Today is the Feast of St. Charles Lwanga, the 19th century Ugandan martyr burned at the stake for refusing to renounce his Christianity. Today we share a Father Barron commentary from 2010 about Lwanga wherein he talks about the saint's legacy in his country and throughout the African continent, as well as martyrdom's curious habit of not quieting Christianity, but instead making the message even louder.
We're no strangers to the lore of the martyrs: their sacrifice, their bravery, their unshakable beliefs. But why do it? What is the incentive, the allure? Word on Fire contributor Jared Zimmerer examines the appeal of martyrdom and why it's not only something we crave but something we can do.
Throughout history, men and women have given the ultimate sacrifice for what they believe. Whether that cause is for the good nature of faith, freedom and family or the ever promising yet always short-lived notions of money, grandeur and worldly honor, people tend to find the sacrifice worth the fatal end. The history of the Catholic Faith is riddled with servants of Christ who have endured and glorified some of the worst physical pains known to man. Without knowledge of the good they died for, their sacrifice seems not only vain, but idiotic. However, the transcendent characteristic of their deaths, which can only make sense to those willing to search for it, brands the gruesome scenes worthy of celebration.
One of my favorite paintings, the Last Judgment fresco by Michelangelo seen in the Sistine Chapel, depicts a few of the more popular saints in the way in which they were martyred. There is St. Lawrence with his grate and St. Bartholomew with his knife and flayed skin, St. Andrew with his cross, St. Sebastian holding up the arrows with which he was shot, St. Blaise with his wool combs and St. Catherine with her wheel. These martyrs are put upon pedestals through Church history because mankind recognizes their sacrifice. But could that recognition go further than just human admiration? Could it be perhaps that we were made to “die with our boots on” so to speak?...
We at Word on Fire share a lot of laughs. We're talking a lot. This prompted us to get thinking — is there something about the Catholic faith that lends itself to good humor? Kerry Trotter thinks so, and she shares her hair-brained (and hair-shirted) theories today.
“If it bends, it’s funny. If it breaks, it’s not funny.”
I saw Woody Allen’s 1989 film “Crimes and Misdemeanors” while I was in college, some years after it was released. The movie was required viewing for a drama class I took to fill an arts requirement, attended with little interest but likely with a hangover.
Alan Alda’s film producer character sits on a New York City park bench and explains comedy — how the crowds and stress and suffering of urban life will drive anyone crazy, but that’s where all the humor begins — the whole bending/breaking idea. You just need to get some space from all the madness in order to find the funny. Then there was the line: “Comedy is tragedy plus time.”
Something snapped in my foggy freshman brain. Hawkeye had a point. While comedy is not quite as cut-and-dry (or insensitive) as the simple “tragedy plus time” equation, there is something there. I let out a loud guffaw at this scene, and noticed my professor wheel his head around, a satisfied smirk on his bearded face.
That professor, an erudite and quirky Dominican friar who wore a cape and a beret over his white habit, wanted us to notice this. This was the lesson. What is comedy? What makes something funny? Beyond events occurring when or where they are not expected (take that beret and cape, for instance), there is another piece. Suffering.
And who knows suffering better than anyone?
Last week, we posted links
with information regarding the recent massacre and martyrdom of Christians at Our Lady of Salvation Cathedral in Baghdad, Iraq. Around the web, bloggers are encouraging fellow Christians to send letters of encouragement to the surviving, yet heavily persecuted, Iraqi Christians.
Elizabeth Scalia, a writer for the First Things blog
, encouraged her readers to visit this site
and to participate in the letter-writing campaign it suggested for the families and surviving victims of the brutal atrocity carried out against Christians in Iraq. Please participate in this effort, uniting with fellow Christians to express our solidarity, our support, and most importantly, our prayers.
Write letters to Christians in Iraq
Thank you for your participation, and please pass this along to friends and family.