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Early Christian Martyrs of Rome
Fr. Charles Connor teaches about how the early Christian Church was
persecuted on and off for over 300 years by the Emperors of Rome.
Christians were considered enemies of the state and were persecuted and
martyred until the conversion of the Emperor Constantine in the year 313
4TH Century – Augustine & Athanasius
These two great Doctors of the Church defended the faith against the
heresy of Arianism which promoted the idea that Jesus Christ was not a
divine person of the Trinity but merely a human created by God.
13TH CENTURY – Albert & Aquinas
These two great Doctors of the Church of the 13th Century were
instrumental in explaining the Theology of the Catholic Church.
COUNTER REFORMATION – Ignatius Loyola and the Jesuits
St. Ignatius of Loyola along with six others began the Jesuit order and
was blessed by Pope Paul III on September 27, 1540. The Society of Jesus
was like no other order in Church history. They first sought to defend
the Roman Catholic faith from the ever, spreading heresy of the
Protestant reformation. They were expertly educated men of great
character and strength and sought to secure the faith by preaching first
to those in political power.
Charles Boromeo and the Reform of the Clergy
The counter-reformation also tackled the problems that led to the
protestant reformation which included a laxity among the Catholic
clergy. In many religious communities there was ignorance, immorality,
laxity, spiritual decay, superstition, abuse in Religious practice. St.
Charles Boromeo was instrumental in the reformation of the clergy. He
opened several seminaries, organized the laity into spiritual guilds and
wrote the Catechism of Trent.
St. Thomas More was one of several Catholic martyrs who refused to
accept King Henry VIII as the supreme head of the Church in England,
with authority superceding that of the Roman Pontiff. Consequently, St.
Thomas was striped of his Office as Chancellor of England and imprisoned
in the tower of London. Refusing to sign the oath of succession, he was
executed in 1545.
St. John Fisher was another Martyr of the English Protestant reformation
instigated by King Henry VIII. St. John was the last Catholic Bishop of
Rochester. When imprisoned by Henry the Pope elevated him to Cardinal.
King Henry resented this and is quoted as saying: “Well let the Pope
send him a red hat when he will – But I will so provide that when so
ever it comes, he shall wear it on his shoulders, for head he shall have
Another Martyr of the English Protestant reformation, St. Edmund Campion
was executed during the reign of Elizabeth I. Once a favorite of the
Queen and Court, Campion returned to the Catholic faith, left England
and joined the Society of Jesus. He then returned to England at the risk
of being tried and executed as a traitor to the Crown. On his return he
ministered to the many recusants Catholics who were ostensibly
Protestant, but practiced their true Catholic faith in secret. He was
found out, imprisoned, tortured and executed.
St. Philip Howard was a member of the nobility of England and became the
Earl of Arundel in 1580. St. Philip wrote a letter to Cardinal Allen,
asking what he could do to help the Catholic Church in England. The
letter was intercepted and Howard eventually was arrested for treason.
Although St. Philip was not executed, he suffered a dry martyrdom of
imprisonment and died in his bed in prison in 1593.
Martyrs of England and Wales
The forty Martyrs of England and Wales were Canonized in 1970 along with
Campion, Howard and Southwell. Some of the most notable of these great
Defenders of Faith were three Cathusians priests, Houghton, Lawrence
& Webster who refused to take the oath against the Pope and renounce
the catholic Church. Others martyrs include St. Cuthbert Maine, John
Southwarth, Edmund Arrowsmith, Margaret Clitherow. Many were imprisoned
and executed for attending and offering Holy Mass.
British Defender: Hillaire Belloc
Hillarie Belloc wrote many books about the Catholic Church and the
Catholic Faith. As Historian, Cultural Commentator and Critic, Belloc
opposed the ideology of the “Servile Liberal Welfare State.” He
along with Chesterton believed in a theory called “distributism.” He
criticized greed that ignored the needs of others but favored a free
economy in which people would be able to receive their justly due
dignity, freedom and power.
Evidence Guild & Truth Society
Begun in 1884 by Bishop Vaughn a group of laity who met weekly at
various members homes. Both of these groups were composed primarily of
laity who wrote and published informational and evangelical pamphlets
about the Catholic faith which were then distributed to parish churches
as well as to anyone who wished to know more about the faith. These lay
persons were rigorously trained in the faith before they would be
allowed to go out into their daily lives and distribute these pamphlets,
preach on the streets and give talks and lectures which Defended the
Martyrs: Ford & Walsh
In 1912 James E. Walsh joined the Catholic Foreign Missionaries of
America, also known as the Maryknolls. Walsh, along with Fr. Francis
Ford were missionaries to China. When the communists took over, these
Maryknoll Bishops refused to leave. They were both imprisoned as spies
and tortured. They are known as the Martyr Bishops of Maryknoll.
Mindzenty-Dry Martyr of Hungary
The Nazi’s had control of Hungary and Jews living in Budapest were
ordered to the Ghettos. Mindzenty and other Hungarian Bishops wrote a
letter denouncing this action and called for their human rights endowed
by God. Minzenty was arrested for writing this letter and charged with
offering resistance to the authorities.After the war the communists took
over Hungary and in 1949 Mindzenty was charged with espionage and
imprisoned for eight years in solitary confinement. When released he
took refuge in the American Embassy in Budapest in order to escape
deportation to Russia. He was there for 15 years.
Ciszek: with God in Russia
Fr. Walter Ciszek was born in America of Polish descent. He became a
missionary priest to the people of Russia. He had to have a fake Polish
passport, fake name and disguise his identity as a priest. Once behind
the Iron Curtain, he was eventually arrested and sent to the Lubianka
prison. He spent a total of 23 years in various prison and labor camps
in the Soviet Union, yet all the while he continued his work as a holy
priest of God by ministering to any and everyone he possibly could. He
remained not only faithful, but joyfully so, in serving his God
throughout tremendous pain, hunger and suffering.
As a young seminarian Ratzinger wanted to be a priest but as a
brilliant student he also wanted to continue his scholarly studies in
theology. He was blessed by winning a writing contest, which allowed him
to do both. He was eventually made Archbishop of Munich and in 1978 met
John Paul II. He was made prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine
of the Faith. He has written extensively on the problems facing the
church in the modern world – a culture that has become selfishly
individualistic, rationalistic and hedonistic. He has addressed the
difficulties with cross-cultural assimilation. He tells us that reform
in the Church will not come from forums and synods but from “the
convincing personalities whom we call saint.”