We will Never Forget! |
The Martyred Saints of the Canon specially venerated in Rome.
"In light of Catholic Tradition, the blood of the saints can never be forgotten or reduced to some closed books of the past. At every Mass according to the traditional Roman Rite, the Church cries out, "We Will Never Forget!" and includes the names of several venerable martyrs in the Canon of the Mass, honoring their memory and pleading for their intercession. As we take a brief look at the lives of the last seven martyrs mentioned in the Communicantes of the Canon, perhaps we should be asking ourselves, how much have we forgotten, how much do we take for granted, how much do we need to learn from these venerable martyrs of the Canon?"
Some of the greatest words ever spoken in the early days of the Church were the words spelled out with the blood of the early Martyrs, words that beg to be heard even now in our confused and insane, techno-crazed society. "I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ! I believe!" Their words ring in our ears down through 200 centuries, echoing off the walls of St. Peter's Basilica and the other great churches in Rome, giving hope to deaf and dumb hearts seeking to be healed throughout the world.
One can hardly ponder without heartbreak the intensity of the faith of the early martyrs; persecuted, hounded out of their homes, humiliated, viciously tortured and murdered, all the while remaining true to Jesus Christ, His Gospel and His Church. Such bravery and unmoving faith seems hard to reconcile with what little is expected of modern day Catholics in the New Order.
One can easily dismiss the martyrdom of the early saints as unnecessary considering the new and enlightened doctrines of liberal ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue. It must be a very sad thing to acknowledge in ones heart that the martyrs could have opted for "dialoging" their way out of their predicaments since we now know there are no "pagan gods" and everyone is on the way to the same "homeland" according to the various paths they may choose.
In light of Catholic Tradition, the blood of the saints can never be forgotten or reduced to some closed books of the past. At every Mass according to the traditional Roman Rite, the Church cries out, "We Will Never Forget!" and includes the names of several venerable martyrs in the Canon of the Mass, honoring their memory and pleading for their intercession. As we take a brief look at the lives of the last seven martyrs mentioned in the Communicantes of the Canon, perhaps we should be asking ourselves, how much have we forgotten, how much do we take for granted, how much do we need to learn from these venerable martyrs of the Canon?
COMMUNICANTES - INVOCATION OF THE SAINTS
Here, at the beginning of the Canon of the Mass prior to the Consecration, the Priest prays the Communicantes in celebrating the Church Triumphant with the Invocation of the Saints.
Communicantes, et memoriam venerantes in primis gloriosae semper Virginis Mariae, Genitricis Dei et Domini nostri Iesu Christi: sed et beatorum Apostolorum ac Martyrum tuorum, Petri et Pauli, Andreae, Iacobi, Ioannis, Thomae, Iacobi, Philippi, Bartholomaei, Matthaei, Simonis, et Thaddei: Lini, Cleti, Clementis, Xysti, Cornelii, Cypriani, Laurentii, Chrysogoni, Ioannis et Pauli, Cosmae et Damianis: et omnium Sanctorum tuorum; quorum meritis, precibusque concedas, ut in omnibus protentionis tuae muniamur auxilio. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Communicating with, and honoring in the first place the memory of the glorious ever Virgin Mary, Mother of Our Lord and God Jesus Christ: as also of the blessed Apostles and Martyrs Peter and Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon, and Thaddeus; Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian, and of all Thy Saints, through whose merits and prayers, grant that we may in all things be defended by the help of Thy protection. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Saints who follow the martyred Popes in the Canon
The name of Saint Cyprian follows that of Pope St. Cornelius in the Canon, as they share the same feast day, September 16. Cyprian was martyred in 258 A.D., five years after Pope Cornelius, on the day when this holy pope's remains were translated to Rome. An African of noble birth, Cyprian was a pagan until mid-life when he converted to Christianity. He was ordained a priest shortly after baptism, and was made Bishop of Carthage. Known as an illustrious Father of the Church of the Latin Rite, Cyprian was considered a genius by the likes of St. Jerome who referred to Cyprian's works as "more brilliant than the sun." During the terrible years of the persecutions of Valerian (some sources say Decius), he fled from his Episcopal city in order to better minister to the wants of his flock, but returned during a pestilence. He was then exiled and later sentenced to death by the sword, which he accepted with the words, "Deo Gratias." He was buried publicly with great solemnity and even the pagans respected his memory.
We are blessed to have handed down to us some of St. Cyprian's writings. Especially fitting at this time seem to be his words regarding the unity of the Church, an endorsement of the Church's perennial teaching and a thorn in the side of liberal ecumensism:
You cannot have God for your Father if you do not have the Church for your mother.... God is one and Christ is one, and his Church is one; one is the faith, and one is the people cemented together by harmony into the strong unity of a body.... If we are the heirs of Christ, let us abide in the peace of Christ; if we are the sons of God, let us be lovers of peace (Saint Cyprian, from The Unity of the Catholic Church).
Saint Laurence was the first of the seven deacons of Rome, serving under Pope St. Sixtus II. In the year 258, Pope Sixtus was led out to die and Laurence stood by, weeping that he could not share the holy pontiff's fate. "I was your minister," he said, "when you consecrated the blood of Our Lord; why do you leave me behind now that you are about to shed your own?" However, Pope Sixtus assured Laurence that martyrdom would be his in only a few short days. Laurence therefore set about selling many of the Church's possessions and giving the money to the poor. When the prefect of Rome heard of this he ordered Laurence to be seized and demanded that the riches of the Church be handed over to the Emperor.
Laurence said he needed three days to get the treasures together and then presented the blind, the lame, the poor and other unfortunates, to the prefect, telling him they were "the Church's treasures." Laurence was then bound and placed on a hot gridiron to burn slowly; to be roasted to death. He bore the torturous agony "with unbelievable equanimity and in the midst of his torment instructed the executioner to turn him over, as he was broiled enough on the one side. According to Prudentius, his death and example led to the conversion of Rome and signaled the end of paganism in the city. His feast day is August 10.
Saint Chrysogonus, is recorded in the Roman Martyrology, as being confined for great length "in chains and in prison for the faith of Christ, having endured these torments with the greatest fortitude, was taken to Aquileia, by order of Diocletian, and there behaded and thrown into the sea; such was his glorious martyrdom." Little else is known about him except that he was beheaded on November 23, in the year 304. His body was recovered and buried by an aged, holy priest. His feast day is November 24.
Saint John and Saint Paul, not to be confused with the Apostle John and Paul, were two brothers who served as officers in the Roman army under Julian the Apostate. They were invited to be among Julian's familiar friends, but refused in order to remain true to Jesus Christ. They "considered that worldly prosperity which attends impunity in sin is the most dreadful of all judgments; and how false and short-lived was this glittering prosperity of Julian, who in a moment fell into the pit which he himself had dug!" After refusing the "friendship" of Julian, the two brothers gave all that they owned to the poor and were then arrested and sentenced to death, receiving their martyrs crowns in the year 362.
According to the St. Andrew Daily Missal, the Church compares SS. John and Paul to "the two olive-trees and to the two candle sticks, mentioned in the Apocalypse, which shine before the Lord." The Church reminds us that " 'these just men have stood before the Lord and have not been separated from one another'. Wherefore both their names, mentioned in the Canon of the Mass pass on from generation to generation, while their bodies rest in peace in the ancient church erected in their honor on Mount Coelius at Rome." There feast day is June 26.
Another pair of sainted brothers, Saint Cosmas and Saint Damian were born in Arabia and were very much loved and respected by the people due to their charity and their "zeal for the Christian faith, which they took every opportunity to propagate." Distinguished physicians, they healed some of the worst diseases, "as much by the virtue of Christ as by their medical knowledge."
As doctors of soul and body, their fame spread, and when the persecutions of Diocletian began, the brothers were denounced, suffering the cruelest torments, including being thrown into the sea in chains, stoned, and burned. When they finally died after such cruel tortures in 285 A.D., their bodies were taken to Rome where they were buried.
Having now completed the first list of Roman martyrs in the Canon of the Holy Mass, we are dwarfed in the shadows of these astounding people. They trudged through the thickest mire of some of the worst persecutions known to the Church, setting before us the most convincing witness to the Truth, breaking a path for all future generations.
In our day, martyrdom on this scale is unheard of, and even the thought of it is relegated to the dust bins of the old days. The early martyrs lived in a time when the bloody Crucifixion of Jesus Christ was still fresh on the pages of history and the magnificence of the Resurrection still burned brightly; Christians hadn't had time yet to fall into the complacency and boredom which are hallmarks of the generic Christianity which is being handed out today. Modern Christianity, having been reduced to a trivial inconvenience in the mechanism of the world, is becoming even more insignificant as the visible Church apparatus commits suicide in the name of Vatican II.
However, those who face the facts about what has happened to the Church in the past 50 years know that a very different but real martyrdom lurks in the darkness ahead for those who will stand firm in the faith. Even so, in our American culture, who can really stand guiltless claiming no complicity in compromising the faith to some degree? Who will be the first to stand up and say "Thanks be to God," when the sword is being wielded? If the persecutions began tomorrow, would anyone turn us over to the authorities because of our "zeal for the Christian faith, which [we] took every opportunity to propagate?"
Let us then, humbly pray at every Mass in the presence of the holy martyrs,
"O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who according to the will of the Father through the cooperation of the Holy Ghost has by Thy death given life to the world; deliver me by this Thy most holy Body and Blood from all my transgressions and from all evils; make me always adhere to Thy commandments and never suffer me to be separated from Thee; who with the same God the Father and the Holy Ghost livest and reignest God, forever and ever. Amen."
(Sources, The Saint Andrew Daily Missal; Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, ©1925 Benziger Brothers; Pocket Dictionary of Saints by John J. Delaney, Image Books, ©1983.)
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