The Triumph of the Martyrs

 Friends in the Risen Christ,
There’s a story from ancient times, of a young girl named Junia,  who was curious about Christianity.  Her best friend was recently put to death for her Faith. So Junia went secretly at night to the Catacombs, on the outskirts of Rome, to visit the tomb of her friend.  At the door, the sentry met her – a tall Catholic man, about 20 years old.  ‘I am not a Christian, she told him, but I would like to see Marcia’s tomb.’  The man looked around carefully to see if any spies had followed her,  and then quietly brought her in.   As they went down a narrow passageway  she could hear people singing.  The man told her, ‘They are offering Mass.   As they walked, she saw a group of people kneeling,  and a man lifting up a piece of bread.  ‘This must be the Mass, she thought.   Their guide, carrying a torch, led them down another passageway,  and there she saw the tomb of her friend.  Another young woman with them said: ‘She was a brave girl, and you too are brave Junia, for coming here tonight.  She said this, because the Catholic Faith was illegal, and these were secret meetings.  Junia asked her: Tell me more about your religion.  ‘Well, said the woman, we follow Jesus in this life, and then we go to live with Him in heaven.  Heaven is a wonderful place;  that is where Marcia is now, and she prays for you.  Junia asked her, ‘Why was Marcia always so happy?’ ‘It is because of Jesus,’ she said. The woman took the torch, and held it near a painting on the wall.  It was of a young man, very handsome, and cheerful, and confident;  he was holding a sheep on his shoulders.   Junia’s heart leapt at the sight of this picture.  Looking at the painting, she said, ‘Marcia was always so happy  because she loved the Good Shepherd with her whole heart.’   
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Friends in Christ, From ancient times, Jesus has been described as the Good Shepherd.  “I am the good shepherd, says the Lord. I lay down my life for my sheep.’ Catholics of old, in caves, and catacombs, drew pictures of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.  In days of great persecution, why was this image of Christ so favored?   Well, a shepherd must fight and defend his sheep.  Against wolves, and wild animals, and thieves.  Jesus Christ from his earliest youth, showed in his young face,  one virtue perhaps over all the others. Confidence. The young Jesus held in his face, a certitude tempered with humility –  such that to be with the Lord Jesus, was to never feel afraid.  When he was before a hungry crowd of 5000,  he said, give them food.  –  How? We’ve only got a few loaves and two fish!  But with unwavering confidence, he said:  ‘Bring them here. And he fed them all.   When the man full of leprosy begged to be healed,  in complete confidence Christ stretched forth his hand and touched him:  I do will it, be thou made clean – and he was.  The confidence, the fearlessness in the heart of Jesus,  is a delight to the friends of Christ.   This Shepherd of ours is not afraid of anything.  He is not afraid of terrorists, he is not afraid of atheists,  he is not afraid of secularists, he is not afraid of the devil.  Jesus Christ is not afraid of the enemies of the past nor of those today.   Today, many enemies do carry off his little sheep.  Filthy television robs our teenager’s purity and modesty,  and carries off these little lambs.  And the wicked of the world, even lead moms and dads,  to give up their prayers, and their religion, and their marriages;  They are being carried off by wolves. Why?  Because they do not ask the Shepherd to help them.  They wander away from the Good Shepherd.  
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What is the most insidious thief of the children of God today?  It is the voice of the world, growing ever louder, which says: You Catholics have to give in on some things. You Catholics are too old fashioned.  Can’t you see the world is changing? Get with the times.  What the world is saying, is that they have a better way to happiness. They say, your religion is bad for the world,  it is divisive, it is too strict, your moral laws make people feel bad. But it was the same in the first centuries. It’s always the same.  
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The first Christians were told, you can have Christ,  but you must also – worship the Roman gods;  you must be a true member of our society and accept our ways. But they said no! ‘Oh, just throw a pinch of incense on the fire, to the gods  –  but they would not.   Young women, old men – the martyrs were asked to do a small thing, to deny their Faith, but they would not.  So they were fed to wild beasts, crucified, boiled alive, lit on fire, and every other test the pagans could dream up –  but they would not deny the Faith.   All that we are asked to do is to go along with the world on this idea or that; we only must say, ‘the church is wrong.’    But Holy Mother church is not wrong. She teaches truth which is the only path for a happy humanity.   The martyrs said, they will not particpate in the orgies or the gladiator games of the then-dying pagan world.  They said: ‘We will follow Jesus the Lord.’  St. Felicity sang to Jesus on her way to the wild beasts. St. Lawrence glowed with love of Christ, while roasted alive. St. Perpetua prayed in ecstasy while a dagger plunged into her neck. These are our brothers and sisters in the Lord. And each one of us, must be prepared to give up our friends, our reputation, or our life, for the Lord.   In Sri Lanka, on Easter Sunday, a group of CCD children were told by their catechists: ‘it is Easter; Jesus died and rose for you, you must be ready to die for Jesus if necessary.’ And the children all agreed. Soon thereafter, ½ of them died from a bomb.  
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Oh, there are many traitors of Christ out there. Not just terrorists.  Phony Catholics, who don’t agree with this or that teaching of the Faith. They want to twist the faith to fit in the modern world. But they are traitors. And they are on a path to destruction.  Let us, every single one of us resolve never, ever, to compromise a single truth of the Faith of Jesus Christ.  Let them kill us before we would betray this Good Shepherd, who loves us with his life.
O Mary, Queen of the Martyrs,  help us to love our dear Savior who died and rose for us; help us to live for him, so that we may also die for him.     
[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton]

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