The Seed of the Chruch
friar Alberto Bravo, OFM Conv.
The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church
-Tertullian, 160-220 CE
Left to Right: Conventual Franciscan Martyrs, Blessed Michael Tomaszek, Blessed Carlos Muria, and Blessed Zbigniew Strzalkowski
On August 9th, friars and the community of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in El Paso, Texas, gathered to celebrate the lives of Conventual Franciscan Martyrs Blessed Michał Tomaszek, Blessed Zbigniew Strzałkowski (Martyrs of Pariacoto, Peru), and Blessed Carlos Murias (Martyr of Argentina). During the celebration, friar Jarek Wysoczański, who once lived with the friars from Pariacoto, said that “these men lived lives that responded to the signs of the times. Their blessed journey of faith, which ended with the sacrifice of their lives, today inspires us to carry out our vocation and mission in response to the signs of the times.” These men, like many other martyrs who have laid down their lives, have answered the call to “scrutinize the signs of the times and interpret them in the light of the Gospel” (GS, no. 4). Like them, we too are called to shine the light of the Gospel on the injustices of our time.
When we are wounded, our body begins a process of healing because it listens to the affected area and responds to the need. Only by listening can the process of healing begin. We cannot move forward as a Church if we do not listen to one another, especially those who are in the margins. During his first Chrism Mass as the Bishop of Rome back in March 2013, Pope Francis exhorted the priests who had gathered at St. Peter’s Basilica to be good shepherds. Pope Francis said to them, “Be shepherds with the smell of the sheep. Bring the healing power of God’s grace to everyone in need and stay close to the marginalized.” The three Franciscan Martyrs recognized that to truly journey with their flock, they needed to listen to them, acknowledge their struggles and needs, and address them. To journey is to listen.
As we continue to remember and honor the memory of our blessed Martyrs, let us respond to the signs of the times as well. May we be open to listening to our brothers and sisters, especially those who are in the margins. May we be shepherds with the smell of the flock, willing and ready to be like the Good Shepherd and lay down our lives for the people entrusted to our care.