Martyrs They Died for Christ – Introduction
Our Lord Jesus always works through my wife. I have to believe that His mandate to us, “Unless you come as little children” and “Suffer the little children to come unto Me.” has to apply to my wife. She has the beautiful faith of a child. He speaks to her; she listens; and she acts on what He says. Either He doesn’t speak to me, or my brain is too clogged with garbage to listen. Thank God for Penny. He told her to have us write our first book, This Is My Body, This Is My Blood, Miracles of the Eucharist, when I would have thought that was the last thing we should have done. That book is a best seller, which put us into a completely new Ministry, and it was because she listened to the Word of the Lord.
Even before we finished writing the Scandal of the Cross and its Triumph in 1992, Penny was getting the message to write about the Martyrs in the Church, those selfless brothers and sisters who gave their lives for this beautiful Church of ours, that it may survive, that it may spread to the four corners of the earth, that Jesus’ message, “Go out to all the world and proclaim the Good News” may be carried out.
Also, in 1992, we made a 13 part television series, The Many Faces of Mary. During the taping of this series, we had to travel all over Europe and into Mexico, in the course of just a few months. In Zaragoza, Spain, we were honored to interview the Archbishop, Elias Yanes Alvarez. He told us briefly about the Martyrs of Zaragoza, young men who died for their faith during the Spanish Civil War. Within a few days of this interview, we went to Knock, Ireland, to make the program about Our Lady of Knock. Monsignor Grealy, the custodian of the Shrine, told us about the 17 Irish Martyrs who were being beatified in September, 1992. And then, on our trip to Our Lady of Guadalupe in December, 1992, we were introduced to the three young Martyrs of Tlaxcala, Mexico, who were beatified with Juan Diego in 1990.
The Lord spoke to us again, when we appeared on Mother Angelica Live. A telephone caller asked the question, “How were the Martyrs of the early Church able to withstand the cruel torture they had to endure?” “How was Maxmilian Kolbe able to take another man’s place, and be willing to die, during the Nazi annihilation of prisoners at Auschwitz?” “How did Joan of Arc manage to pray, while being burned at the stake?”
We didn’t have the answer. Thank God we had Mother there. She zeroed in on the answer immediately. She said, “They were given Signal Grace. That is a special grace given to those who have to perform special tasks for God, or undergo severe anguish for God.” I recall that Mother was extremely serious that evening. Her eyes were sad; her jaw set.
No matter where we turned, the Lord was pointing out Martyrs to us. We knew that this was what He wanted from us this year. We knew the Lord wanted the world to know about those who had given up their lives, for Him, and for His Church which they had embraced as their own. But we weren’t sure why. We knew that one reason had to be the dissimilarity between those who are willing to die for Christ in His Church, and those who are not even willing to live for Christ in His Church, for those who take it so for granted, that it has very little meaning to them. It’s just something they do, someplace they go on Sunday.
It wasn’t until we began the chapter on the Martyrs of North America, that the whole reasoning behind it came upon us full force. I would say coincidentally, but I became aware a long time ago that there are no coincidences with the Lord, unless they are Holy Coincidences. So, to rephrase, Holy coincidentally, we began writing the chapter about the American Martyrs around the 23rd of January, the anniversary of the Roe-Wade Decision, which legalized abortion in our country. And on the 23rd of this January, 1993, the twentieth anniversary, our new President Clinton issued Executive Orders wiping out all bans on federal aid regarding abortion, which had been instituted during the previous twelve years.
It was in this context, and against this background that we began to write about those people of the early days of our country who struggled against unbelievable odds to bring Jesus to the people of this new land. We had to read about those who left other countries to make a new life in this country, because of religious persecution and atrocities they suffered in their native land. It was with some irony and a great sense of loss that we compared their courage and bravery, and commitment to their God, with what seems to be a complete lack of religious rights in this country today, this free country founded under God. It was very depressing. We heard our pro-life leaders conceding that we could not expect any help from our government for religious freedom. We would have to convert men’s hearts, rather than expect justice through legislation. And we were ready to do that, and we are ready to do that. But we really felt defeated.
And then came January 25th, 1993. That is the Feast Day honoring the Conversion of St. Paul. Our minds and hearts clicked in on this totally impossible situation, Saul the Christian persecutor. His very name made the Christians shake with fear. They fled for their lives from this self-appointed defender of the Jews against this “New Way”, these Christians. Nowhere were they safe. He tracked them down in Jerusalem. When that seemed to get the desired results, he spread out his operation to areas outside Jerusalem, Damascus, for example.
Saul, the Christian killer, was on his way to Damascus, in hot pursuit of all those followers of Jesus who had fled Jerusalem. They would not escape him. He had the law on his side; he had the government behind him. Nothing could stop him; but something did stop him. That something was the end of Saul, the Christian Killer, and the beginning of Paul, the most powerful Apostle our Church has ever known. Jesus knocked him off his high horse to get through to him.
If Saul could be converted, who cannot be converted? Who can withstand the power of God? The battle cry of the mighty Archangel Michael, roars down through the celestial galaxies, “Who is like God? No one is like God!” We have weapons, family. We have prayer, which is the most powerful weapon available on the face of the earth and has always been from the beginning of time. Our cry should not be, “Well, when all else fails, pray.” No, our battle cry should be, “Our sword is our prayer.” Each prayer raised up to heaven is another sword in the hands of the mighty Angels. And whether you believe it or not, no one, not on earth, nor in heaven, or in hell, can come against the power of prayer.
We believe this was the light at the end of the tunnel, the reason the Lord wanted us to write this book, at this time. We believe we are to show the people of God the price we have paid, not only in this country, but all over the world, the blood which has been shed so that we can be Catholics. We must know how precious our Catholic Church is. We must fight every element within and without, who would destroy the people of God. We cannot fight among ourselves. We have a greater enemy, who is determined to gobble all of us up, and spit us out at the gates of hell.
We are in serious times. We’ve been in these times before; we’re in those times right now. The attacks against the Catholic Church, have become fierce. You can’t turn around without seeing a new, blatant attack mounted against the people of God. Sometimes I feel as if we are with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. “This is your hour and the power of darkness.” or when He said to Pilate, “If My kingdom were of this world, my soldiers would be all around me to protect Me, but My Kingdom is not of this world.”
Our Lord Jesus, our Mother Mary, our brothers and sisters the Saints, our cousins and guides, the Angels, are all crying out to us to save our world. Our Lady has been said to be appearing all over the world, to hundreds of thousands of people with one message, Repent and Reconcile. Stop killing one another. It’s not just the United States. We’re not unique. We’re just a part of world genocide. But we have to focus our country on the Martyrs who bought this land with their blood, and be an example to the rest of the world. We can only do it together. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Nor can a country, nor can a people. We are the people of God. We have been given a very clear cut mandate. We must unite now!