I have posted this article which was partially from my response to an eChurch Blog post regarding persecution in the church -
We recently spoke in our prayer group about the persecution of the Church. However, when this topic, and the issue of martyrdom, came up it was obvious that there was a massive disconnect between our Church life here in England and that of those Christians who live in the midst of persecution everyday. I believe that the average Catholic has lost a connection with Christian martyrs and the very meaning of their bloodshed & death.
Some will disagree with me but, I also believe that there is a disconnect with our own 40 Martyrs of England & Wales, though St. Margaret Clitherow is always cited in most discussions, and quite rightly so. For most though they have passed into ‘history’ (though I appreciate some will have specific devotions to our martyred saints).
I think we need to repackage and teach the starkness and brutality of what it actually means to be persecuted or martyred and make it relevant for today's Catholics who have little understanding of the subject. One of the ways of doing this is to take a closer look at some of the most recent cases. By this I mean the recent martyrs who literally had a gun put to their head and were told to reject Christ or be put to death. This happened to one of the girls at the Columbine Massacre in 1999 who fell to her knees, started praying and refused to reject Christ which ultimately led to her being shot at point blank range.
I consider myself a traditionalist but I have only ever found one book that brought home the full weight of what it must be like to be a martyr. It is an extremely modern and ‘hip’ up to date christian book called Jesus Freaks by dc Talk & the Voice of the Martyrs (stories of those who stood for Jesus: the ultimate Jesus Freaks).
My goodness, some traditional readers would turn their nose up at the title & the style of the book but it certainly challenges the reader and puts martyrdom in a modern context. It starts off with the the girl at Columbine and carries on without pulling any punches.
I definitely think that there is a case for bringing the history of our martyrs up to date. The UN states that there are a minimum of 150,000 Christian martyrs every year. When I said this at that church prayer group meeting they looked at me as if I had made it up. They obviously had no concept that this was the case.
Blessed John Henry Newman has something to say about our martyrs, hence I have included this short video by Mary's Dowry Productions.