In his work Apologeticum written in 197 Tertullian included this famous line, “the blood of the matyrs is the seed of the Church.” (Chapter 50)
Nothing could be more true, and the truth of his famous line is shown in both today’s feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch, as well as Friday on the feast of the [Jesuit] North American Martyrs.
Last night during RCIA I shared with the class the vast size of the Catholic Church, and how it all began with the immediate followers of Jesus, the Apostles. Many of the early Christians were martyrs, and at given times of Roman persecution, MOST of the Christians were martyred.
The incredibly high number of those willing to give their lives for their belief in Jesus Christ is awe-inspiring. It’s also historical proof of the validity of the Gospel. One or two fanatics might follow a false messiah, but thousands and thousands of them attest to the truth. The truth of the Son of God, and what He did for all the world.
The witness we honor today (martyr is the Greek word for witness) was killed in 107. He was sent a message to come back to Rome and face accusations. He knew he would be killed, but he went anyway. He took his deacons with him, and wrote letters to various churches on the journey. He faced his death with bravery and an unwavering dedication to his Savior.
The North American Martyrs were eight Jesuit missionaries slaughtered for their belief in Christ by Huron and Iroquois Indians in the middle of the 17th century. The very same fortitude that brought Ignatius to the Coliseum animated these Jesuit missionaries as they preached the Gospel in the New World. Even though separated by over 1,500 years, the intensity of belief, and the willingness to give up everything for their Lord, links these witnesses together forever.
Pray for us, holy witnesses to the Truth – your example inspires awe in us on this very day!