Christ said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness: the kingdom of heaven is theirs” (Mt 5:10). Father Réginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, commented, “This is an altogether supernatural beatitude, which is practically understood only by souls enlightened by God. There are, moreover, many spiritual degrees in this state, from that of the good Christian who begins to suffer for having acted well, obeyed, and given good example, up to the martyr who died for the faith.”

St. Stephen the protomartyr exemplified this beatitude. He died praying and forgiving his persecutors. One of them, Saul, eventually converted and became St. Paul. Every year, on the Feast of St. Stephen (Dec. 26), a sermon by Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe is read in the Office of Readings. It states: “Love led him to pray for those who stoned him, to save them from punishment. Strengthened by the power of his love, he overcame the raging cruelty of Saul and won his persecutor on earth as his companion in heaven. In his holy and tireless love he longed to gain by prayer those whom he could not convert by admonition.”

There is an ancient axiom: “the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.” Italian journalist Antonio Socci pointed out that in the two millennia of Christian history, about 70 million faithful have given their lives for the faith, and of these, 45.5 million – fully 65 per cent – were in the 20th century.

On July 13, 1917, the three children of Fatima had a vision of martyrdom known as “the third secret of Fatima.” The children saw a bishop dressed in white, and other bishops, priests, and religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a large cross.

Sister Lucia wrote: “Having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big cross he (the bishop dressed in white) was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other bishops, priests, men and women religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.”

According to Antonio Socci, the two currents that fuel the persecution of Christians today are communism and Muslim fundamentalism.

Many of us remember the image of the 21 men martyred by ISIS on Feb. 15, 2015. Thirteen of the men came from El-Aour, a small town in Upper Egypt, where they lived a life of poverty. The faith and simplicity of the people at El-Aour are truly inspiring. Today, El-Aour is a destination for pilgrimages in honour the martyrs.

A journalist visited the families of the martyrs and found that they were not mourning but venerating the new martyrs. He wrote, “Condolences and expressions of sympathy seemed out of place. Each family seemed to me to have somehow been elevated to another plane.” 

During the Second World War, Nowogrodek was occupied first by the Russians and later by the Germans. Twelve Sisters of the Holy Family resided in the convent in the summer of 1943. The Nazis arrested 120 people, including many fathers of Polish families. The women of the town begged the sisters to pray for their release. The sisters prayed that if a sacrifice was needed, that they be sacrificed and the men be returned to Nowogrodek.

On July 31, 11 sisters were taken into prison. On Aug. 1, 1943, they were driven into the woods. There, they were shot and thrown into a mass grave. God accepted their sacrifice and the men were spared. 



首位殉道者、聖斯德望,他完美地演譯了這端真福,他臨終時仍為迫害他的人祈禱、寬恕他們 ── 當中包括掃祿 ── 即後來外邦人使徒聖保祿。每年的聖斯德望瞻禮(十二月二十六日),誦讀日課時,必把拉斯派特的聖爾根提烏的訓導朗誦出來:「由於他愛人,他為用石擊殺他的人祈禱,好使他們免受懲罰。斯德望因愛德之力而堅強,戰勝了殘暴地反對他的掃祿。掃祿在地上是他的迫害者,日後在天上却成為他的伴侶。他那永不枯竭而神聖的愛德,使他渴望藉著祈禱去爭取那些無法以勸告而使之回頭的人。」古有彥語:「殉道者的血是基督徒的種籽。」

意大利撰稿人安多尼奧.索奇指出,兩千多年的基督宗教歷史裡,約有七千萬名信徒為信仰而致命,其中百分之六十五 ── 約四千五百五十萬名,是在二十世紀致命。