Looking at the images of the funeral of St. John Paul II, I once again came across the Pope's red shoes. I always thought they were beautiful, but I didn't know their deep meaning. I recently learned that the red color of the shoes of the Supreme Pontiff reminds us of Christ's love for His Church because He shed his blood for her, and also the blood of all the martyrs who gave their lives for the love of Christ and His Church.
In this way, when the Pope wears red shoes he is reminding us that the Church is built on the blood of Jesus and the blood of martyrs! The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches us:
Martyrdom is the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: it means bearing witness even unto death. the martyr bears witness to Christ who died and rose, to whom he is united by charity. He bears witness to the truth of the faith and of Christian doctrine. He endures death through an act of fortitude. "Let me become the food of the beasts, through whom it will be given me to reach God. (St. Ignatius of Antioch, quoted in CCC 2473)
Martyrs have their intelligence illuminated by the natural light of reason and the supernatural light of faith that tells them that true life and true happiness are in Heaven, with Our Lord Jesus Christ and that it is not worth exchanging eternal happiness for a few more years of life on this earth. Thus, giving your life to witness your faith in Jesus is the most logical choice to make.
At the public hearing on September 25, 2019, which I had the joy of being present, Pope Francis told us:
The Church today is rich with martyrs. Today there are more martyrs than when the Church began. Martyrs are everywhere. The Church is irrigated by their blood, which is the seed of new Christians and guarantees growth and fruitfulness to the people of God. Martyrs are not "little saints," but men and women of flesh and blood who, as the Apocalypse says, "washed their robes, making them white in the blood of the Lamb." These are the real winners.
According to a survey by the World Watch List website of 2020, eight Christians are killed and ten are unjustly arrested every day for their faith, and 182 Christian churches are attacked every week. These numbers are expressive and are barely reported. Only when they happen in large cities in the West, as was the case with the three people stabbed to death by an Islamist in the French city of Nice at the end of October, did we receive any information.
Are we prepared to give our lives for our faith?
Or if that moment comes, will we deny Christ so that we don't lose our lives? Of course, by ourselves, we achieved nothing. Who gives the grace of perseverance to the end is Jesus himself. But that does not mean that we should be waiting for grace without doing anything. We can and must prepare to defend our faith at any cost.
This preparation takes place primarily with a life of constant prayer and the attendance of the sacraments, especially Confession and the Eucharist. The study of Catholic doctrine and the teaching of the Church also strengthens us. Reading the biographies of so many saints who gave their lives for Jesus can be a great inspiration.
Not all of us will be called to blood martyrdom; this is also a privilege reserved for some chosen ones, according to the loving providence of God the Father. However, in the world in which we live, to some extent each of us Christians goes through some kind of martyrdom. Living according to the Gospel means valuing being more than having; it means renouncing yourself, our tastes and desires in order to do good for others; it means being contrary to so many ideologies that are in fashion or are “politically correct,” and this can result in loss of friendships, and difficulties at work and sometimes within the family itself.
We must not be discouraged by suffering and difficulties. We must count on the always ready help of our holy guardian angel who wants to see us in Heaven, one day. We have a Blessed Mother who takes care of us with infinite love. And Jesus himself encourages us: “But whoever endures to the end will be saved!” (Matthew 10:22)