The Mercedarians gave a talk to a FOCUS group just outside Philadelphia, PA. Answering the Church’s call for a new evangelization, FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, is a national outreach that meets college students where they are and invites them into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and the Catholic faith.
Is your faith a bastion for martyrdom? The leaders of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students faced this question during their missionary retreat in Pennsylvania. To help the FOCUS leaders commit more radically to the Lord so as to better witness to the students at universities to whom they minister, Fr. Joseph Eddy, O.de.M. provided the missionaries with inspiring talks on martyrdom, and the example of the martyrs of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy.
Martyrdom, the true and highest gift of witness to Christ and the Faith, is a grace given by God. But all the faithful are called to perfection, to the same heroic witness of charity. This entails imitating Christ so as to fulfill His Father’s will and to nourish our faith with an incessant commitment to the Gospel. This is why the FOCUS Missionaries attend Mass and make holy hours with the Eucharist several times a week, so that they can be with Christ and take Him out to the students and even the world, to “consecrate the world itself” to God (Lumen Gentium).
The Mercedarian Order was founded by St. Peter Nolasco through the Blessed Virgin Mary, to participate in the Lamb of God’s sacrificial, ransoming mission for the redemption of the world, specifically by freeing Christian captives in danger of losing the Faith. The Mercedarians today continue to seek the same freedom of captives in danger of giving up the one, true Faith. The friars, in professing the Fourth Vow (the Blood Vow), willingly choose, in charity, to give up their lives for the redemption of captives, should it be necessary.
But, there is another martyrdom that exists and that is practiced by the faithful of the Church. It is the white martyrdom of community life. This daily dying of those undergoing the ordinary sufferings of family and community life enables true sanctification. Then, these souls, by their witness, can encourage others who are struggling to persevere in the faith. Praying constantly for faith, living theological hope, and begging for the strengthening of captive Christians, martyrdom was a grace given to some Mercedarians for the glory of God, the ultimate witness of Christ’s love and Truth. Today, when the world attacks faith through skepticism, hedonism and all forms of self-idolatry, Jesus’ call to perfection remains. We may or may not one day be a martyr like St. Serapion and other Mercedarians. But it is certain that we must be holy, endure the white martyrdom, and follow the will of God for the sake of the conversion of the world and the salvation of the Church in trial. That total love which Christ gave us on the Cross—and the love that He asks us to give to others—is nothing but the same heroism of a martyr’s love.
A Mercedarian Postulant