6 Dec. – African martyrs who suffered horribly at the hands of heretics

The 2005 Martyrologium Romanum (which I will remind you is a liturgical book, and is therefore required to be translated according to the norms of Liturgiam authenticam) might have a short, dense entry for the far more famous St. Nicholas, but there is a long and interesting entry for these quite unfamous African martyrs.

Perhaps some of you WDTPRSers can work up your own flawless and fluent English versions.

3. In Africa, commemoratio sanctorum martyrum, tempore vandalicae persecutionis sub Hunnerico rege ariano, gravissimis et innumeris suppliciis pro catholicae fidei defensione excruciatorum; ex quorum turma [1] Dionysia et filius eius Maioricus laudantur, qui, cum adulescentulus adhuc esset ac tormenta pavesceret, matris obtutibus verbisque corroboratus, ceteris fortior factus in tormentis animam reddit.

[1] Inter quos: sancti Aemilius medicus, Dativa, Leontia, Tertius, Bonifatius Sibidensis, Servius, Victrix.

We certainly live in difficult times for our faith in the public square. 

This is not new for the life of the Church.

The Lord promised that the attacks of hell would not in the end prevail, He would.

But the Lord did not promise that the Church would survive in the USA or in Europe.

Consider the Church in North Africa and how it grew in the period after the Imperial persecutions until it was overrun by the Vandals and then Islam. 

There is no Church to speak of in North Africa now, is there.

Do not be complacent.

You have a sacred obligation to shape the world around you according to your particular vocation.

How’s it going?

Are you ready were things to go very bad very quickly?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Melania says:

    Am I ready for martyrdom? Hmmmm. Maybe, like The Crescat, I could pull it off it they killed me very quickly. Any pain, however, and, on my own strengths, I’d probably fold like a house of cards.

    However, the stories of the martyrs give both a warning and great encouragement. I think the strength to endure martyrdom is a pure gift of God. One reason that we honor the virgin martyrs, like St. Agnes, St. Agatha, etc., who were all little girls of 12 or 13, is that they endured torture no one had any right to expect a little girl to endure. Their strength was a miracle of God, a sign that God did not abandon them in time of trial.

    Another exapmple is St. Blandina, an ordinary rather frail woman of Lyon, who survived through a horrific series of tortures without denying Christ. What could that be but a miracle?

    I am reminded of a story whose origin I forgot where a woman martyr was mocked by her tormentor for being a pitiful, insignificant woman. What difference would it make to deny Christ? What made her think she could hold out against the torturers? She agreed with him. She said something like, “Yes, I am a pitiful creature on my own, but with Christ I am a warrior!”

    I think I need to do my best to follow Christ now and trust that if and when the time of trial came, He would not abandon me.

  2. Tom in NY says:

    1. Commemoration of St. Nicholas of Myra in Lycia. He was outstanding for holiness and intercession before the throne of divine grace.
    3. In Africa, the commemoration of the holy martyrs at the time of persecution under Hunneric the Arian king. They faced constant torture , like to the Cross, for their Catholic faith. From a group of them, among whom were St. Emilius the doctor, SS. Dativa, Leontia, Tertius, Boniface, Sibidens, Servius and Victory, Dionysia and her son Majoricus are praised. When Majoricus was reaching adolescence, she feared torture. Stregthened by his mother’s gaze and words, he became stronger than the others when he gave up his spirit in the torture.

    Ut dicitur: Lingua latina una sententia anglica tres loquitur.

    Salutationes omnibus.

  3. Kate says:

    Father –

    You mentioned something in a post a little while ago about the idea of “for the young people” or “for youth”. (As if the Faith needs to be watered down or, as I see it “rock ‘n rolled” for adolescents.) When Mealnia writes about the strength of young virgin martyrs, I am convinced again of the problem of adults thinking they know the best way to skew the Faith for teens. Please, as a post-Vatican II Catholic, I was so mislead by the “Jesus loves you” adults that I knew very little about the Catholic Church.

    My daughter is currently reading a book about St. Maria Goretti that begins with the canonization address by Pope Pius XII. Though Maria Goretti was young, he points to her “strength of soul” – how many of us today have this strength of soul? And yet the Eucharist is available to us to nourish and strengthen our souls. How many young people are taught this in CCD?

    We should pray and receive Communion as often as possible to be close to Our Lord and to strengthen our souls. I pray for more priests; one reason I do this is because I see how much pastors have to do. With all of the demands of the parish, many hand of responsibility of CCD programs to lay people (and, yes, I know some are fine people, but there is an over-all lack of theological training). If we had good priests and religious instructing our children about the beauty of the Church, I’m sure we’d have many strong souls for the Church Militant.

  4. Monica Edith says:

    Like many others, I’ve contemplated at length God’s request to Our Lady. If God had said to me, I’m going to bring forth my son, and he will be betrayed, belittled, beaten, scourged, spit upon and brutally crucified, so that all of the people performing these vile and evil deeds can gain heaven, will you cooperate in this venture?”
    I can’t confidently say that I would have responded, “Let it be done unto me…” We don’t know the exact details she was given, but we know she graciously accepted God’s plan, no matter the cost.

    I contemplate my beautiful grandchildren being called on to die as martyrs. I can consider the potential of being a martyr myself, but my grandchildren? This is a hard saying, Lord. I need much prayer to Our Lady…I need her strength.

  5. gloriainexcelsis says:

    There have been many times of late that the possibility of real persecution here has been more than a passing thought. I pray very much about it, for strength should it come, for my children and grand-children and great-grand-children who have had such little instruction in their Faith, its history, its martyrs. I try to remedy that as much as possible. I pray that Our Lady of Guadalupe, Empress of the Americas, will keep us under her protection. Every day there is some assault on, not just Catholics, but Christianity in general, somewhere, somehow. We live in a time when, as I remember Mother Angelica saying many years ago, there will arise great saints, as they do doing persecutions. Her classics, shown on EWTN, some more than 12-15 years old, are even more apropos today. God forgive and help His people.

  6. Subvet says:

    With the issuing of the Manhattan Declaration I believe the guantlet has been thrown down by prolifers, specifically some responsible senior members of our clergy. That guantlet won’t be picked up until sometime after the healthcare reform bill passes. Pass it will and the challenge will then be answered by our Culture of Death.

    IMO that is when persecutions will start. It won’t be violent, not for quite some time anyway. But expect the IRS to crawl up your butt with a microscope if you stand firm on Church teaching. If you have children, get ready for your state’s version of Child Protective Services to come knocking on your door. If you homeschool, stand by for some real hard scrutiny. I’m sure there are other ways to bring pressure to bear, those are just the first ones to come to mind.

    Am I ready? Don’t know, my children mean the world to me. Their welfare is paramount amongst my concerns. Will I be able to give them up if it means following Church teaching? I pray so.

    Every night lately, I pray for strength to do what is right.

  7. momoften says:

    I have contemplated once when I had a Mass said at my house with many friends in attendance how it must have been for the early Christians to meet and secretly attend a Mass with the threat of death looming. I just pray that I have the grace that if martyrdom were to be given to me I would accept it lovingly with trust in God as he has been so good to me. For now, it is time to prepare for the worse, and hope for the best!

  8. DisturbedMary says:

    Thinking about persecution is definitely a work in progress. Until 2008, I never thought about persecution as MY persecution. I’m not a missionary. I’m not a religious. I’m not Braveheart. I don’t take chances. I’m Catholic. I live in America. I lead the little life. But the Culture of Death changed that; on January 20 persecution became personal. And given the direction, seemingly inevitable. Dear God, what am I going to do? I cave if I have a headache! I’m too old for this. Then again, I’m in the fourth quarter. I better get it right. I share my fears with Him. I pray for an increase in trust. I think of his predicament that Thursday night. Our God, under arrest. His power. His sadness. His pain. I pay more attention to the lives of the martyrs. The red vestments keep me awake. He offers me comforts through humor. Can it be all bad to be sent to Guantanimo? I can practice my faith, eat well, and get free colonoscopies. Like I said, thinking about persecution is definitely a work in progress.

  9. Penguins Fan says:

    I will not accept death willingly at the hands of anti-Catholics.

    Pelayo didn’t. Don’t know who Pelayo is? Pelayo was captured by the Moors who had overrun Spain between 711-714. Pelayo’s sister was put into a harem. Pelayo was being taken to Cordoba when he escaped, returned to Asturias, gathered fellow travelers, was elected King of Asturias – the one part of Spain that was never ruled by the Muslims, and from his boldness, spirit and determination, over nearly eight centuries, Spain completed “La Reconquista”. This information is from Warren Carroll’s book, Isabella – The Catholic Queen.

    One of the ancestors of Queen Isabella was King Alfonso – Alfonso the Avenger – I love that name!

    My heroes in history are Queen Isabella and King Jan Sobieski. They knew what to do to enemies of the Faith.

  10. Melania says:

    Penguins Fan: I agree. Fighting back has to be part of the response as well.

  11. Andy Lucy says:

    Penguins Fan,


  12. Jaidon says:

    I have to be honest Father Z., at the risk of being negative or wallowing in it: No, I’m not.

  13. The example of the English and Welsh martyrs during the Reformation and aftermath give me great edification. I can’t read enough about them. Such courage and love of the Faith, our Lord Jesus Christ, His Church. Our times seem to me, anyway, to be very similar to theirs; choosing whether to serve God or mammon (the secular and sometimes atheistic government). May we be given their faith, hope and charity to endure whatever it is we must endure to witness to Jesus and His Holy Church.

  14. RudyB says:

    Nazareth priest – agreed! The first one that comes to my mind is the [AMAZING] Sir Thomas More. I LOVE his book, Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation: it’s akin to a Socratic dialogue, but the interlocutor says more than, “Yes, Socrates.” A young prince, Vincent, goes to his dying uncle, Anthony, for comfort and advice on the looming Turkish invasion of Hungary. The masterful way Sir Thomas moves the dialogue, especially the ending chapters, is breathtaking! I definitely recommend it to anyone who’s apprehensive, as I am, about the present state of our country.

  15. MikeM says:

    Counterintuitively, I think I’d be ready for “martyrdom” in its strictest sense, but perhaps not in some of its intermediate forms. If I were directly confronted with serious suffering (or, God forbid, death) I would accept that before I would renounce Christ. That’s not the way the Devil’s been working these days… and I’m not sure that I couldn’t be nudged into compromising my beliefs in small doses for smaller conveniences, slowly distancing myself from Him.

    I guess it’s time to pray for stronger Faith.

  16. TomB says:

    Excellent point, MikeM. This “nudging” is a nasty business and requires vigilance, for sure.

    Stay awake!

  17. Melody says:

    Probably not. I can only hope the Holy Spirit would help me out enough to have such courage.

  18. staggering but still standing says:

    I, too, have thought of how I would respond if persecution today lead to martyrdom. I know that on my own that would be completely impossible. Many, many years ago I read a book called “The Hidding Place”, by Corrie Tenboom. She, her sister and father were all sent to a German Concentration Camp for hidding Jews, an ordeal which she alone of her family survived. She spent the rest of her life travelling to proclaim God’s Love and Mercy in all circumstances, for all people. In her book which describes very clearly their experience, I found a “key” I have often clung to during my life. As a small child she was experienceing the fear and question we are now. While talking, she and her father were heading for a trip by train. As it happened they had reached the ticket wicket, and her father turned and handed her the ticket. And he replied to her, “God gives us the ticket when we get on the train”. We need not fear any circumstance that comes in our lives. If we live our lives within the will of God for us, God gives us the ticket when we get on the train–not before, as we don’t need it ahead of time.

  19. Rob Cartusciello says:

    Many a soldier will tell you that the big men, blowhards and braggards are the first to crack in battle.

    It is often the quiet, overlooked, and often goofy-looking soldiers who find the strength of character when it is most needed.

  20. Seraphic Spouse says:

    Well, my husband and I think we are prepared. (He fought the good fight for Traditional Anglicanism for years before swimming the Tiber; I write for a Catholic newspaper, and keep abreast of news about Canadian Catholics’ freedom of religion.) Um, how badly and how quickly are you talking about? We have hiding places for priests, if anyone local needs one…

  21. Allan S. says:

    I’m afraid I would cower in the corner like a little girl. I think I would be OK if it was just me, but even the slightest threat against my family’s safety would probably have me turning in others to save our skins.

    Offering up Isaac at the altar…never really thought I could do that.

  22. MrsHall says:

    Of course I’m not ready. It seems you have to be a crackpot to be getting ready ahead of time. (Remember Y2K?) But Jesus told the disciples not to worry about it when they are taken and brought before the authorities because He would give them the words to say at the moment. I don’t want to see my family suffer. No, of course not. But before we made the decision to become Catholics we could see the writing on the wall. Trouble is coming for those faithful to Christ. There is no question about that. But I am safe in Jesus’ Church, I am safe under His Mother’s mantle. The graces will be there when we need them.

  23. Tina in Ashburn says:

    NO. I am not ready. I like good food, a warm house, a cozy bed, strong coffee, and doing what pleases me.

    It will be a revelation of the power of the Holy Spirit if I endure to the end.

    Every time I say the rosary, I commit the beginning’s first three Hail Marys to Faith, Hope, and Charity. To this I have always added “…and for the Gift of Perseverance” for as long as I can remember. Martyrdom has always been on my mind as a possibility in this convoluted time.

    A big public martyrdom sounds so grand and I’ve imagined myself being a big spectacle in front of the evil judge full of wise words and bravery. HA.

    But can I really do this big frightening thing when I’m too chicken to wear a veil at a wildly liberal parish I’m visiting [yea, its easier among friends]? Can I make the sign of the cross and say the blessing in a public restaurant [you know you are Catholic when you cross yourself before a glass of beer LOL]? Or how about staying away from the wedding of a close friend or relative who chooses to marry outside the Church? Or gently speaking up when someone makes derogatory comments about the Church? Defending someone from mean gossip, risking the loss of that person’s good nature towards you? Or just obediently going to bed on time or putting off a drink when thirsty?

    The little silent martyrdoms strengthen us – like exercising for a marathon. When we stop, how quickly we become flabby, apathetic, and weak.

  24. kab63 says:

    Our church held a St. Nicholas dinner last night with about 150 people attending. We are a small parish and the fellowship is excellent. Children sang karaoke Christmas songs; Father, wearing an apron, was in the kitchen; my own children performed a St. Nicholas puppet show. We had a beautiful and joyful evening, which, IMO, is a critical part of “girding our loins.” Christ is always available to me, but the support of these fellow parishioners and the bed-rock steadfastness of Father strengthen my resolve in confronting the little battles and any potential larger, martyr-sized wars. Building the connections within our own parishes is crucial.

  25. Tina in Ashburn says:

    so very true. Good friends strengthen.
    Another reason to cherish [and support] Fr Z’s blog!

  26. irishgirl says:

    Penguins Fan, Melania and Andy Lucy-I agree. There are times when we have to fight back, like Don Pelayo, Queen Isabella, and Jan Sobieski did.

    If it did come to martyrdom, I’d rather go down fighting the good fight!

    We’re supposed to be the ‘Church Militant’, not the ‘Church Weenie’!


  27. Thomas in MD says:

    I am not ready, and have realized lately how frightened I am that such things might come to pass. Tina: You are right about the little things, especially about defending others from the means-spirited comments that fall continuously in our society-especially in offices. Likewise the blasphemies that are everywhere, most notable from other Christians and Catholics. It is hard enough to live the Faith 24/7 in private, let alone in public. But saints are made not through constant success, but through constant striving. At least that is what I keep telling myself.

  28. mrsmontoya says:

    I expect that here in the US the persecution will be primarily economic and employment discrimination, at least at first. I can’t imagine anyone using physical violence against me, but I can easily imagine an environment growing in my workplace where views are challenged by more and more ‘inclusive’ events that actually serve to identify and isolate those who have Christian sensibilities. For example, when California makes a Lesbian/Gay Pride holiday a mandatory holiday, those of us who object or don’t participate can be targetted as bigots. Over time we become ‘disruptive influences’ in the workforce, and are given ‘administrative leave’ or other psuedonyms for firing.

    Am I prepared for economic discrimination? How will I handle the loss not only of income, but also having to foreclose on our mortgage, car, car repairs…? Kids forced to leave Catholic school, then suffering persecution at public schools…?

    Where do you think we’ll see the first US Catholic ghetto?

  29. I guess I am as ready as I can be, through Mass and the Sacraments and trying to cultivate a sound spiritual and moral life. Other than that I simply trust that God will provide me the actual grace and courage I need when I need it.

  30. bookworm says:

    Well, I’m not ready either. For one thing I have a very hard time standing up to my own husband when he says or does things blatantly contrary to the Faith, even though he still considers himself a Catholic, though only a “Christmas and Easter” one at best. He used to be a faithful Catholic and attended Mass every week, but fell away some years ago for reasons that would take all day to explain. If I can’t even convert him or stop him from falling away, how on earth do I expect to be able to stand up to anyone else. I’ve always been the kind of person who cannot stand ever to make anyone mad or be scolded or yelled at — not a good candidate for martyrdom of any kind!

    Also, he and my daughter are and likely always will be completely financially dependent on me due to various disabilities, so the threat of taking away my paycheck would probably be enough to get me to cave or at least try very very hard to keep my Faith under wraps.

    In a situation such as some of you envision, I would never actively give up or deny the Faith but I would probably also try not to call attention to the fact that I was Catholic, or find some other means to wiggle out of something morally objectionable, like maybe faking illness or claiming I had some other committments, etc. Pretty pathetic I know. This is something I really have to keep working on through prayer and the sacraments (I try to go to confession more frequently these days; but I never tell my husband when I do, for fear of looking “holier than thou!”)

  31. isabella says:

    I’m afraid you all are right about where we are heading – I am a complete physical coward, so I don’t know what I would do in the face of torture. Hope that God would forgive me, I guess, or hope I’m killed quickly. And I pray to the Blessed Mother that She not let me die estranged from her Son, after saying a Memorare.

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