the christian martyr

Stefano Maderno (1576-1636)
“The Martyrdom of Saint Cecilia” (1600)
Marble
Located in the Church of St. Cecilia, Rome, Italy

Tradition has it that the statue represents the position in which St Cecilia’s body was found.

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February 5th 1597: 26 martyrs of Japan execution

On this day in 1597, 26 Japanese Catholcs were executed by crucifixtion in Nagasaki. European Christians sent a number of missionaries to Japan throughout the sixteenth century, converting as many as 300,000 Japanese people by the end of the century. However, the Japanese government saw Catholics, an example of foreign influence, as a threat to the nation. Toyotomi Hideyoshi - the highest-ranked official of the emperor - sought to consolidate his power by expelling priests from the country, which began with the arrest of six missionaries and eighteen Japanese Christians in Kyoto and Osaka. They were forced to make the 800km walk to Nagaski, and were joined by two more Catholics along the way. When the 26 arrived at Nishizaka Hill, Nagasaki, they were executed. This marked the beginning of two centuries of Christian persecution in Japan; by 1630, Catholicism had been driven underground. The martyrs were beatified in 1627 and canonised by the Pope in 1862. Japan’s Christian ban was lifted by the Meiji government in 1873, and thousands of Christians came out of hiding. The site of the execution is now a Japanese National Sanctuary and a pilgrim spot for Catholics; Pope John Paul II visited the site in 1981. The story of the martyrdom of early Japanese converts to Christianity has been explored in Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence, which has since been adapted for screen by Martin Scorcese.

2 years ago 21 men were martyred. One wasn’t a Christian until the last moment.

“Their God is My God”

“Following the brutal murder of a group of Coptic Christians by members of the Islamic State (ISIS) on February 12, 2015, the names of the 21 martyred men were widely shared. Prior to the beheadings, the victims were kidnapped while residing in Libya, where they were working in order to support their families.

Initially, it was believed that all of the men who were slain for their faith were from small impoverished villages in Egypt. However, while the name and background of one of those killed was first unknown, Mathew Ayairga was soon identified by friends who recognized him in the video footage of the killings released by ISIS. According to “Ahram-Canadian News,” Mathew, who had been missing since January of 2015, was from the country of Chad.

The video showed each of the kidnapped men dressed in orange jumpsuits, kneeling on a beach, with their black-clothed attackers standing behind them. Each man was then systematically beheaded. The video clearly captured many of the men praying, “Lord Jesus Christ,” in their final moments.

According to reports, Mathew was not a Christian. However, just moments before his death, when the ISIS militants demanded he follow Islam, Mathew turned them down. After reportedly witnessing the “immense faith” of the Egyptian believers, he decided to become a follower of Christ himself. On camera, one of the terrorists asked Mathew, “Do you reject Christ?” He responded boldly: “Their God is my God.” He then became one of the 21 men who laid down their lives for their faith in Christ.”

Why some people see Donald Trump as a hero, not a bully:

So, let’s start from this point: Donald Trump is not a hero. He’s a bully.

Heroes, after all, defend the weak and marginalized against the strong and the vicious. Bullies pick on the weak and the marginalized to the benefit of the strong and the comfortable. Much like his racism, Trump’s bullying is textbook.

None of which changes for a second the fact that lots of Americans seem to think of Trump as a hero anyway. And since at least part of my job is to think about things that don’t make sense, here’s my take on why the “Hero Trump” people think the way they do.

The Hero Trump people have engaged in what can be called “privilege inversion.” Basically, they have convinced themselves that liberals and minorities have created a world in which it is substantively worse to be a white person, especially a male white person, than to be “Other.” From their point of view, political correctness and its associated practices – trigger warnings, language policing, etc. – have made victims of those who are otherwise assumed to be privileged. Thus, white people, especially men and especially Christians, are actually the abused minority group in America, victims of the PC police and a culture that regularly mocks their values and their goals.

Please don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying this has happened. I am NOT saying white male Christians are martyrs or that the PC police run the world. I AM saying that a whole lot of Trump’s supporters think this way. Hence his being an asshole makes him a hero: as Barry Goldwater once put it (in a very different context), “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! … moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”

In the Trumpette worldview, the erosion of privilege makes one a martyr. Trump is King Canute (look it up!) heroically standing against the tide, and his supporters seem to believe that – unlike Canute – Trump can hold back the waves.

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Saint  Thérèse of Lisieux portraying Joan of Arc in a play written by Thérèse herself.  She also wrote several poems in honor of The Maid of Orleans.

To Joan of Arc
by Saint  Thérèse of Lisieux 

When the Lord God of hosts gave you the victory,
You drove out the foreigner and had the king crowned.
Joan, your name became renowned in history.
Our greatest conquerors paled before you.

But that was only a fleeting glory.
Your name needed a Saint’s halo.
So the Beloved offered you His bitter cup,
And, like Him, you were spurned by men.

At the bottom of a black dungeon, laden with heavy chains,
The cruel foreigner filled you with grief.
Not one of your friends took part in your pain.
Not one came forward to wipe your tears.

Joan, in your dark prison you seem to me
More radiant, more beautiful than at your King’s coronation.
This heavenly reflection of eternal glory,
Who then brought it upon you? It was betrayal.

Ah! If the God of love in this valley of tears
Had not come to seek betrayal and death,
Suffering would hold no attraction for us.
Now we love it; it is our treasure. 

Saint Joan of Arc, pray for us.

Saint  Thérèse of Lisieux, pray for us

July 10 - The Three Blessed Massabki Brothers, Martyrs

“In the year 1860, the Muslims in Damascus and the Druze in what is now Lebanon attacked and massacred thousands of Christians.

The Massabki brothers (Francis, Abdel Moati, and Raphaei), along with a large crowd of Christians, took refuge in the Franciscan monastery in Damascus, after the Muslims had set fire to the Christian neighborhood.

In the monastery, they were praying, asking for the intercession of the Blessed Mother, receiving the sacrament of reconciliation from the Franciscan Fathers, and receiving the Eucharist. Among the Franciscan Fathers were; Fathers Ruiz, Colta, Escanio, Solar, Alberca, Binazi, Fernadez and Colanda.  

Their Muslim assailants were able to enter the Franciscan Church and  demanded  that they abandon their religion. One of the brothers,  Francis, refused their demand and said:

“We do not fear the one who kills the body.  .  . a crown is prepared for us in heaven, we have our souls.  .  . and we do not wish to lose them, we are Christians and we wish to die as Christians.“

On the night of July 10, the three Massabki brothers, along with the Franciscan Fathers, were martyred in the Church before the altar by their Muslim attackers.

Pope Pius XI declared them blessed on October 10, 1926.”

May their faith and courage be an inspiration to us, and may their prayers be with us.  Amen.

Does “Love” and “Forgiveness” Apply to Abuse and Trauma?

@sakuramautoki asked:

When we Christians use words like “forgiveness” and phrases like “True love keeps no record of wrongs,” I find myself wondering how that would apply to certain contexts, namely with victims of abuse (sexual, physical, emotional/mental)? I wonder if we should even be using these words when speaking with victims/survivors of abuse and how it might come off as to them?

For example, when we say to forgive an abuser, what does that look like? Does that mean we forget the harm they did and pretend like everything is okay? Do we welcome them back with open arms? The same questions also apply to phrases such as “love keeps no record of wrongs”. I ask because as Christians it would be good to be mindful how these words and phrases can sound like and that we tend to throw these terms around much without thinking. What is your take on this?


Hey dear friend, I truly appreciate your heart and care in this question. I am with you absolutely 100% here. The Christian culture so easily falls into a martyr syndrome that unnecessarily risks our safety, and it so often assumes that “church people” have no pre-existing baggage that makes “love and forgiveness” an extremely painful endeavor.

The thing is, love must absolutely include truth, wisdom, boundaries, and grace for yourself. Love is not enabling, pampering, coddling, or letting someone off the hook—or it wouldn’t really be love at all. 

For those who have been abused or traumatized: Forgiveness doesn’t mean friendship. No one should ever be rushed into forgiveness for the sake of “getting right with God.” We need healthy boundaries. We need to recognize patterns of unrepentant abuse and gaslighting and manipulative language that will only guilt-trip you back into a vicious cycle. We can never mindlessly open the door again on an abusive relationship.

Many well-intentioned Christians try to act the part of a psychologist or social worker or therapist and have absolutely no idea about the real dangers of abuse, codependency, and compassion fatigue.

The other thing is that “Christian love” is overly romanticized, where if we just love enough, then we get the Hollywood montage of reconciliation and hugs and high-fives. But having been at the deathbed of many, many patients in the hospital, I hardly ever see it work out that way. Abusers will use up good will and spit it right out. Survivors of abuse have tried again and again to reconcile, only to find out that opening the door to their heart is no better than unlocking the cage of a pack of wolves.

It’s absolutely atrocious that preachers harp on forgiveness without listening to the stories of their churches. And still, Christians are slammed with the Bible to “forgive” because “it’s the Christian thing to do,” without any nuance for individual situations and without, you know, reading the rest of the Bible that says a lot of other stuff about abuse and trauma. God is for the victims, for the abused, for the survivors. God is for the exile, the foreigner, the despised, the despondent who crossed the Red Sea. Jesus told us to be as pure as doves and as wise as snakes. Pure, but wise. Wise, but pure.

There’s a destructive idea in Christian subculture that breeds a martyr-hero syndrome, at the expense of yourself, and eventually everyone else. I spent too many years consumed by the “sacrificial radical love” model of Christianity, which required that I pour out more than I had—but it only scooped out my guts and left me bitter and resentful and exhausted. I had to remember that only one person really did love all the way to death so that we wouldn’t have to.

My friend once asked me, “Are you trying to be like Jesus, or are you trying to be Jesus? Because you can’t be crucified for all these people. He already did that.” I had to re-work my idea of love and forgiveness to include self-care and proper distance.


When Jesus was dying on the cross and said, “Father, forgive them,” let’s notice that Jesus did not say, “Father, help me forgive them.” It was very specific wording. In other words, Jesus was concerned that his murderers would find forgiveness from God, but not necessarily that Jesus would “feel forgiveness” towards them. Jesus was deliberately not condoning the murderers’ behavior, but also concerned for the destiny of their souls.

This is a perfectly balanced love that cooperates with truth. Of course, Jesus did offer forgiveness to them, and to everyone else who was ever born, and we’re called to work towards such divinity. But no, we’re under no such illusion that we must befriend those who have hurt us or hurt the ones we love. Jesus may pour out unlimited grace from a cross, but each of us are finite beings, with limited resources, who must go to Jesus who says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Since I’ve started working alongside social workers and psychologists, I was at first surprised how blunt and to-the-point they were. But they’ve seen hundreds, maybe thousands of abusers and victims, and they’ve heard all the excuses and rationalizations. They know that victims feel obligated to stick up for their abusers and that abusers will hijack language around forgiveness to be taken back. The medical staff’s sole goal here is to advocate for the victim. That requires tough talk, no bull-crap, no beating around the bush, but actual love that’s as sharp as surgery, for both sides. The victim needs to know it’s okay to call the police and get a restraining order and defend themselves. The abuser needs to know they’re actually an abuser and that “forgiveness” is not some cheap ace-card that glosses over all they did.

In that kind of love, people are held accountable and responsible, because that sort of love is for the very best of each person, not to trap them or trick them, but to help them heal. So for the abused, it will mean empowering them with boundaries and the ability to say “no.” It will mean re-framing their religious obligations to “forgive.” It includes safety and boundaries and self-care. And perhaps one day, it includes the hopeful possibility of reconciliation, whether on this side of life or the other.

J.S.