Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Every time I watch one of those movies based on true stories, such as McFarland USA, the Queen of Katwe, Field of Dreams, that the underdog team wins, or children from a little town win big tourna- ments, I wonder, wouldn’t it be cool to be part of that? Or even when I read the stories of saints, I think the same way. Wouldn’t it be cool to be like St Francis or St Claire? Imagine the travels of St Francesca Cabrini arriving at the US, founding orphanages in many places. Or how would it be like starting a new convent in Calcutta like Mother Teresa, or being the Pope during communism like John Paul II.
All of these “stories” seem such a far fetched reality to us. Maybe a summer dream or one of those bedside stories. But why couldn’t these things happen to us? Who says that God is not calling us to such a life? Maybe not so intense as the examples that I gave, but maybe yes! Brothers and Sisters, this weekend’s Gospel, Jesus comes and calls us to follow him. It’s that simple. He does not require us to be professional fishermen, or pro at being super Catholics. No, He says that He will make us into what He wants. The “burden”, if you will, is on him. The invitation, “come after me”, it’s for all of us. We only need to follow him. We don’t know where he will lead us, or what we will become, there is no reason to worry about it. Surely He will make us the best version of ourselves! Maybe some of us will be founders of religious orders. Maybe one of the boys from the CCD classes will be a Pope one day. Why not? Why not dream about the “impossible”? Why not desire to be a great saint! Or maybe God calls us to be a simple not so well known saint. Remember that the very first call that we all have is to holiness. How we live this holiness is secondary. How God wants to sanctify us, we leave that up to him. As this week’s emblem from the Church is Mary, Queen of Martyrs, we are all called to be“witness” (translation of the Greek word martyr) of his love. It may seem small, but that is bigger than the universe! Let’s pray for one another, so that we can all be an army of saints!
Queen of Martyrs
Since the first centuries the palm leaf and the sword have been symbols representing the martyrdom under- gone by many Christians. These Christians reached the point of laying down their lives for the sake of their faith. For their perseverance before such trials, God rewards them with everlasting life. Mary has been crowned, not only with a crown of twelve stars but also with a crown of thorns. The priest Simeon had pre- dicted that “a sword will pierce through your own soul also,” (Lk 2:35). This prophecy was fulfilled for her at the foot of the Cross where she shared in the martyrdom of Christ. For this reason, she is given the title Queen of all martyrs who witness to Christ by sharing in His suffering and death. In the Vespers Hymn for the Feast of the Seven Dolors, the Church salutes her singing, "The Virgin stands there the while, more no- ble than the martyrs. By a new wonder, O Mary, dying, thou dost not die, though transfixed by such great and dreadful sorrows." The Communion Verse for the Mass of the Feast declares, "Happy the senses of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which without death obtained the palm of martyrdom beside the Cross of the Savior."
The purest body of Our Lady was exempt from physical macerations. By Her Immaculate Conception She was free from bodily ills. When She died it was not from sickness or physical disintegration, the result of orig- inal sin, but from love. Somehow, we shrink from the very thought of seeing that holy body of hers mangled in any way. It was to be all fair from the beginning and throughout eternity.
But there is a martyrdom besides that of the body; it is the martyrdom of the soul. We know that by our own experience. We have ceased to feel bodily pain at times when an overwhelming grief has rushed upon our heart. The death of dear ones, disgrace, disappointment, reverses, worries so pierce our heart with pain that we ignore the wounds or sickness that would otherwise lay us low physically. It is easier to bear the cut of the sword than dishonor. A broken heart is not as easily mended as a maimed body. If we are subject to this martyrdom of soul, we can easily understand how fittingly the title martyr is given to Our Lady, who endured suffering more than sufficient to cause her death, had not God saved her from the physical consequence of that agony. She was willing to shed Her blood. God spared her that, but He did not free Her from martyrdom.
Father Steven Clemence