“These Are the Martyrs of Today!”

On March 4, four members of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity — Sister Anselm, from India; Sisters Margherite and Reginette, from Rwanda; and Sister Judith, from Kenya — were brutally murdered by radical Islamic gunmen while caring for the elderly in a facility in Aden, Yemen. The gunmen also chained the elderly to their beds and murdered them, and they mercilessly slew four local nurses, four security guards and three cleaning staff. But the attack had one goal: the deaths of Christian women who were giving witness to Christ every day in their lives and who gave the ultimate witness to Him in their deaths.

Pope Francis said of these heroic women: “These are the martyrs of today! They may not be on the cover of a magazine … [they] may not even make the news, but they gave their blood for the Church” (Angelus Address, March 6). Christians are facing global persecution on a scale that increasingly dwarfs even the brutal oppression under the Roman Empire. Hundreds of millions of Christians live in fear of violence, endure social and political disabilities or know that, any day, they might be arrested or murdered simply for proclaiming Jesus Christ as the Son of God.

The dire situation facing our Christian sisters and brothers is a reminder that martyrdom is the price we may all be asked to pay for being followers of Christ. In light of this truth, and especially meditating on the four sisters in Yemen, all four articles this month teach us something about how we should respond to the looming specter of martyrdom.

Dominican Father Brian Mullady, in his article on justification (see Pages 6-9), reminds us of the central role of God’s grace and our need to respond to this utterly unmerited gift if we are to advance in the life of Christ. Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio, in Part Two of his study on the Fathers of the Church (Pages 10-12), highlights the heroic defense of the Faith these men undertook in the face of heresies. Meanwhile, Holy Cross Father John Gribble details the canonization process in the Church (Pages 18-20) and how the martyrs have a special place. And Stephanie Mann offers a beautiful profile of the Martyrs of Gorkum (Pages 14-16), clergy and religious who died for the Faith in the dark years of a Protestant revolt in the 16th century. Finally, Elizabeth Scalia’s column for this issue (Page 38) touches on the powerful but largely unknown “living saints” who impact us in unimaginable ways.

Matthew Bunson, D.Min., K.H.S., is editor of The Catholic Answer and The Catholic Almanac and author of more than 40 books. He is a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and a professor at the Catholic Distance University. You may e-mail him at mbunson@osv.com.