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St Melchiorre Grodziecki, St Stefan Pongracz, St Marek Krizevcanin, SJ, Martyrs of Kosice (Slovakia)
(entered heaven September 8 and 9, 1619)
I wouldn’t worry too much about the friction you’re having with some of the other Christian (and non-Catholic) groups on campus. You can work through that, I am sure, and make the most out of it. After all, when it comes to moral and cultural issues, non-Catholic Christians share a lot with Catholics, so you can easily find common points to work on and common values to defend together. Pooling resources will be more effective, and it will give them a chance to see that Catholics really do know and love Christ – it could even draw some of them closer to the sacraments.
There may come a time, however, when you have to draw an uncomfortable line. After all, there are some differences between us, and some of them go deep. If that time comes, though, don’t be aggressive about it; be meek, like our Lord, even if you have to suffer, as today’s saints did.
The three priests got to know each other in Rome, where they were studying for their advanced degrees. Working in different ministries near Kosice (in Slovakia), they found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Prince of Transylvania, ruler of the area, started a war against the emperor. The Prince happened to be a Calvinist – a non-Catholic Christian. In those times, strife between non-Catholics and Catholics was rampant and violent. His people and lieutenants joined their fury to his, and as an expression of their warlike determination, they began threatening the Catholics. (One of the martyrs was chaplain to the armies of the emperor, so you can see why they’d be mad at him.) They decided not to massacre all the Catholics, but only the priests, and today’s martyrs were apprehended. After torture, designed to make them abjure their Catholic faith, two were beheaded. The third, Fr Pongracz, was tortured even more (his persecutors hoped his resilience had been broken by seeing his brothers beheaded) – hung upside down, burned with torches until his intestines spilled out, he still refused to deny his faith. Thinking he was dead, they threw him and the bodies of his two companions into a well, where he survived for another 20 hours, praying continuously.
Such physical persecution is uncommon in our society today, but verbal persecution can be just as harsh, if not worse. Though you may have to suffer such fare if you stay faithful to your Church and your mission, may you never dish any out.
Your devoted uncle, Eddy