I. By the patience of Jesus Christ the holy Martyrs were animated and strengthened to embrace with patience the most cruel torments the cruelty of tyrants could devise; and not only with patience, but with joy and a desire to suffer for the love of Jesus Christ. In the celebrated letter which St. Ignatius the Martyr wrote to the Romans after he had been condemned to be thrown to the wild beasts, and was on his way to the place of his Martyrdom, we read: "Suffer me, my children, to be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may become corn for my Redeemer. I seek only Him Who died for me. He Who is the only object of my love was crucified for me, and the love I bear to Him makes me desire to be crucified for Him." St. Leo writes of St. Laurence the Martyr that when he lay upon the grid-iron the flames which burned him without were less hot than the fire that burned within him. Eusebius and Palladius relate of St. Potamena, a virgin of Alexandria, that when she was condemned to be thrown into a cauldron of boiling pitch that she might suffer the more for the love of her crucified Spouse, she prayed the tyrant to have her thrust in little by little, that her death might become more torturing; and she had her desire, for they began by thrusting her feet into the pitch, so that she was for three hours in this torment, and did not die till the pitch reached her neck. Such was the patience, such the fortitude which the Martyrs gained from the Passion of Jesus Christ.
II. It was the courage and fortitude which Jesus crucified infuses into those who love Him that made St. Paul say: Who, then, shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or famine, or nakedness or danger, or persecution, or the sword? (Rom. viii. 35). And at the same time he says: In all these things we overcome because of him that hath loved us (Rom. viii. 37). The love of the Martyrs for Jesus Christ was unconquerable, because it gained its strength from Him Who is unconquerable, Who strengthened them to suffer. And let us not imagine that the torments of the Martyrs were miraculously deprived of their power of torturing, or that their heavenly consolations dulled the pains of the torments; this perhaps may sometimes have happened, but ordinarily they truly felt all their pains, and many through weakness yielded to the pangs; so that in the case of those who were constant in suffering, their patience was entirely the gift of God Who gave them their strength.
The first object of our hope is eternal blessedness, that is, the blessedness of God — the fruition of God, as St. Thomas teaches. And all the means which are necessary for obtaining salvation, which consists in the enjoyment of God — such as the pardon of our sins, final perseverance in Divine grace, and a good death — we must hope for, not from our own strength, nor our good resolutions, but solely from the merits and grace of Jesus Christ. That our confidence, therefore, may be firm, let us believe with infallible certainty that we must look for the accomplishment of all these means of salvation only to the merits of Jesus Christ.
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