What can you and I learn from Vincentian martyrs?

by | Sep 2, 2017 | Formation, Reflections

Tis the season of… Vincentian martyrs. What can you and I learn from Vincentian martyrs?

A season of Vincentian martyrs

In a two week period, the Congregation of the Mission celebrates 3 memorials of Vincentian Martyrs. August 30 marks the martyrdom Bl. Ghebre Michael followed a few days later by the memorials of Bl. Louis-Joseph François, Jean-Henri Gruyer, Pierre-René Rogue John Charles Caron and Nicholas Colin. Closing out this two-week cycle is the feast of St. John Gabriel Perboyre.

October 13 marks the date Pope Francis beatified 27 Daughters of Charity, 11 priests of the Congregation of the Mission, 3 lay Brothers of the Congregation of the Mission and 1 laywoman, a member of the Daughters of Mary of the Miraculous Medal Association– all martyrs.

As if that isn’t enough, on November 11 Pope Francis will declare blessed 60 members of the Vincentian Family. (Link)

What a “cloud of witnesses”! (Hebrews 12:1) Is there a message here for you and me as ordinary Christians? Pope Francis and St. Vincent think so!

Pope Francis’ Message

Pope Francis believes that every Christian is a “ martyr”, a witness to the sure hope that faith inspires. Etymologically “martyr’ means witness. By their example and intercession, may we become ever more convincing witnesses, above all in the events of our daily lives, to our undying hope in the promises of Christ.

…many Christians in the world today are blessed because they are persecuted, insulted, imprisoned. There are so many in prison, only to bring a cross or to confess Jesus Christ! They with their martyrdom, with their testimony, with their suffering, even giving their lives, offering life, they sow Christians for the future and in other churches,”

Vincent’s Perspective

Vincent shares his powerful insights with the early Daughters of Charity.

Did the martyrs suffer more than these Sisters? No indeed, they certainly didn’t, because having one’s head cut off is soon over and done with. If they suffered greater torments, these still didn’t last very long; they were quickly terminated by death.

But those women who give themselves to God in your Company are sometimes with sick persons full of infection and sores and often noxious body fluids; sometimes with poor children for whom everything must be done; or with poor convicts loaded down with chains and afflictions; and they come under the authority of persons they don’t even know but are bound to obey in every type of ministry.

And you wouldn’t consider such persons worthy of respect! They’re far more worthy of it than anything I could say to you, and I see nothing like it. If we saw the spot where a martyr had been, we’d approach it only with respect and kiss it with great reverence; yet, we’re capable of despising our Sisters, who are persons God preserves and enables to exist in a state of martyrdom. Hold them in great esteem, dear Sisters; keep that high opinion of them, no matter what may happen, and look upon them as martyrs of Jesus Christ, since they serve their neighbor for love of him (CCD:IX:213-214).

– from Saint Vincent de Paul: the Martyrdom of Charity

Questions to think about

* What was my reaction to reading the powerful words of Vincent?
* Have I ever thought of Vincentian service as a form of martyrdom?