In God I trust without fear; what can flesh do against me? (Psalm 56:12)
Around the world today, the feast days of four very different saints will be celebrated.
Fructuosus was a Spanish bishop in an era of intense persecution by the Roman Empire. After refusing to deny his belief in God, he was burned at the stake in a.d. 259; as he and his brother deacons waited for the flames to take their lives, Christians pushed past the guards to ask for the martyrs’ prayers. Fructuosus called out, “I am bound to bear in mind the whole universal church, from east to west.”
Fifty years later, the persecution of Christians revived. Agnes, a beautiful young Roman girl, was reported to the authorities by suitors whose lustful advances she had rejected. She was cruelly executed, earning the title of patron saint of chastity.
On the slopes of the Alps, Einsiedeln Abbey will commemorate its ninth-century founder, Meinrad, who forswore his aristocratic lifestyle to become a hermit there. Over the years, pilgrims flocked to his hermitage, and he hosted them all. One evening he welcomed in two thieves, who murdered him. For this reason, he is the patron saint of hospitality, a man who loved his enemies to the end.
Elsewhere, the Archdiocese of Daegu in South Korea will remember a man who tended his farm, cared for his family, and taught catechesis in the 1860s. For these simple commitments, John Yi Yun-il was arrested, whipped, and beheaded under the anti-Catholic persecution in Korea. He is venerated as the last of the 103 Korean Martyrs.
Faithfulness, hospitality, and chastity: most of us won’t be called on to die for these gospel values, but we should be reminded of their importance by the stories of today’s saints.
All four of these martyrs were remarkable people, but in many ways, they did nothing special other than pursue the call God had given them, even when it led to their death. God doesn’t need you to be a spiritual superhero; he just asks you to be attentive to the call of discipleship he gives anew each day and to hold fast to it in all circumstances.
“Thank you, Lord, for the example of faithful men and women; help me to be faithful to what you have called me to.”
1 Samuel 18:6-9; 19:1-7
[Originally posted on “The Word Among Us,” January 21, 2016 (paywall)]