I'm encouraged by the stories of martyrs. Their fortitude in the face of unimaginable pain and sufferings is beyond inspiring. Truly their martyrdoms were events full of grace, and yet, their pain was very real. It's doubtful that there's really ever been a time in the Church's history when Her members weren't being killed in hatred of the faith somewhere in the World.
While we hear the stories of the end of a martyr's life, we often don't know much about the rest of their life. We meet them, so to speak, as they receive the crown of martyrdom, but we don't see their struggle in their faith life. We see how their story ends, but not how it begins. This is a tragedy because their stories are not unlike our own. We should readily identify with them in their human experience and see that it is possible to achieve a deep and pure faith as they did.
Martyrdom is rarely a "humane" death. Even today, Christians are being crucified. Martyrs often suffer the most barbaric, unconscionable, and markedly demented cruelties. Most are so extreme, it's unbelievable that the torturers were able to endure the sight, let alone conduct the tortures themselves. Yet, despite the depravity, despite their desire to crush faith and root out the Church, martyrdom does just the opposite.
It's said that the Church is built on the blood of the martyrs. The martyred are remembered, their attackers are not. Martyrdom feeds the Church's growth because it's hard not to be inspired when many are willing to die instead of give up the treasure of their faith.
While you and I may not be called to a physical martyrdom, we are called to give witness to our faith. The consequences may be less severe, but the impact is still the same. When we live the Christian life well and others can see it, they are inspired. Your actions may even inspire some to join the Church.
The martyrs were willing to give their lives for love of Christ and the Church. May we be willing to do the same, in whatever way we’re called to.