“Even were I to walk in a ravine as dark as death I should fear no danger, for you are at my side.”Psalm 23:4
With these words, these three daughters of Carmel [Teresa of the Child Jesus and St. John of the Cross, Maria Pilar of St. Francis Borgia, and Maria Angeles of St. Joseph] were able to speak to the Good Shepherd when the hour came for them to give their lives for their faith in the divine Spouse of their souls. Yes, “I fear nothing.” Not even death. Love is greater than death and “you go with me”, you, the crucified Bridegroom, you, Christ, my strength!
This following of the Master, which should lead us to imitate him to the point of giving our lives for his love, has been almost a constant call, for Christians from the earliest times and always, to give this supreme witness of love—martyrdom—before all, especially one’s persecutors.
Thus the Church, down through the centuries, has preserved as a precious legacy the words that Christ said: “the disciple is not superior to his teacher” (Mt 10:24), and that “if they persecuted me, they will persecute you, too” (Jn 15:20).
Thus we see that martyrdom—the ultimate witness in defense of the faith—is considered by the Church to be an exalted gift and the supreme proof of love, by which a Christian follows in the footsteps of Jesus, who freely accepted suffering and death for the salvation of the world.
And even if martyrdom is a gift granted by God to a few, nevertheless, all must—and should—be ready to confess Christ before men, especially in periods of trial that are never—even today—lacking for the Church. In honoring her martyrs, the Church recognizes them both as a sign of her fidelity to Jesus Christ until death, and as a clear sign of her immense desire for forgiveness, peace, harmony, mutual understanding, and respect.
The three Carmelite martyrs, without a doubt as we know from their testimonies, had very present those words written by their Holy Mother and Doctor of the Church, Teresa of Jesus: “A true religious […] must not turn his back upon the desire to die for God and suffer martyrdom” (The Way of Perfection, 12:2).
In the life and martyrdom of Sister Maria Pilar de St. Francis of Borgia, Sister Maria Angeles of St. Joseph, and Sister Teresa of the Child Jesus, some testimonies stand out today, before the Church, of which we should take advantage:
- The great value that the family’s Christian environment has for the formation and maturation of its members in the faith;
- the treasure that the contemplative religious life represents for the Church, which develops in the total following of the praying Christ and is a clear sign of the proclamation of heavenly glory;
- the inheritance left to the Church by any of her children who die for their faith, bearing on their lips a word of forgiveness and love to those who do not understand them and therefore persecute them;
- the message of peace and reconciliation of every Christian martyrdom, as a seed of mutual understanding, never as a sowing of hatred and resentment;
- and, a call to constant heroism in the Christian life, as a courageous witness of faith, without faint-hearted compromises or equivocal relativism.
The Church honors and venerates these martyrs, starting today, thanking them for their witness and asking them to intercede with the Lord so that our lives may follow more and more each day in the footsteps of Christ, who died on the Cross.
Saint John Paul II
Homily (excerpt), Beatification of Five Servants of God
St. Peter’s Basilica, Sunday 29 March 1987
Translation from the Spanish text is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.
Featured image: The three Discalced Carmelite martyrs of Guadalajara: Teresa, Maria Pilar, and Maria Angeles (left to right). To learn more about the Martyrs of Guadalajara, watch the video below from the Carmel of Guadalajara; click on the closed caption icon (CC), then click on the settings icon ⚙ and set the auto-translate feature to English or the language of your choice.
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