Future Priests of the Third Millennium

A little insight into the life of seminarians from various dioceses preparing for ministry as Roman Catholic priests, including daily activities, personal interests, special events, the spiritual life, news from the seminary, and almost whatever comes to our minds!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Another Martyrdom

I highly recommend reading Cardinal Newman's Sermon entitled Ventures of Faith. It begins with the Gospel of Mark, at the passage in which James and John approach Jesus with the request to sit at His right and left when He comes into His glory. When asked if they are able to drink his cup and be baptized with his baptism they famously reply that they are. This firm, "We are able" becomes the basis for Newman's sermon. He inquires whether or not we Christians, claiming, as we do, a strong faith, have actually ventured anything upon it? How would our lives be one bit different if the Gospel were a great falsehood? Newman fears that, sadly, many of us would not be living much differently. At the close of his sermon, Newman returns to James and John an points out that both gave themselves entirely, indeed, ventured all upon their faith in Jesus Christ:

"Those blessed Apostles said, 'We are able;' and in truth they were enabled to do and suffer as they had said. St. James was given strength to be steadfast unto death, the death of martyrdom; being slain with the sword in Jerusalem. St. John, his brother, had still more to bear, dying last of the Apostles, as St. James first. He had to hear bereavement, first, of his brother, then of the other Apostles. He had to bear a length of years in loneliness, exile, and weakness. He had to experience the dreariness of being solitary, when those whom he loved had been summoned away. He had to live in his own thoughts, without familiar friend, with those only about him who belonged to a younger generation. Of him were demanded by his gracious Lord, as pledges of his faith, all his eye loved and his heart held converse with. He was as a man moving his goods into a far country, who at intervals and by portions sends them before him, till his present abode is well-nigh unfurnished. He sent forward his friends on their journey, while he stayed himself behind, that there might be those in heaven to have thoughts of him, to look out for him, and receive him when his Lord should call. He sent before him, also, other still more voluntary pledges and ventures of his faith,—a self-denying walk, a zealous maintenance of the truth, fasting and prayers, labours of love, a virgin life, buffetings from the heathen, persecution, and banishment. Well might so great a Saint say, at the end of his days "Come, Lord Jesus!" as those who are weary of the night, and wait for the morning. All his thoughts, all his contemplations, desires, and hopes, were stored in the invisible world; and death, when it came, brought back to him the sight of what he had worshipped, what he had loved, what he had held intercourse with, in years long past away. Then, when again brought into the presence of what he had lost, how would remembrance revive, and familiar thoughts long buried come to life! Who shall dare to describe the blessedness of those who find all their pledges safe returned to them, all their ventures abundantly and beyond measure satisfied?"

John, as the above passage makes clear, did not suffer a martyrdom like his brother, acute, quick, and early in the life of the Church. John, however, did not. That is one of the famous bits of Church trivia. All the apostles were martyrs, less one. St. John lived long and suffered long in the first days, the birth pangs of Christianity. And this was a real sacrifice, and it would not have been had John simply given over the Gospel. Who knows how often that might have been his temptation? One by one the Twelve were called to Heaven. In those final stages, standing in the room "unfurnished," lonely, watching a new generation of Christians, zealous but unwitting, inspiring but clearly not of the apostolic band, how often did John question to what exactly he had given everything? This is a real suffering, and it counts, too, as a sort of witness, though less flashy. St. John, pray for us.