One of the strongest testimonies a person can give is to freely offer up their life for something or someone. It naturally makes an impact when we hear the stories of men and women that have given their lives for their country, ideals, family and their God.
We call these men and women martyrs. Martyr is a Greek word which means ‘witness’ and the Catholic Church holds a special place of honor for her children that have witnessed to their love of God and his priority in their lives. Many of the church´s martyrs experienced great torture, ridicule and persecution along with the giving of their lives.
I want to share with you another type of martyrdom which I learned about when I joined the Legion of Christ. We call it ‘White Martyrdom’. White martyrdom is the offering up to God of our lives in the daily actions of our duty as Christians. It´s not dramatic and bloody, but nonetheless a heroic, daily “dying” of ourselves to proclaim that God is first in our lives and others second.
A white martyr is the dad, who day in and day out provides his family with their spiritual and material needs. It is the seminarian who perseveres through his years of studies for the love of the souls he will encounter in his future ministry. It is the nun hidden from the world who offers her life of prayer and sacrifice for the conversion of the world. It is also the priest who sits in the confessional for hours at a time healing the wounds of God’s children. Today, truly there are many white martyrs!
Every day for the last 10 years of my life I have asked for the grace of martyrdom. The more I reflect though, the more I realize that this grace has already been given to me. I just need to freely respond to it.
In the 2nd Century Tertullian said that “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church”.
I would add that “The perseverance of white martyrs is the sunshine needed for the Church to grow”.