Tertullian said: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” However, Saint Therese of Lisieux stated: “Martyrdom of the heart is no less fruitful than the pouring out of one’s blood.”
What are my passions? What are my pursuits? Is my heart totally pure in its focus on Christ? Man, it better be. If Saint Therese is right, I can be saving souls right now.
How I am a martyr for Christ in what I orient my life towards? I really need to assess this question with an open heart, because I can actually be as fruitful in the salvation of souls as a “real” blood martyr– that’s what Saint Therese says!
After reading this inspiring quote, what comes to mind is the story of a young teenage martyr named Saint Maria Goretti. Yes, she was a “blood” martyr in every sense of the word; she was murdered and died proclaiming the name of Christ. But what I realize now is that she was a martyr first of the heart. And aren’t all true martyrs first… martyrs of the heart?
It’s not necessarily that martyrs shed blood at their death. The precursor to that is they shed their heart for Christ, first of all, every single day and moment of their life.
Saint Maria Goretti was 12 years old when an 18-year-old young man, Alessandro, tried to rape her, then stabbed her 14 times when he was unsuccessful. Even as she lay dying, Maria told Alessandro that she would be praying for him, and begged him to repent.
Three years into his 30 year prison sentence, this murderer Alessandro converted to Christ and to the Catholic faith! Alessandro had a dream in which Maria came to him and gave him 14 lilies– perhaps to symbolize her forgiving him for the 14 times in which he had stabbed her. The lilies burned in his hand. He awoke and was never the same.
Alessandro awoke, repented, and gave his life to Christ. Once murderer, he eventually became a monk, and sat side by side with Maria’s mother at her canonization in 1950! He called Saint Maria “my little saint.”
Clearly, Saint Maria was first a martyr for Christ in her heart before she could be a martyr with her blood.
She was a martyr for purity and chastity.
She was a martyr for virtue.
She was a martyr for unselfish love— even the love of one who was trying to rape her, and who eventually murdered her.
If “martyrdom of the heart” is “just as fruitful” as dying like a real blood martyr… I’d like to really re-evaluate how I am shedding my heart for Christ right now in my life.
There is always room for improvement. There is always more of my heart to give. That may sound like an impossibility, but it is truly possible if my heart’s source is in the Eternal and Infinite Sacred Heart of Christ.
I want to be a saint one day by being a martyr of the heart today!