Monday, August 11, 2008

Heroic Virtue IV

This is "the rack" of medieval England infamy. This terrible instrument of torture was used to kill one St. Nicholas Owen, here is his brief story which I pray will demonstrate how martyrdom is a perfect example of the theological, and certainly heroic virtue of HOPE:

Saint Nicholas was probably the most important person in the preservation of Catholicism in England during the period of the penal laws against the faith. He was a carpenter or builder, who saved the lives of countless Jesuit priests in England for two decades by constructing hiding places for them in mansions throughout the country. He became a Jesuit lay brother in 1580, was arrested in 1594 with Father John Gerard, and despite prolonged torture would not give the names of any of his Catholic colleagues; he was released on the payment of a ransom by a wealthy Catholic.

Brother Nicholas is believed to have been responsible for Father Gerard's dramatic escape from the Tower of London in 1597.

Nicholas was arrested a third time in 1606 with Father Henry Garnet, whom he had served 18 years, Father Edward Oldcorne, and Father Oldcorne's servant, Brother Ralph Ashley. He refused to give any information concerning the Gunpowder Plot. They were imprisoned in the Tower of London. Nicholas was subjected to such vicious torture, which literally tore his body to pieces, killing him.

Nicholas was also known as Little John and Little Michael and used the aliases of Andrews and Draper.

Born in Oxford, England; died in the Tower of London, 1606; beatified in 1929; canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales; feast day formerly March 12.

Hope, the second theological virtue we will examine is a firm trust that God will give us eternal life and all the means necessary to obtain it; it attains heroicity when it amounts to unshakeable confidence and security in God's help throughout all the untoward events of life, when it is ready to forsake and sacrifice all other goods in order to obtain the promised felicity of heaven. Such hope has its roots in a faith equally perfect. Abraham, the model of the faithful, is also the model of the hopeful "who against hope believed in hope. . .and he was not weak in faith; neither did he consider his own body now dead.. nor the dead womb of Sara" (Romans 4:18-22).

The virtue of heroic hope especially comes to life for us when we examine the lives and particularly the deaths of the martyrs. They gave their lives rather than compromise their faith and thus exchange finite and perishable earthly life for infinite and eternal life with God in heaven. I cannot say this for certain, but I suspect that from hope springs perseverance, the kind which prevents us from falling into apostasy when faced with persecution. For Catholics this is commonly transmitted to us through the actual grace of God in the holy sacrament of Confirmation.

As an aside, did you know that confirmation places upon your souls an indelible seal? This seal cannot be removed by anything and goes with each soul either into heaven, or hell. I can only imagine that in heaven this serves only to increase your share in Christ's glory, but in hell it shall serve to increase that poor soul's suffering for all eternity.

"Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that your share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of Glory and of God rests upon you. But let no one among you be made to suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as an intriguer. But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name. For it is time for the judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, how will it end for those who fail to obey the gospel of Christ? 'And if the righteous one is barely saved, where will the godless and the sinner appear?' As a result, those who suffer in accord with God's will hand their souls over to a faithful creator as they do good." (1 Peter 4:12-19)

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