“I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation…so that…you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe…” (NRSV, Ephesians 1:17,18, 19)
When we think of the Blessed Saints our minds probably turn first to Our Blessed Lady, the Queen of Heaven and the Apostles, the Princes of the Heavenly Court. But besides them there are countless others whose lives on earth reached out beyond the heroic to the sublime, and who, at this actual moment are in Heaven in the Visible Presence of God himself.
Of these, some are commemorated in the Church’s Calendar, others have no memorial on earth at all. But those in the Calendar may be regarded as typical of the devotion and courage of the rest, whether martyrs or not.
Thus there is Agnes, a child-martyr who died in Rome in around 304 when she was about 12 or 13 years old. (1) Or Perpetua, Felicity and their companions who, for the sake of Our Blessed Lord, were thrown to wild animals in the arena at Carthage in 203. (2)
Coming nearer home, we remember Thomas à Becket who, for his fearless loyalty to God and for his unyielding defence of God’s Church, was martyred in Canterbury Cathedral. And nearer to us in time there is Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan priest, who in 1941 gave his life to save a fellow prisoner – a married man with children – from death by starvation in Auschwitz. In this way Maximilian died a martyr to charity. (3)