This week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we commemorate the martyrdom of great Saints:
October 17 is the feast day of St. Ignatius of Antioch.
Ignatius was the second Bishop of Antioch, Syria, this disciple of the beloved Disciple John was consecrated Bishop around the year 69 by the Apostle Peter, the first Pope. In 107, during the reign of the brutal Emperor Trajan, this holy Bishop was wrongfully sentenced to death because he refused to renounce the Christian faith. He was taken under guard to Rome where he was to be brutally devoured by wild beasts in a public spectacle. During his journey, his travels took him through Asia Minor and Greece. He made good use of the time by writing seven letters of encouragement, instruction and inspiration to the Christians in those communities. We still have these letters as a great treasure of the Church today. It was Bishop Ignatius who first used the term "catholic" to describe the whole Church.
On October 18 we will celebrate St. Luke the Evangelist. Luke, the writer of the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, has been identified with St. Paul's "Luke, the beloved physician" (Colossians 4:14). We know few other facts about Luke's life from Scripture and from early Church historians. It is believed that Luke was born a Greek and a Gentile. In Colossians 10-14 speaks of those friends who are with him. He first mentions all those "of the circumcision" -- in other words, Jews -- and he does not include Luke in this group. Luke's gospel shows special sensitivity to evangelizing Gentiles. It is only in his gospel that we hear the parable of the Good Samaritan, that we hear Jesus praising the faith of Gentiles such as the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian (Lk.4:25-27), and that we hear the story of the one grateful leper who is a Samaritan (Lk.17:11-19). According to the early Church historian Eusebius Luke was born at Antioch in Syria.
Finally on October 19 we will celebrate the martyrdom of St. Jean de Brebeuf, (1593 – 1649), and his companions. St. Jean de Brebeuf was a French born Jesuit missionary and martyr of New France who arrived in America in 1625 to evangelize Native Americans. He lived among the Huron for over 15 years under difficult and challenging circumstances. In 1648 the Iroquois launched a war of extermination against the Huron, their traditional enemies. Refusing to flee when their Huron village was attacked, Brebeuf and his assistant, Gabriel Lalemant, were captured the following year and tortured to death by the Iroquois. Brebeuf was canonized in 1930 with seven other missionaries who are collectively called the North American martyrs. He is the patron saint of Canada.
The martyrs teach us that nothing should be put before God’s love, not even life. May we imitate them in the love for Christ and the Church.
Have a blessed week, full of zeal for the Lord: this is the best I can wish you!