Thursday, August 21, 2014

Itty Bitty Martyrs, Teeny Tiny Saints

I was raised, in Catholic school, on stories of martyrs. Those gilded, shimmering beings who (I just knew) had floated through their lives on a plane above the rest of us, smiling at their hangmen and singing for joy in prison cells.

It did not occur to me that the wounds of such heroes might actually hurt. Nor that anyone called to such glory would not feel instantly glorious. Oh no. I was sure these shining ones were granted special dispensations from pain.

I even brought them, sometimes, into my young world of pretend.  Crossing arms across my chest, gazing wistfully at the sky with head tilted back, I glided across my front yard confident that I looked exactly like the painting on a holy card. 'Goodbye world... so long, family.... farewell, neighbors playing cowboys....  I bequeath to you the cars in my sandbox and my swing hung on a tree and even my black cocker spaniel.  As for me, I'm off to dance amid the flames.....'   

Fast forward many years. As a grownup in today's world, I recognize the truth that martyrdom hurts.  That prison cells are far from comfortable.  That people in flames don't feel so much like dancing. 

I also recognize something else.  I have finally gotten the message that sainthood isn't only for some.  It is for every single one of us. And martyrdom?  Well, that's not a word we're tossing around lightly these days.

I have been thinking a lot, again, of the littlest martyrdoms.  The ones we face day after day.  I know I just posted about this last time, but it is staying on my mind.  It sticks with me like a persistent call to prayer, like the insistent clang of a monastery bell.

'Offer that pain for this intention'
'When you're insulted for Me, choose to count it joy'
'Pray for My Church'
'Accept this cross as prayer for those who are suffering'
'Die to your own will in this matter'
'Intercede for an end to abortion'
'Pray for Godliness in the world'
'Do not participate in this evil'
'Don't react to that person in anger'
'No one is standing up for Me.  Will you?'
'The world is in trouble.'

My little deaths to self are, when compared to true martyrdom, oh so tiny. My steps toward sainthood are wobbly and small.

But I am failing God if I don't take those steps.  I'm failing Him when I don't cooperate with His call.

You and I?  We may feel that in God's plans we are teeny.

But we have the call to be heroes.  We have the call to be saints.

Painting at top of post:  Scherrer, St. Joan departure, in US public domain due to age
Joan the Woman movie poster in public domain

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  1. As a catechist, I find it so important to invite the children into the lives of the saints, and yet to draw the reality out of their profound stories of faith. Likewise, as you so beautifully pointed out, in our path toward God there are moments of where we too are called to die to self, and strive for holiness. "We can do all small things with great love" (M.Theresa)

    1. Thanks so much, Elizabeth. Even though my grade-school mind imagined saints as somehow "gilded," I am eternally grateful to have been introduced to them at a young age. As I grew, I began to realize that they were actual people...people who were actually quite like me. They provide us with such examples - we are blessed!


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