Martyred Fathers

Inspiration from fathers who gave all for the faith

The June 2014 issue of Magnificat, the monthly devotional worship aid that follows the daily prayers and readings of the Church, features brief, one-page biographies of saints who were fathers.

As a father myself, I found this feature to be intriguing and was excited to learn more about these men. As I paged through the biographies, however, I was a bit unnerved to find that several of these saints were martyrs.

That got me reflecting on my own life. Would I someday be called to give the ultimate sacrifice for my faith? Alternatively, will I have the fortitude to live my Christian faith day in and day out until my natural death? Regardless, am I willing to cultivate the virtue of “disinterestedness,” an attitude of total obedience to the will of God so that living for Him or dying for Him merges into a single desire, as Paul tells the Romans:

“For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” Romans 14:8

Here are some of the martyred fathers who, at some point in their lives, most likely took on this virtue:

  • St. Philip Howard, who died after extended imprisonment in the Tower of London, never having met the son who was born after he was arrested by the forces of Queen Elizabeth I following his conversion to Catholicism.
  • St. Olaf of Norway, who was killed battling rebellious pagan subjects in 1030.
  • St. Michael Kozaki, one of the martyrs of Nagasaki, who, along with his 14-year-old son Thomas and more than 20 others, was killed after being chained to a wooden cross.
  • St. Manuel Morales, a 20th century martyr, was shot by Mexican soldiers in 1926 for refusing to support laws against the Church.
  • St. Thomas More, whose life, death, and close relationship with his daughter Margaret were chronicled in A Man for All Seasons, was beheaded on orders from Henry VIII.

Their lives demonstrate that when we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” or “Into your hands I commend my spirit,” or “Take, Lord, receive all I have and possess,” we need to pray for the grace to actually live those words.

Let us pray for the strength to live as Christ calls us, to die to selfishness, and to be willing to hand over our lives, if necessary, in His service.