We have a twofer today as we celebrate these brave men who were martyred.
The martyrs of the Church are a constant reminder that we are but pilgrims on this earth. Our true home is the kingdom of God. The early Christians knew that persevering in faith could earn them an often gruesome horrific death. Yet they had their eyes firmly fixed on heaven, because they knew that if they persevered in holiness they would receive a crown of glory for all eternity. Christian martyrs throughout the ages knew where their real home is and that no earthly prize can come close to matching that heavenly crown of glory.
In today’s Office of Reading for St. Sebastian, St. Ambrose speaks about another kind of martyrdom that does result in death. This is often referred to as white martyrdom. St. Ambrose reminds us that to be a Christian entails suffering and persecution:
Of this kind of persecution Scripture says: All who wish to live a holy life in Christ Jesus suffer persecution. All suffer persecution; there is no exception. Who can claim exemption if the Lord himself endured the testing of persecution? How many there are today who are secret martyrs for Christ, giving testimony to Jesus as Lord! The Apostle knew this kind of martyrdom, this faithful witnessing to Christ; he said: This is our boast the testimony of our conscience.
To learn more about these great heroes of the faith, head over to Catholic Culture. Well I learned something new. St. Sebastian is always depicted tied to a tree while he is being executed by arrows. So he died by arrows right? No. He survived the attempt, only to be beaten to death on the orders of the emperor. Who knew?
The Wall Street Journal, recently reported on a rediscovered sculpture of St. Sebastian, An Ivory Carving of St. Sebastian Resurfaces (FYI: I have a subscription to the WSJ, so the article may be behind a firewall).
After several centuries out of the public eye, an ivory carving of Saint Sebastian that’s impressed experts with its emotional power and large scale is about to make a reappearance. The scholar-dealer offering the work, created around 1638 by an obscure Germanic artist, is asking $4.75 million.
Here is a picture of the carving: