Tag Archives: martyr

802 new saints reflect the the glory of Love

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Today the Church has 802 new saints, 800 of them are the martyrs of Otranto. This group of canonized were martyrs while you may say that Laura Montoya (aka, Lupita) and Maria Guadalupe García Zavala were “ordinary saints.” These are the first canonizations done by Pope Francis.

What catches our eyes that in one swoop 800 are recognized as martyr saints. Their history tells us that Ottoman soldiers invaded a Christian village town in 1480; the villagers were killed for refusing to convert to Islam, in fact, beheaded because they refused to renounce their Catholic faith.

The wall of skulls of the martyrs of Oltranto (note the picture) displayed prominently in Otranto Cathedral (Apulia region of Italy). These are the human remains, the relics of holy men and women; our new intercessors before the throne of Grace.

The year was 1480 and the fateful day when a fleet of 70 to 200 Ottoman Turks ships reached the city of Otranto, then part of the Kingdom of Naples. The Turkish forces were led by Gedik Ahmed Pasha.

July 28 marks the beginning of the Ottoman wars (1453-1683) in Europe; Mohammed II had invader and conquered Constantinople just 28 years earlier. On August 12, 800 people of Otranto,  Antonio Primaldo and his companions were taken to the hill of Minerva, now called the Hill of the Martyrs, and slaughtered for being faithful to Jesus Christ and His Church.

The Church’s precess of investigating the circumstances and holiness of these people began in 1539 and end on 14 December 1771 with the beatification of the people of Oranto by Pope Clement XIV. Benedict XVI issued a decree on 6 July 2007, stating that out of hatred for the faith these Catholics were killed. Therefore, certifying that martyrdom happened and therefore saints.

The Pope homily is here:

In this seventh Sunday of Easter we are gathered to celebrate with joy a feast of holiness. Thanks be to God who has made His glory – the glory of Love – to shine on the Martyrs of Otranto, on Mother Laura Montoya and María Guadalupe García Zavala. I greet all of you who have come to this celebration – from Italy, Colombia, Mexico, from other countries – and I thank you! Let us look on the new saints in the light of the Word of God proclaimed: a Word that invited us to be faithful to Christ, even unto martyrdom; a word that recalled to us the urgency and the beauty of bringing Christ and his Gospel to everyone; a word that spoke to us about the witness of charity, without which even martyrdom and mission lose their Christian savor.

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Saint John Houghton, Saint Robert Lawrence, and Saint Augustine Webster

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Saint John Houghton (1487-1535), born in Essex, England, became a parish priest then found his vocation with the Carthusian Order, an order founded by Saint Bruno. In history the Carthusian vocation is given to few.  In the North America, in fact, in Vermont, there is only Charterhouse for monks. There is no monastery for Carthusian nuns. We do, however, have a monastery of nuns aggregated to the Carthusian order called, The Monastic Family of Bethlehem and of the Assumption of the Virgin, Livingston Manor, New York. They are impressive nuns because of the complete faithfulness to the charism of being with God alone.

Father Houghton was elected Prior of the Beauvale Charterhouse, Northhampton, for a few months before moving to the London Charterhouse.  In 1534, he was with Blessed Humphrey Middlemore (killed on 19 June 1535), for refusing to accept the Act of Succession, which recognized the legitimacy of the monarchial authority of Elizabeth I. Had Houghton and Middlemore signed the  Act of Succession they would have been released. There were two Carthusian monks accepted the law “as far as the law of God allows” and were released.

Houghton was arrested again in 1535 but this time with Saint Robert Lawrence and Saint Augustine Webster finally for refusing to accept the Act of Supremacy.  Lawrence was the Prior of the Beauvale Charterhouse and Webster was the Prior of the Axholme Charterhouse at the time of the arrests. The three were hanged, drawn, and quartered on this date in1535.

With the Church we pray:

Almighty and everlasting God, who kindled the flame of your love in the hearts of your holy martyrs Saint John Houghton, Saint Robert Lawrence, and Saint Augustine Webster: grant to us, your humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in their triumph may profit by their examples.

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Saint Polycarp

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Saint Polycarp‘s rich writings point to one thing: a sharp focus on Jesus Christ as the only thing we ought to be concerned with today. Nothing else really matters….

Polycarp (AD 69-155) was a bishop of Smyrna and martyr of the Church. He was a disciple of the Beloved Disciple John who ordained him a bishop. Polycarp’s life and work are attested to by Irenaeus, Tertullian and Jerome. He is called an Apostolic Father along with Saint Clement of Rome and Saint Ignatius of Antioch.

Saint Polycarp’s witness is key in knowing the early Church’s life and how we work in building up the Kingdom today. The saint was instrumental in bring others to Christ.

This excerpt tells us of his call to greater conversion in the Lord.

“… if we do His will and walk in His commandments and love the things which He loved, abstaining from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, false witness; not rendering evil for evil or railing for railing or blow for blow or cursing for cursing; but remembering the words which the Lord spake as He taught; Judge not that ye be not judged. Forgive, and it shall be forgiven to you. Have mercy that ye may receive mercy. With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again; and again Blessed are the poor and they that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”

The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians

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Saint Agnes

Saint Agnes of Rome

Saint Agnes of Rome

What I longed for, I now see; what I hoped for, I now possess; in heaven I am espoused to him whom on earth I loved with all my heart. 

Saint Agnes raised her hands and prayed: Holy Father, hear me. I am coming to you whom I have loved, whom I have sought and always desired.

The feast of Agnes, like the other virgin martyrs of the Church point to the fact that loving Christ is no easy fact, even when the burning desire of the heart is tangible. Much suffering, much rejection, unto death, is the sign of discipleship. In many ways the line from yesterday’s gospel, “Do what he tells you” is very exacting today with Agnes.

The cost of being in love with Jesus Christ and the willingness to suffer for and with His sacrament, the Church, is as much a reality today in all parts of the world as it was for Agnes in hers.

Let is pray for persecuted Christians, those who desire to belong to Christ but can’t.

Saint Stephen

Stoning of Stephen.jpgThe gates of heaven were opened for blessed Stephen, who was found to be first among the number of the Martyrs and therefore is crowned triumphant in heaven. (Entrance Antiphon)

There’s nothing sentimental about the Christmas season, at least, liturgically speaking, with the day after the feast of the Incarnation being dedicated to the first martyr, Saint Stephen. The antiphon for Mass (above) tells us what the Church believes. The Stational Mass in Rome for today is the Church of Saint Stephen on the Coelian Hill.

Stephen is clearly one of the earliest followers of Jesus, a convert to the way of living proposed by Jesus. Stephen is known to be the first to lay down his life for Christ.
What comes to mind for Saint Stephen’s intercession is help is all those Christians around the world who live in fear of persecution, and those who live in an atmosphere of being misunderstood –falsely accused. Today is also a day to pray for our deacons since Saint Stephen was among the first 7 deacons of our Church.

“Yesterday the Lord of the universe welcomed us whereas today it is the imitator [Stephen] of the Lord,” Saint Gregory of Nyssa preached.
Stephen was stoned in Jerusalem two years after the Lord was crucified. The Church’s Liturgy echoes the teaching of the Fathers of the Church and what was experienced by Stephen himself: imitate the Lord by teaching truth, praying for those who harm you, forgiving those who falsely accuse you, and offer your life completely, even unto death.¬†Persecuted Christians give good evidence of this assessment.
What connection must we make between the beauty of the birth of the Son of God and the death Stephen? The Child born humbly in poverty will humbly die on the cross, the swaddling clothes at the birth will become the burial shroud; the cave of the birth later becomes the cave of death.
Among the things Saint Stephen is the patron of, are deacons, persecuted Christians, coffin makers, and against headaches.
With the Church we pray,
Grant, Lord, we pray, that we may imitate what we worship, and so learn to love even our enemies, for we celebrate the heavenly birthday of a man who knew how to pray even for his persecutors.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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