What good is martyrdom - dying for God - if one does not live for God? St. Francis de Sales asks.
Do you think it is possible for someone to become a martyr who was not already living a life for God? Or in Saint Francis’ words: “How can he will to die for God who will not live according to God?”
While acknowledging the supreme act of love that a blood martyrdom is, Francis refers to it as just a single act of love. How can we show our love for God in other ways?
Why is it so difficult to forgive those close to us – friends, spouses, and neighbors? Why is it so important?
These are some of points raised in a recent online “Living Jesus” chat sponsored by the Visitation Sisters below.
"Living Jesus" Chat
Visitation Sister: Tonight, we begin by talking about martyrdom! Which St Jane often referred to--and as her feast is approaching*, a good time to think about what she thought about.
Denise: Good topic tonight.
Visitation Sister: First reflection: What good is martyrdom (dying for God) if one does not live for God? Do you think it is possible for someone to become a martyr who was not already living a life for God?
Visitation Sister: Living a life for God can be a martyrdom for some.
Julie: Maybe one becomes a martyr not by choice, but the situation causes it to happen.
Visitation Sister: Yes, good point, like in persecuted areas.
Julie: Yes, many times due to change of political power, it can happen overnight.
Denise: Do you mean living a life for God but not being martyred, just the living and losing loved ones perhaps?
Julie: I think it means living a life of self-sacrifice.
Visitation Sister: Yes, St Jane would call it a martyrdom.
Visitation Sister: I’ll see if I can find the reference.
Julie: A white martyrdom.
Visitation Sister: She called it the martyrdom of love.
Visitation Sister: St. Jane de Chantal said, “My dear daughters, many of our holy fathers in the faith, men who were pillars of the Church, did not die martyrs. Why do you think this was?” Each one present offered an answer; then their mother continued. “Well, I myself think it was because there is another martyrdom: The martyrdom of love. Here God keeps His servants and handmaids in this present life so that they may labor for Him, and He makes of them both martyrs and confessors. I know,” she added, “that the Daughters of the Visitation are meant to be martyrs of this kind and that, by the favor of God, some of them, more fortunate than others in that their desire has been granted, will actually suffer such a martyrdom.”
Visitation Sister: “Divine love takes its sword to the hidden recesses of our inmost soul and divides us from ourselves. I know one person whom love cut off from all that was dearest to her, just as completely and effectively as if a tyrant’s blade had severed spirit from body.”
Anne: I love these words of St. Jane. Wonderful.
Julie: Wonderful but not easy.
Visitation Sister: A lot to ponder, yes!
Kate: Like our Virgin Mother.
Anne: St. Jane’s words are almost prophetic in regard to the life of St. Margaret Mary. I believe she suffered a lot to bring the message of the Sacred Heart.
Visitation Sister: True!!
Martyrdom - How Long?
Visitation Sister: When another sister asked how long the martyrdom would continue, the saint replied: “From the moment when we commit ourselves unreservedly to God, until our last breath. I am speaking, of course, of great-souled individuals who keep nothing back for themselves, but instead are faithful in love. Our Lord does not intend this martyrdom for those who are weak in love and perseverance. Such people He lets continue on their mediocre way, so that they will not be lost to Him; He never does violence to our free will.
Visitation Sister: So, if we are not great-souled, He accepts, I am sure, all that we can give and suffer for Him.
Visitation Sister: Last part: The saint was asked whether this martyrdom of love could be put on the same level as martyrdom of the body. She answered: “We should not worry about equality. I do think, however, that their martyrdom of love cannot be relegated to a second place, for love is as strong as death. For the martyrs of love suffer infinitely more in remaining in this life so as to serve God, than if they died a thousand times over in testimony to their faith and love and fidelity.”
Julie: Hopefully we have the grace to suffer such martyrdom.
Visitation Sister: Yes, it takes grace for sure, whether in or out of a monastery.
Visitation Sister: But as Gospel said today ASK. Ask for everything, especially grace.
Julie: It is an honor to be chosen. I suppose we can ask.
Visitation Sister: How can we show our love for God in other ways? What are ways that we can be “martyrs” without dying?
Denise: Being obedient to his will always.
Visitation Sister: And that can be difficult in two ways for me: first to be sure of His will.That is sometimes hard. And then as you suggest, to do His will.
Julie: Yes, always we are not sure.
Visitation Sister: That is a real suffering.
Kate: Making sacrifices such as helping the needy and ill.
Visitation Sister: And there are so many needy!
Visitation Sister: I was speaking with a woman from Colombia who said it is very difficult there now as so many are leaving Venezuela for Colombia. Horror stories, really.
Denise: To know his will, if we are unsure maybe we can pray, ask him to show us if or what is his will.
Visitation Sister: True, Denise, ask Him to show us! Then perhaps we need to recognize when He does.
Kate: Yes, there are, Sister. Watching other news sources helps see what’s going on. The US doesn’t even cover much outside the US.
Denise: Imagining the difficulty of being in other places where it is so difficult and painful.
Rebecca: And Colombia is no garden of Eden either; my friend Fr. Pablo served there. Wow! What he witnessed and was part of — and now dying of complications of what he suffered there.
Visitation Sister: What happened to him?
Julie: It’s 1 a.m., I have to go now. Good night and GOD bless.
Denise: Goodnight, Julie. God bless!
Kate: Good night, Julie.
Visitation Sister: Blessings, Julie!
Denise: Yes, what happened?
Rebecca: No direct violence to him, but illnesses that he would never have experienced in Europe — with lifelong manifestations.
Visitation Sister: Why is it so difficult to forgive those close to us: friends, spouses, and neighbors? Why is it so important?
Visitation Sister: Is this a martyrdom of sorts?
Rebecca: Glad you’ve been back, Julie. Was thinking of you, praying all is well with you — and, funny, because of mosquitoes here, remembering hearing of very strict laws in — your country, I think — e.g. Being ticketed if there was any water in a saucer under a potted plant on a windowsill.
Rebecca: If there is.
Anne: Perhaps it is difficult to forgive those closest to us because we have a higher expectation of them than we do strangers or mere acquaintances. Maybe…?
Rebecca: Water — because mosquitos breed in it and carry diseases.
Kate: Trust, sometimes is the cause, I think.
Visitation Sister: Do you mean when our trust is betrayed.
Kate: Yes, loss of trust is what I was going to write, you wrote it better.
Denise: Or a situation which is continuous (rather than one event) hard to forgive.
Rebecca: Yes, Anne, I think you are right on the mark about that.
Rebecca: I agree, Denise.
Visitation Sister: Hi, Caroline.
Denise: True, Anne, our loved ones we would expect more, I think this is true.
Caroline: Hi, Everyone!
Denise: Hi, Caroline!
Betrayal and Church Abuse
Rebecca: Betrayal of trust is what makes the abuse within the Church so awful; people then blame God, the Church, for the sins committed against them.
Visitation Sister: Horrific yes.
Denise: Betrayal. Yes, the church, but even of loved ones when they betray being open and transparent with one another.
Rebecca: And early betrayal of children’s trust by their parents or caregivers leaves a legacy of either distrust or struggle to trust usually lifelong.
Denise: We really are so fragile!
Denise: We are so weak without him. Our only hope is Him.
Rebecca: Spouses have to be able to trust one another.
Visitation Sister: How is trust manifested, is it an interior state as well as an outward demonstration?
Rebecca: I sometimes wonder how people who do not know about the God who humbled Himself to take on everything we are except our sinfulness can go on in the face of serious hardships.
Rebecca: Come to think of it, a lot of them do NOT. The suicide rate, among young people is skyrocketing!
Denise: It is, but I also believe there are more conversions now.
Denise: Many people turning to God, his church. I think this does not make big news, yet many are talking of it.
Kate: Yes, I think so. Trust in God to guide us, is interior.
Denise: Like the underground news.
Rebecca: And, sadly, more reversions: I think the rate is something like 3 out of four.
Anne: I think trust is both: inward and outward. A trustworthy person will be a person of integrity which springs forth from strong moral principles and this integrity is then manifested by the actions of a well-ordered, well-principled life.
Rebecca: I hope you are right, Denise.
Denise: Trust is built over time, it’s an accumulation of love acted out.
Rebecca: But slowly, the US population, the horrendous new abortion laws in NYS notwithstanding, are coming to realize the error of so-called “abortion rights.”
Visitation Sister: It is true we don’t hear all the good news. Someone told me that on St Ann’s Feast this week in NYC a church was packed for over 4 hours with people praying.
Rebecca: Well put, Denise.
Visitation Sister: Even when we are betrayed and lose trust, we could view the incident as a one-time weakness and not totally lose trust in the person.
Rebecca: I think people are beginning to realize that we are in a battle against demonic forces both in the Church and in western society.
Denise: Important point, Sister.
Rebecca: Could be, Sister, and it could be that that would just be imprudence; it depends on the situation, and the person and the kind of incident, and whether or not there is only a contractual relationship or a covenant relationship, as in marriage.
Visitation Sister: Great points, it helps to discern a situation.
Visitation Sister: But yes, we are in a tremendous spiritual battle.
Bishop Barron’s Letter to a Suffering Church
Denise: Yes, Rebecca, didn’t Bishop Barron refer to it as a diabolical masterpiece? The church…but it is not confined to just there.
Visitation Sister: It is almost unreal the things I read about.
Rebecca: ALL of us are sinners; all offend one way or another, at least some of the time. We need to realize that in an imperfect world with imperfect people even good, generally trustworthy people can, at times, do something that challenges our trust, or omit to do something they should or have promised to do. . .
Visitation Sister: So, we need to support one another in any way we can!
Denise: Yes, so important to encourage one another during these times!!
Rebecca: What seems unreal; what is happening?
Denise: Sometimes…well I wonder if living during these times could be seen as a sort of martyrdom.
Rebecca: Let me know if you would like a copy of Bishop Barron’s Letter to a Suffering Church. I purchased extra copies to give to anyone who would be likely to read it. It’s about the sexual abuse crisis.
Visitation Sister: I was referring to the great spiritual battle.
Visitation Sister: Yes, Denise, I think so.
Rebecca: One thing Bishop Barron points out is that there ARE precedents, both biblical and in the history of the church. You have to be able to get past the first few chapters . . .
Visitation Sister: I need to leave now. Blessings on each of you!
Kate: Good night, Sister, and thank you!
Kate: Good night, Everyone!
Denise: Good night, Sr. Thank you. God bless.
Denise: Goodnight, Kate.
Caroline: Quite a deep discussion tonight.
Rebecca: Good night, Sister, good night, Kate. Hi Caroline; I didn’t notice you were here. Just “listening” tonight?
Denise: Yes. Caroline. Hope all is well with you. And Rebecca, and everyone. Peace be with us all. Goodnight.
Caroline: My formation ran very late tonight and I was not up to speed. Just got back from my brother’s wedding. Marvelous! But I am jet lagged.
Rebecca: Yes, deep. Living as a martyr or dying as one; it seems that that is what these times call for.
Denise: Weddings wonderful. Get a good night sleep!
Caroline: Whoever would save his life will lose it, whoever will lose it will save it.
Denise: Thank you, Caroline.
Caroline: I think I’ve started sleeping already.
Rebecca: So glad, Caroline, you were able to attend the wedding and enjoyed it. I will, God willing, be at my grand-niece’s wedding.
Denise: We are, Rebecca, these are the times we are in.
Caroline: Oh, I hope so!
Denise: Wonderful, Rebecca! Weddings are joyful, hopeful!
Caroline: And Jesus blesses them.
Denise: Yes. Amen. Goodnight, all.
Caroline: Good night!
Join Our Chat!
Did you enjoy this discussion? Please share it with your friends by using the social buttons below. And why not join our chat this Sunday? Go to the Visitation Sisters’ “Living Jesus Chat Room.”
* Feast of St. Jane de Chantal is December 12