I have a confession to make. I have always feared the sufferings of martyrdom…at least when I am honest with myself. John Gabriel Peroyre, CM, is a martyr who touches that fear. His sufferings in China under the Manchurian emperor, Quisling (1840) were extraordinary. Yet I feel strangely connected to him.
On one of my many trips to our Motherhouse in Paris to lead workshops on “the new digital technology,” I was assigned to a room on a corridor that I didn’t know existed. It turned out to be the room St. John Gabriel Perboyre used when he served as Novice Master for Vincentians in 1832. I distinctly remember laying wide awake in a bed that could very well have been his given its age. I was filled with awe at being in the presence of one who had given his all.
In the years since then, I have often reflected on that week in his room. Recently, I discovered a gem from Bishop Robert Barron. (Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith)
“We need saints in order to come to a richer understanding of God, for each saint reflects in his or her particular manner something of God’s perfection.”
There are different kinds of saints. There are also different kinds of martyrdom and each reflects something different about God.
On Christmas Day 1648, St. Vincent said: “I’m well aware, dear Sisters, that some among you, by the grace of God, love their vocation so strongly that they’d prefer to be crucified, torn apart, and hacked into a thousand pieces rather than tolerate anything contrary to it–and there are a good number of you, by the mercy of God” (CCD:IX:359).
But Vincent de Paul also applied the word “martyr” to the Daughters of Charity who had left behind their family and gave their life to God in order to serve the poor in the different places where they were sent.
“Your vocation is the greatest in the Church of God, for you are martyrs; whoever gives his or her life for God is regarded as a martyr, and it’s certain that your lives are shortened by your labors; consequently, you are martyrs” (CCD:IX:361-362).
Pastor Delbert Young tied these various strands together in a sermon “When Jesus Gets In Your Boat.”
“Every boat ride Jesus took was eventful. You might catch a boat load of fish or run into a storm or run into a demon, but something will happen when Jesus steps into your boat. It’s not only the ride of your life. It will change your life.”
We don’t get to choose whether or how we will be called to be witnesses of God’s love. But inviting Jesus into our lives will change our lives…and the lives of others. We are each called to manifest something of God’s perfection.
Written by Father John Freund, CM (the first male contributor, our brother, who considers himself “blessed among women”)