On Red/White Martyrdom

A reflection by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

Watercolor of the stream running through the Abbey property

I was reading a little bit about the history of relics, and discovered that in the first centuries after Christ’s life, they would build altars over the places where martyrs were killed for the Christian faith.  It is from that practice that we get the tradition of placing relics in the altars of Catholic churches when they are being constructed.  It is good to remember those who have gone before us and laid down their lives for Christ; those martyrdoms are what our Church is built on.  And it is good to remember that there are many unknown martyrs, who Christ knows so well.

I think especially of the white martyrs – the monastics.  We are called to be martyrs, and give ourselves up for the love of Christ.  We embody in a particular way the Gospel passage where Jesus’ relatives think He is “out of his mind” (cf. Mark 3:21).  Isn’t that what some people think about martyrs?  “Why are you dying for that?!”  Similarly, many people wonder about people who choose to live the monastic life: “Why are you doing that?!”  There is the red martyrdom, where blood is shed, and only God can give the grace for someone to have the courage for that.  Only God can give the grace for someone to embrace white martyrdom, too.  To live so closely to each other in community, serving each other even when there are difficulties and personality clashes, denying our self-will, following a schedule every day – these are all little martyrdoms that our world does not understand.  The world may think we are a little crazy, but thank the Lord!  Our ways are meant to be different than the world’s.

Really, every person is called to a type of martyrdom.  Marriage is a type of martyrdom.  Any vocation can be a martyrdom if lived well, because every vocation is meant to bring us to holiness, to bring us closer to Christ, to bring us to imitate Him Who gave up His life for the love of others.  Being faithful to whatever God calls us to is the important thing, and that is one thing that is very mysterious to our culture: fidelity.  Thank the Lord if people call you a little crazy, because they called Jesus a little crazy, too.  

Their action resembles the snow which, covering the heights, is melted by the warm rays of the sun, and descends in life-giving streams to fertilise the valleys and plains.

Dom Columba Marmion, OSB, Sponsa Verbi