Today’s reading reminds us of the persecution of the early Christians and its subsequent fruits - an abundance of new communities formed following the death of our first martyr, St Stephen. And since him, countless witnesses have walked the same road to Calvary with our Lord. St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, whose feast day is today, shares in the same steadfast purpose, [being] full of the Holy Spirit and of faith (Acts 11:24).
He was born in 1577 and practised as a lawyer defending the poor and the oppressed before leaving the profession out of disillusionment of a faulty justice system. He joined the Capuchin Franciscans as a priest and preacher. In 1622, on the road back from preaching in Seewis Switzerland, he was attacked and killed by a group of armed men. St. Fidelis became the first martyr of the Capuchin order.
These are the words from his last sermon a few days earlier:
“O Catholic faith, how solid, how strong you are! How deeply rooted, how firmly founded on a solid rock! Heaven and earth will pass away, but you can never pass away. From the beginning the whole world opposed you, but you mightily triumphed over everything. This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith. It has subjected powerful kings to the rule of Christ; it has bound nations to his service.
What made the holy apostles and martyrs endure fierce agony and bitter torments, except faith, and especially faith in the resurrection?
What is it that today makes true followers of Christ cast luxuries aside, leave pleasures behind, and endure difficulties and pain?
It is living faith that expresses itself through love. It is this that makes us put aside the goods of the present in the hope of future goods. It is because of faith that we exchange the present for the future.” *
Reflecting on the persevering faith of these holy men and women inspires us, but at times also puts us to shame for all the times we spurn the suffering in our lives and fail to remain faithful in true witness to Christ. How great must these holy men and women love the Lord, how clean their hearts, how disposed their souls would have been to receive the grace of martyrdom!
St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, pray for us.
Second Volume of the Divine Office, p.112*
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