Tuesday, January 8, 2008

About my sidebar image...

On my sidebar, I have included an photograph of the catacomb of St. Callixtus. My intention in this was to provide a visual reminder of the relationship between consecrated virginity and martyrdom.

Of course, many of the earliest consecrated virgin-saints were martyrs as well. Sometimes--such as in the case of St. Agnes, whose feast we will celebrate later this month--these women were martyred specifically because they had chosen to dedicate themselves completely to God as a spouse of Christ. But beyond the historical connection, my own belief is that consecrated virginity is a gift for the Church in a manner similar to the gift of the martyrs.

"Martyr" comes from the Greek word for "witness". The martyrs were people who had come to see the light of Christ, and who understood that it was worth more than anything the world could offer. They were willing to acknowledge this publicly, to the point where they would relinquish their earthly life due to the strength of their life in God.

The martyrs' testified to their faith by their death, and this was more convincing then any speech or writing. Their love for Christ was visible not only in their joy, but also especially in their suffering and death. That such a love could exist on this earth, from people like us, is something that could brighten the whole human experience.

It is to be hoped that modern consecrated virgins do not meet similarly violent deaths. Yet, a call to consecrated virginity is in a very real way a call to renounce many of life's most precious treasures. Although it is quite painful for me to consider the fact that I will never have my own family or my own home, I have always felt that I was gaining so much more than I was renouncing. I am willing (and eager!) to live this way because God is truly everything to me, and I won't be satisfied until everything I have belongs to Him.

My goal is that I live my consecrated life well enough that my witness is at least somewhat as convincing as the martyrs'.

When I see pictures of the catacombs where the early martyrs were buried, I am reminded of all of this. I think it is also a good occasion to remember that these saints are our brothers and sisters in Christ; they pray for us, and they want to encourage us so that our love for Christ can also become "as strong as death".*

*(cf. Song of Songs 8:6)

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