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Of Three Thomases and More

Saint Thomas á Becket, who the Church celebrates on December 29, brings to mind another Saint Thomas, a countryman of his, Thomas More. Both preferred martyrdom rather than bow to the whims of two kings, both named Henry, whom they had served as royal Chancellors.

Saint Thomas á Becket, an archbishop, was murdered in his cathedral while saying Mass by knights loyal to Henry II. Saint Thomas More was sent to the gallows for refusing to acknowledge Henry VIII as the Head of the Church of England. Thomas More’s last words before the blade hit his neck rang out: “I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”

Another Thomas, the Apostle, was transpierced with a lance for proclaiming Christ in India after bringing the Gospel to other places.

The day after Christmas, Holy Mother Church honors another martyr, a deacon of the early Church, Saint Stephen. Two days later comes the Feast of the Holy Innocents, children two years old and below massacred by the mad King Herod to eliminate the Baby born in Bethlehem he thought was a threat to his throne.

The Roman Martyrology lists the people who died for Christ through the centuries. The book, last revised in 2004, undergoes updating but includes only those names that are easily verifiable. Many others are hidden martyrs. In the seminary I once attended, the day's entry in the Roman Martyrology was read at mealtimes before seminarians were allowed to socialize at table. The reading about martyrs was meant to make the seminarians realize that they were to be ready to be martyrs for Christ in many ways.

How did the martyrs give up their lives for confessing Christ? Some were beheaded. Some were put to the sword or crucified upside down. Some were burned at the stake or made to walk into a fiery furnace. Some were immersed in a cauldron of boiling oil. All them after being first tortured and tormented in ways only evil people could think of to make them renounce the Savior.

Saint Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino saint, pronounced these words before his torturers: "Had I a thousand lives, I would offer them all to Christ." Both he and his compatriot, St. Pedro Calungsod, are depicted in holy pictures holding the palm and crown of martyrdom.

In these modern times, we see the many victims of radical Muslims who want to propagate their kind of God by force. These extremists first force their victims to renounce their Christian Faith but failing in this, the hooded murderers make them kneel and shoot each one to death, proudly broadcasting their dastardly deed to the world. In Communist China, bishops, priests, and laymen are made to suffer atrocities for not agreeing to join their “patriotic Church” or accept the godless totalitarian ideology.

Right here in America, politicians who profess the “god” of secular culture, or the absence of one, try to subject Catholics aspiring for political office to a “religious test.” Religious persecution has taken many forms including restrictions on freedom of worship. Some Catholics have succumbed to the onslaught. Worse, some shepherds have turned a blind eye to the assaults of wolves on their flocks, for whom the Good Shepherd had laid down His own life.

David Warren, the Canadian blogger ("Essays in Idleness"), ended his December 28 blog post on the children massacred by Herod thus: “The Holy Innocents are the key to this mystery [of why God allows evil to exist]. Today we ask them to pray for us.”

I agree. I also would add: “Today we ask the holy martyrs to pray for the persecutors and those who stay on the sidelines while the sheep are being led astray and slaughtered.”

The signs of the times are fast becoming clearer. But this is still God's world.

By the grace of God, may we do the right thing. #


"Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." {Matthew 5:11-12 }

Lyrics Translation:

A Thousand Lives

If I had a thousand lives

I would offer each one

to my dear God and country.

I will protect your honor

Send me anywhere

People may despise or hurt me

I pray make me faithful

Your love for me will be enough.

Had I thousand lives, a thousand I would offer

My thousand deaths I would put in your hands,

Had I thousand lives, a thousand I would offer

My thousand deaths I would put in your hands.

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