White Martyrdom, Red Martyrdom, and a Rainbow

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rainbowListening to the homily during the 4 p.m. Mass, our priest gently reminded us that white martyrdom was coming to a close; soon to be replaced by the red. He included the viral quote of  Cardinal Francis George of the archdiocese of Chicago: “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square” This was not the first time I have heard this quote and, as usual, I felt ill when I heard it. I glanced at my almost 15 yr old son who was joyfully serving the Mass, in close proximity to our priest. I leaned over the head of my youngest, only six yrs old, and deeply inhaled the fragrance of her freshly washed hair and kissed her forehead while I strove to push away the horror filled images of children, men and women, fathers and mothers, grandparents, siblings, daughters and sons lined before the guns. Images of the past and present commingled in my mind’s eye. Nazis murdering Jews and Catholics for their faith; ISIS raping, torturing and murdering Christians for refusing to deny their faith; and less recently than the horrors of ISIS but closer to us in time than  WWII – the martyrs of the Cristero war.  

I thought of my married children raising their own families and my young adult children discerning their vocations and whether they are called to married life or to the religious. I wanted to grab them all and whisper in their ears: “DON’T MARRY! What are you thinking?” I especially wanted to admonish my sons to GO! Run to the seminary and become priests – and work towards saving the souls already in existence. Don’t bring more innocent lives into the world only to be martyred. Or worse, much worse, have their souls stolen by the secular world that eats away the heart of society, spinning lies of deceit, intolerance and despair.”

When the homily was over, I looked at the youngest two of my thirteen children as they participated in the schola and felt great sorrow. I thought of the children I raised who have left the Church or are currently struggling with the teachings of the Church – which are indeed hard. Jesus never promised that following Him would be easy: “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled. I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed. Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! They will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:49-53)

Struggling against the deep sorrow that my heart was buried under, I tried to pray for all that I usually pray for throughout the Mass: my children, their children, my siblings, parents and the lost souls of this world and in purgatory. I simply could not focus and I recalled my post that was due in a few hours. I had planned on writing about the language of love as expressed through flowers. With memes like “I feel like a war between the confederates and a skittle factory has broken out” popping up all over the internet, I somehow felt that this idea was simply too frivolous. I thought about more serious topics such as The Four Marks of the Church- a topic my now 21 year old daughter wrote about when she was fourteen. I decided to look up her article after Mass and maybe use it as a basis to talk about how we know the Catholic Church is the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic faith and how important it is that we can explain this to others. 

Still, I found myself struggling with the fear drilled inside of me at the thought of red martyrdom. While the beautiful litany of the Mass was being sung around me, I fought against this fear and pondered deeply about what it was that I was really afraid of. Dying? Dying for Christ? No – because if I was ever actually killed for my faith I would be certain of Heaven. I was really more afraid of suffering and more than that – afraid of my children suffering. Still Christ, as Father Harden reminds us in his paper Maryrdom and Suffering, does require suffering of us. “But we also believe that what Christ did by dying for us on the cross requires that we die on our cross by cooperating with the graces that Jesus won for our redemption.” He could not have been more clear. He told us, β€œIf you wish to be my disciples, take up your cross and follow me.” We must cooperate with Christ’s grace if we wish to join Him in eternity. He was crucified by shedding His blood. We must be crucified by shedding our blood in witness to our love.”

This  was not the first time  I had struggled with this fear of martyrdom, of suffering. I made the decision long ago to turn off the news, turn off the TV, and stop worrying about what I can’t change and focus on what I could change – my own heart. I needed to focus on that and work on influencing my childrens’ hearts.  Again, I came to the conclusion that faith is the only answer to this fear of suffering. All I can do is live one day at a time; strengthening my faith through prayer, acts of love and charity while also remembering to offer up my little sufferings without complaint so that I might grow stronger in God’s graces so that, if one day I am asked to answer the call of red, I will be able to. 

When I sat down in front of my monitor I had no idea what direction this post would go in – but I knew it would start with Cardinal George’s quote. However, first I needed to research his quote and so I did. What I found amazed me. There is a line, a line of profound hope that  has been lost in its viral journeys about the internet world. Here is his quote in its entirety (and thank you to Tim Drake who hunted it down): 

“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.” Cardinal Francis George of the archdiocese of Chicago (Please consider reading the whole article.)

I would like to close with an explanation as to why I chose a rainbow for my sole picture for this article. In the old Testament it states in Genesis 6:5-8  “The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the Lord saw the wickedness of the humankind on the earth and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will blot from the earth the human beings I have created – people together with the animals and the creeping things and the birds of the air for I am sorry that I Have made them.’ But Noah found favour in the sight of the Lord.”

Following this was the great flood as described in Genesis 7 – 8. Eventually the flood waters recede and God promises never to flood the earth again.  Genesis 9:12-13 “God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”

Every time I see a rainbow, whether as God’s bow in the clouds or as as symbol for something I do not agree with, I will remember God’s promise and take hope in His word and trust in Him. The rainbow will never cease to be a beautiful thing in my eyes and I will always see God’s hand in it.  

(Credit for photo)

18 Replies to “White Martyrdom, Red Martyrdom, and a Rainbow”

    1. πŸ™‚ Margaret, I think we became sistas when we both wrote our articles on family size way back in 2007! Thank you for sharing this article!

  1. What is this paranoia? There is 0% chance of religious persecution in the US in the near future. I wish the Supreme Court had ruled differently, but this overreaction is absurd. We are NOT in the middle of a culture war. There will be no martyrdom. There are plenty of problem in the world but if you live in the US there is no chance of danger because of your religion.

    1. Dear JenniO:
      I was able to google three simple words “Gays sue baker” and found lots of coverage about this form of persecution – or what would be referred to as white martyrdom.
      Here are two such articles:


      Its happening in the British Isles as well:

      A gay lawsuit against a florist:

      I hope that we do not see this extend into violence. But what is so special about the United States that we can believe that we will never see this some to violence? Again – I say I sincerely hope it does not come to this. I hope that God’s love will prevail and people come to their senses. But – I can’t live like an ostrich and just pretend it’s not a possibility. Instead I must open my heart to the fact that red martyrdom has become prevalent in many areas of the world… ( http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2015/april/more-martyrs-isis-executes-ethiopian-christians-libya.html JUST ONE EXAMPLE) it could come here and thus I MUST prepare my heart for this possibility. I don’t focus continuously on it and live in fear – too paralyzed to enjoy my life! Instead – when faced with the truth of this possibility – I pray. I focus on preparing my heart for Jesus and I try to remember, martyrdom aside I ONLY have today and must live accordingly. God Bless you JenniO! πŸ™‚

      1. And lets not forget the Catholic adoption agencies that were shut down because they wanted to maintain their values. That broke my heart.

    2. You could also look up beheadings in the US. I read a story last week of a woman who survived an attempted beheading by a co- worker in Oklahoma; incidentally he successfully beheaded another woman. Traci Johnson survived, Colleen Hufford did not It’s closer than you think.

    3. JenniO, I believe we will most certainly see white martyrdom in my lifetime (I will be 50 in 2 weeks). There are people of influence talking about revoking tax exemption status for churches that refuse gay marriage. In California and Illinois, there are serious legislative efforts to force all medical professionals (including prolife pregnancy centers) to refer for abortion, or lose tax exempt status. If churches, charities, and hospitals lose their 501c3 status, they may be unable to survive financially. Many people would give less because the tax credit would be lost. That means many good charitable works done by Catholic hospitals, schools, shelters, and pregnancy centers are at risk.

      This is not paranoia. This is a call to prayer and action.

  2. Wow. You certainly cut to the chase, in a necessary but beautiful way. Yes, BEAUTIFUL, because dying for the Faith–dying for Him–would be a glorious thing.

  3. Late, I know. Sorry.

    This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, its a relief to know I’m not the only one. I’m just starting out on this whole motherhood thing (I have a three month old, I’m 22), and there are days when I wonder if what I’m doing, if having children, is worth it when there’s so much evil in the world and persecution on the horizon. I know it’s a lie of the enemy that living my vocation is futile, but it can be hard to see that sometimes, and I do worry for my children. Just have to take things as they come I guess. Today has enough worries of its own.

    1. Gianna, my husband and I often talk about how so many put security in prepping for massive upheaval. While it is reasonable to do common sense preparation we often ask what are they really putting their faith in? Themselves and material items – all of which can fail! So while I think about what I can do to physically prepare for unrest or whatever this possible martyrdom could look like – I feel the most important thing I can do is prepare my soul, pray for my children’s souls and help them grow in their faith as much as possible. I’m also trying to really live in the moment always remembering today could be my last. (A drunk driver could end my life tomorrow.)SO really, all I have is today. I see that you are a new mum and as such are probably hearing this well intended comment – “enjoy every moment, it goes too quickly”. Here is an article (written by my 2nd daughter, actually :)) that you might enjoy as you embark on this incredible journey called motherhood! http://blog.holyheroes.com/ah-ha-the-recipe-for-the-secret-sauce/ God Bless!

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