dragged. That night an angel strengthened him for his final trial. 'Slave of God, Mark, thy name is written in heaven in the Book of Life. Thou hast been numbered among the holy apostles, and thou wilt be remembered unto ages of ages. Thou wilt rejoice with the powers on high, and on earth thy precious relics will be preserved.' Then the Lord Himself appeared and said to the Saint: 'Peace to thee, Mark, My evangelist'."*
"In the morning the Saint, a rope tied around his neck, was again led through the streets like some dumb beast, accompanied by a great crowd of jeering pagans. Utterly spent, the meek sufferer eventually collapsed and his soul, released from its earthly tabernacle, ascended to heaven. The pagans, not content with having killed the Saint, wanted to destroy also his lifeless body, but they had scarcely lit the bonfire that was to have consumed the body before there was a mammoth thunderclap; the earth shook and the sky loosed a storm of hailstones. The fire was quenched and the pagans dispersed, allowing the Christians to come and collect the sacred remains of their martyred bishop and father in the Faith. These they placed in a stone coffin in the place where they gathered for common prayer. Later, in the ninth century, Islamic incursions caused the relics to be transferred to Venice, where they are preserved to this day in the magnificent basilica dedicated to this holy Apostle and Evangelist. Compiled from The Lives of the Holy Apostles (from the Menology of St. Dimitri of Rostov), Holy Apostles Convent; the Life of St. Mark by Nun Barbara in Pravoslavnaya Zhizn, Jordanville; and The Prologue of Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich, Lazarica Press."*
St. Matthew the Apostle
Saint Matthew and the Angel by Guido Reni
Matthew the Apostle : known as Saint Matthew and as Levi) was, according to the Christian Bible, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and, according to Christian tradition, one of the four Evangelists.
Levi was a 1st-century Galilean (presumably born in Galilee, which was not part of Judea or the Roman Iudaea province), the son of Alphaeus. [Notes 1] As a tax collector he would have been literate in Aramaic and Greek. His fellow Jews would have despised him for what was seen as collaborating with the Roman occupation force.
After his call, Matthew invited Jesus home for a feast. On seeing this, the Scribes and the Pharisees criticized Jesus for eating with tax collectors and sinners. This prompted Jesus to answer, "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Mark 2:17, Luke 5:32)
The New Testament records that as a disciple, he followed Jesus, and was one of the witnesses of the Resurrection and the Ascension of Jesus. Afterwards, the disciples withdrew to an upper room (Acts 1:10–14) (traditionally the Cenacle) in Jerusalem. The disciples remained in and about Jerusalem and proclaimed that Jesus was the promised Messiah.
It is said in the Constitutions of Pope St. Clement that Saint Matthew instituted holy water, for protection of soul and body.
St. Thomas More
The Right Honourable Sir
Sir Thomas More (1527) by Hans Holbein the Younger
Venerated in: Catholic Church; Church of England; some other churches of the Anglican Communion
Beatified: 29 December 1886, Florence, Kingdom of Italy, by Pope Leo XIII
Canonized: 19 May 1935, Vatican City, by Pope Pius XI
Attributes: dressed in the robe of the Chancellor and wearing the Collar of Esses; axe
Patronage: Adopted children; civil servants; court clerks; difficult marriages; large families; lawyers, politicians, and statesmen; stepparents; widowers; Ateneo de Manila Law School; Diocese of Arlington; Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee; Kerala Catholic Youth Movement; University of Malta; University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Arts and Letters
Sir Thomas More (7 February 1478 – 6 July 1535) was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman, and noted Renaissance humanist. He was also a councillor to Henry VIII, and Lord High Chancellor of England from October 1529 to 16 May 1532. He wrote Utopia, published in 1516, about the political system of an imaginary, ideal island nation.
More opposed the Protestant Reformation, in particular the theology of Martin Luther and William Tyndale. More also opposed the king's separation from the Catholic Church, refusing to acknowledge Henry as Supreme Head of the Church of England and the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. After refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy, he was convicted of treason and beheaded. Of his execution, he was reported to have said: "I die the King's good servant, but God's first."
He was sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered (the usual punishment for traitors who were not the nobility), but the King commuted this to execution by decapitation.
The execution took place on 6 July 1535. When he came to mount the steps to the scaffold, its frame seeming so weak that it might collapse, More is widely quoted as saying (to one of the officials): "I pray you, master Lieutenant, see me safe up and [for] my coming down, let me shift for my self"; while on the scaffold he declared that he died "the king's good servant, and God's first." After More had finished reciting the Miserere while kneeling, the executioner reportedly begged his pardon, then More rose up merrily, kissed him and gave him forgiveness.
Another comment he is believed to have made to the executioner is that his beard was completely innocent of any crime, and did not deserve the axe; he then positioned his beard so that it would not be harmed. More asked that his foster/adopted daughter Margaret Clement (née Giggs) be given his headless corpse to bury. She was the only member of his family to witness his execution. He was buried at the Tower of London, in the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in an unmarked grave. His head was fixed upon a pike over London Bridge for a month, according to the normal custom for traitors.
More's daughter Margaret later rescued the severed head. It is believed to rest in the Roper Vault of St Dunstan's Church, Canterbury, perhaps with the remains of Margaret and her husband's family. Some have claimed that the head is buried within the tomb erected for More in Chelsea Old Church.
In 1520 the reformer Martin Luther published three works in quick succession: An Appeal to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation (Aug.), Concerning the Babylonish Captivity of the Church (Oct.), and On the Liberty of a Christian Man (Nov.). In these books, Luther set out his doctrine of salvation through grace alone, rejected certain Catholic practices, and attacked abuses and excesses within the Catholic Church.
In 1521, Henry VIII formally responded to Luther's criticisms with the Assertio, written with More's assistance. Pope Leo X rewarded the English king with the title 'Fidei defensor' ("Defender of the Faith") for his work combating Luther's heresies.
Martin Luther then attacked Henry VIII in print, calling him a "pig, dolt, and liar". At the king's request, More composed a rebuttal: the Responsio ad Lutherum was published at the end of 1523. In the Responsio, More defended papal supremacy, the sacraments, and other Church traditions. More, though considered "a much steadier personality", described Luther as an "ape", a "drunkard", and a "lousy little friar" amongst other epithets.
Confronting Luther confirmed More's theological conservatism. He thereafter avoided any hint of criticism of Church authority. In 1528, More published another religious polemic, A Dialogue Concerning Heresies, that asserted the Catholic Church was the one true church, established by Christ and the Apostles, and affirmed the validity of its authority, traditions and practices.
The steadfastness and courage with which More maintained his religious convictions, and his dignity during his imprisonment, trial, and execution, contributed much to More's posthumous reputation, particularly among Roman Catholics.
The 20th-century agnostic playwright Robert Bolt portrayed Thomas More as the tragic hero of his 1960 play, "A Man for All Seasons". The title is drawn from what Robert Whittington in 1520 wrote of More:
More is a man of an angel's wit and singular learning. I know not his fellow. For where is the man of that gentleness, lowliness and affability? And, as time requireth, a man of marvelous mirth and pastimes, and sometime of as sad gravity. A man for all seasons.
In 1966, the play, "A Man for All Seasons", was adapted into a film with the same title.
Jeremy Northam depicts More in the television series "The Tudors" as a peaceful man, as well as a devout Roman Catholic and loving family patriarch. He also shows More loathing Protestantism, burning both Martin Luther's books and English Protestants who have been convicted of heresy. The portrayal has unhistorical aspects, such as that More neither personally caused nor attended Simon Fish's execution (since Fish actually died of bubonic plague in 1531 before he could stand trial), although More's The Supplycatyon of Soulys, published in October 1529, addressed Fish's Supplication for the Beggars. Indeed, there is no evidence that More ever attended the execution of any heretic. The series also neglected to show More's avowed insistence that Richard Rich's testimony about More disputing the King's title as Supreme Head of the Church of England was perjured.
Note: The reference "CW" is to the relevant volume of the Yale Edition of the Complete Works of St. Thomas More (New Haven and London 1963–1997)
Published during More's life (with dates of publication)
⦁ A Merry Jest (c. 1516) (CW 1)
⦁ Utopia (1516) (CW 4)
⦁ Latin Poems (1518, 1520) (CW 3, Pt.2)
⦁ Letter to Brixius (1520) (CW 3, Pt. 2, App C)
⦁ Responsio ad Lutherum (The Answer to Luther, 1523) (CW 5)
⦁ A Dialogue Concerning Heresies (1529, 1530) (CW 6)
⦁ Supplication of Souls (1529) (CW 7)
⦁ Letter Against Frith (1532) (CW 7)
⦁ The Confutation of Tyndale's Answer (1532, 1533) (CW 8)
⦁ Apology (1533) (CW 9)
⦁ Debellation of Salem and Bizance (1533) (CW 10)
⦁ The Answer to a Poisoned Book (1533) (CW 11)
Published after More's death (with likely dates of composition)
⦁ The History of King Richard III (c. 1513–1518) (CW 2 & 15)
⦁ The Four Last Things (c. 1522) (CW 1)
⦁ A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation (1534) (CW 12)
⦁ Treatise Upon the Passion (1534) (CW 13)
⦁ Treatise on the Blessed Body (1535) (CW 13)
⦁ Instructions and Prayers (1535) (CW 13)
⦁ De Tristitia Christi (1535) (CW 14) (preserved in the Real Colegio Seminario del Corpus Christi, Valencia)
Saint Peter and Saint Paul
Saint Paul Writing His Epistles by Valentin de Boulogne
Saint Peter in Tears by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617–1682)
Saints Peter and Paul, of course were the first evangelists, bringing the word of God through their travels and suffering much persecution.
Peter was the first to proclaim Jesus, the Son of God. Peter became the first Pope, fulfilling Jesus's words: 17 "Then Jesus answered and said, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to thee, but My Father in heaven. 18 And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock, I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." MT 16:17-18
Both of these two saints, our forefathers, preached the word of God without wavering and both died the martyrs' death.
St Peter's Death
Peter felt unworthy to be crucified like our Lord, Jesus Christ. He requested to be crucified upside down on the cross. He was taken out to death [2 Peter 1:14,15]. They were going to nail him to a cross, and Peter said, “No, no! My Lord died like that. I am not worthy to die as He did.” Then Peter said, “Hang me on that cross head
downward.” (Ref. John, pp. 889,890, H. A. Ironside)
In the epilogue of the Gospel of John, Jesus hints at the death by which Peter would glorify God, saying "when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go." Jn. 21:18–19 This is interpreted by some as a reference to Peter's crucifixion.
St Paul's Death
The Beheading of Saint Paul by Enrique Simonet, 1887
Evidence highly suggests the apostle Paul's death occurred after his fifth missionary journey ended in 67 A.D. Paul was likely beheaded by the Romans, under Emperor Nero, sometime around May or June of 68 A.D. Nero himself died by suicide on June 9th of the same year.
St Paul died close to the same time as St Peter and in Rome, as well. St Paul wrote: 6 "As for me, I am already being poured out in sacrifice, and the time of my deliverance is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith." 2 Tim 4: 6-7
How many of us could say that, or better yet, how many of us would want to be able to say what St Paul said?
Catholic Bible: Confraternity Text
St. Thomas the Apostle
Martyrdom of St. Thomas by Peter Paul Rubens
Thomas the Apostle (Biblical Hebrew: תוּמָא הקדוש; Ancient Greek: Θωμᾶς; Coptic: ⲑⲱⲙⲁⲥ; Classical Syriac: ܬܐܘܡܐ ܫܠܝܚܐ Ṯaumā s̲h̲liḥā (Thoma Sheliha)), also called Didymus ("twin"), was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus according to the New Testament.
Thomas is commonly known as "Doubting Thomas" because he doubted Jesus' resurrection when first told of it (as related in the Gospel of John alone); later, he confessed his faith, "My Lord and my God," on seeing Jesus' crucifixion wounds.
Traditionally, Thomas is believed to have travelled outside the Roman Empire to preach the Gospel, travelling as far as Tamilakamwhich are the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu in present-day India. According to tradition, Thomas reached Muziris, (modern-day North Paravur and Kodungalloor in the state of Kerala, India) in AD 52  and converted several people, founding what today are known as Saint Thomas Christians or Mar Thoma Nazranis.
After his death, the reputed relics of Saint Thomas the Apostle were enshrined as far as Mesopotamia in the 3rd century, and later moved to various places. In 1258, some of the relics were brought to Ortona, in Abruzzo, Italy, where they have been held in the Church of Saint Thomas the Apostle. He is often regarded as the Patron Saint of India, and the name Thoma remains quite popular among Saint Thomas Christians of India.
Gospel of John
Thomas first speaks in the Gospel of John. In John 11:16, when Lazarus had recently died, the apostles do not wish to go back to Judea, where some Jews had attempted to stone Jesus. Thomas says: "Let us also go, that we may die with him. (KJV)
Thomas speaks again in John 14:5. There, Jesus had just explained that he was going away to prepare a heavenly home for his followers, and that one day they would join him there. Thomas reacted by saying, "Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?"
John 20:24–29 tells how doubting Thomas was skeptical at first when he heard that Jesus had risen from the dead and appeared to the other apostles, saying, "Except I shall see on his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe." But when Jesus appeared later and invited Thomas to touch his wounds and behold him, Thomas showed his belief by saying, "My Lord and my God". Jesus then said, "Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed [are] they that have not seen, and [yet] have believed."
According to Syrian Christian tradition, Saint Thomas was allegedly martyred at St.Thomas Mount, in Chennai, in 72 A.D July 3rd,and his body was interred in Mylapore. Ephrem the Syrian states that the Apostle was martyred in India, and that his relics were taken then to Edessa. This is the earliest known record of his martyrdom.
"St. Thomas is also recognized as the apostle who baptized the Magi: After the Magi held the Holy Infant, the Blessed Mother gave them some of His baby clothes to bring back to the East as relics. The Magi returned to the East, to Persia, and in the year 40 A.D., were baptized there by Saint Thomas the Apostle. All three Magi, Saint Gaspar, Saint Melchior and Saint Balthasar, were martyred for the Catholic Faith."*
For further referenced: