Today is the Feast of Sts. Vincent and Anastasius.
Their church Rome is of interest. It faces the famous Trevi fountain. It is the place where the entrails of lots of Popes were kept. You read that right. Back in the day Pope’s were not embalmed. They would extract everything that was going to go off really fast. The urns with the innards were interred here. Also, I don’t think this church hasn’t yet changed the Pope’s stemma over the door. Gotta double-check.
St. Vincent is greatly venerated. From Spain (born in Huesca where Sts. Nunilo and Alodia are), and associated closely with Valencia, he was a deacon and was martyred in the persecution of Christians in the 3rd c. at the time of Diocletian. We know about his life from the poet Prudentius and also from several of St. Augustine’s sermons.
Then, as now, there was pressure from the state (Emperor, governors, etc.) on Christians to give up their core values, their souls as it were, by offering some sort of sacrifice to the gods or the demi-godlike “genius” tutelary spirit of the Emperor, or hand over sacred books, etc. Many did. Think, in contemporary terms, of clerics totally caving into the demands of the state regarding COVID-1984, except that back then you could be swiftly killed rather than just fined or bombarded with virtue signaling. St. Vincent essentially told the local governor to stow his demands in an impossible place because they were ready to suffer for the Faith. There are differing accounts of his martyrdom, but St. Augustine includes that Vincent and other Christians were tortured horribly.
St. Anastasius was a 7th c. Persian soldier who converted at the sight of relics of the Cross. His newly chosen Christian name, Anastasius, comes from the Greek for “resurrection”. He, too, was martyred, his body eventually brought to Rome and interred in the church dedicated to Vincent. Thus, the link.
There are various martyrdoms taking place today.
When we think of martyrdom, we usually think of bloody or “red” martyrdom. However, great Doctors of the Church write of other kinds of martyrdom. Also, today, the Church has a path to beatification and canonization for those who endure some short of bloody, red martyrdom, oblatio vitae.
For example, St. Maximilian Kolbe, beatified by Paul VI as a confessor was canonized by John Paul II as a martyr. He is one of those cases that falls between being a “Confessor” who lived a heroic life of virtue, and being a martyr. He wasn’t really killed because he was a priest. He was killed because he took another man’s place. Therefore, as a result of his choice, he died down the line. Another case could be St. Gianna Beretta Molla, who died because of her decision not to abort her child. Some people who don’t necessarily live a life of heroic virtue, but who are virtuous and devout habitually, might by their offering of life have a path to beatification. Fr. Vincent Capodanno, the heroic Navy Chaplain killed in Vietnam while trying to give last rites to a wounded Marine. Yut! He wasn’t killed for hatred of the Faith, so he wasn’t a martyr. It would not be necessary to demonstrate all the virtues lived in a heroic way. “Heroic” here has nothing to do with his heroism in the fire fight during which he was killed. He made a choice, and was killed because of it.
So, we have the ancient teaching about “red” or bloody martyrdom for the sake of charity whereby the martyr dies giving witness in the face of hatred for the Faith.
There is also a long tradition of identifying “white” martyrdom, coined by St. Jerome, whereby a person gives witness through an ascetic life, withdrawal from the world, pilgrimages involving great sacrifice, or who suffers greatly for the Faith but who does not die in bearing witness. There is also a “blue” (or “green”) martyrdom, involving great penance and mortifications without necessarily the sort of withdrawal from life that a hermit or a cenobite might live. Gregory the Great in his Dialogues, writes of different kinds of martyrdom, bloody, public martyrdom in time of persecution and secret martyrdom, not in time of persecution. He wrote that secret martyrs are no less worthy of honor, because they also endured sufferings and the attacks of hidden enemies, but they persevered in charity.
The Church recognizes the lives of figure who are worthy of being proposed as examples to others. Different times in the life of the Church bring different and new examples of how to live the Christian life. People don’t change but the world around us does. How a Christian reacts to the world has some stable principles but life has to be lived here and now, not as it was in the past or how we would prefer it to be. Work for a better world, yes, but we cannot compromise on the Faith.
Hence, the world will find new ways to make us into witnesses… martyrs. And the most painful martyrdom will from from fellow Catholics.
When you examine your conscience in the evening – I hope you do – do you ever play out in your head what it would be like were society to go sideways fast? What if all Catholics – not willing to offer a pinch of incense to the one-party rule of the Woke Democrat Party were determined to be “domestic terrorists” and were to be rounded up and put into camps. Have you thought about what you would do? What if they confiscate everything you have and let you twist in the wind because you won’t abide by the “Face Diapers For Democracy” executive order? Have you thought about this?
When things go sideways, they tend to go sideways really fast. And if you think it can’t happen where you are… ha!
The world will always need witnesses. But you can’t give witness to what you do not know. You can’t give what you don’t have, or in fun Latin, nemo dat quod non ‘got’.
Take the admonishment of Peter to heart and “always be ready to give reasons”.
Be situationally aware about your neighborhood, workplace, city, country.