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Are you willing to risk martyrdom?

Feast of Saint Stephen, the First Martyr, 26 December 2020

In today’s reflection, Waiting in Joyful Hope author Michelle Francl-Donnay reflects on Acts 7:56b, Saint Óscar Romero’s last Christmas Eve homily, the perils of discipleship.

In the comments section below, share your own response to today’s scripture (vigil or night or dawn or day), Francl-Donnay’s reflection, or the accompanying meditation prompt.

2 thoughts on “Are you willing to risk martyrdom?”

  1. In the homily referenced in today’s reflection, St. Óscar Romero identifies a balance that’s difficult to maintain. He warns against “converting [situations of suffering] into demagogy” while still preaching against passivity, urging that we “attempt to liberate” people from their suffering and to “raise [our] voice in holy rebelliousness.” He advocates for action, but he teaches that it must be hopeful and directed toward the greater glory of God, not laced with pessimism and fanaticism.

    When we picture St. Óscar, we tend to focus on that moment when he was gunned down while saying Mass—truly a glorious martyrdom. But the martyrdom he suffered began long before that, in the countless instances when he adjusted his balance, fought against the temptation to cynicism, checked his anger, endured.

    Could I ever demonstrate that kind of stamina? Not by myself, I sure couldn’t.

  2. A martyr, in my mind, is one who truly lays down his life, to give up one’s preferred way of living, to serve. Thus, there are many different kinds of martyrs. The differences lie in how they lay down their lives. There are those who do and do until they do themselves dry. There are martyrs who do loudly, needing human affirmation. Some martyrs serve others only to avoid going to hell for a sin of omission. But there are ways of laying down one’s life for others that lead to sainthood. St. Stephen was the first in a long line to die witnessing Jesus the Christ, and proclaiming it. Then there are martyrs who chose an unconventional service, when they could have remained in a comfortable life, such as the nuns in El Salvador in 1980. But 2020 has revealed a new group of martyrs- any front line worker who shows up day after day, risking the possibility of dying on a ventilator. The lesson for me is to act when called by God. May I receive the grace to act simply for the greater glory of God, with no thought for my own life.

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