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Planting the Seeds of the Faith

Updated on August 12, 2021

“Christ, like a skillful physician, understands the weakness of men. He loves to teach the ignorant, and the erring he turns again to his own true way. He is easily found by those who live by faith and to those of pure eye and holy heart, who desire to knock at the door he opens immediately.” ~ Saint Hippolytus

After celebrating two of the great women of our Church on consecutive days earlier this week, both of whom started their own Religious Orders, martyrdom takes center stage as we move on to the back-to-back Memorials of Saints Pontian, a Pope, and Saint Hippolytus, a Priest ~ yes, Thursday was a rare “2-fer” in the Catholic Church in that these men were celebrated in tandem ~ and Saint Maximilian Kolbe is remembered today for his remarkable act of selflessness and sacrifice in the Concentration Camps of Nazi Germany.

Bitter rivals for a good part of their lives, Saints Pontian and Hippolytus would reconcile prior to their martyrdom in the mines of Sardinia. Saint Hippolytus was said to have been “a rigorist, a vehement and intransigent man for whom even orthodox doctrine and practice were not purified enough.” History nonetheless tells us that he was the most prolific theologian and religious writer before the age of Constantine. In his writings we see the fullest source of knowledge as it relates to the Roman liturgy and the structure of the Church in the second and third centuries. His works include a plethora of Scripture commentaries, arguments against the prevailing heresies of the time, and even a history of the world. It would come as no surprise that Saint Hippolytus, whose name means “a horse turned loose,” is in fact the Patron Saint of horses. prison officers and prison guards as well.

Saint Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish Catholic Priest and Conventual Franciscan Friar who volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the German death camp of Auschwitz during World War II. He had an ardent and lifelong dedication to Our Holy Mother, and was in fact buried a day after his death on the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, which we celebrate tomorrow Saint Maximillian Kolbe founded the Knights of the Immaculata, known to some as the Miltia Immaculata, and wrote a Consecration to Our Lady Prayer that is still recited by many of his devotees today. He would go on to be canonized by his countrymen and fellow Pole, Pope John Paul II, who is most deservedly now also a member of the Communion of Saints.

“The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them.” These are the opening words of today’s 1st Reading (Wisdom 3:1-9), words that may sound familiar to those of you who have recently attended a Catholic Funeral Mass. This is indeed a popular funeral rite scripture passage, one that I chose for my father’s funeral. “They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace.“

Imagine if you will what the faithless on hand must have thought of men like Saints Pontian, Hippolytus, and Maximilian as they offered up their lives for the faith, the latter literally volunteering to do so. These men were “eternity-minded” in all that they did, a mindset we must all adopt

The passage goes on . . .

“For if before men, indeed, they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself.”

Very few of us are called to lay down our lives for Christ. At least for the moment anyway. But from the time of Nero Caesar to Napoleon, who once taunted a Catholic Cardinal with the words “Your Eminence, are you not aware that I have the power to destroy the Catholic Church?”, straight on through to modern times, the enemies of Christ have sought to defile and destroy His mystical bride the Catholic Church by various means of persecution. Yet in every century, these blatant attacks have yielded an even stronger church.

Yes, the blood of the martyrs is indeed the seed of the faith. May we always seek to emulate these brave men and women as we too seek to “run the race and compete well for the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7).

Saints Pontian, Pope, and Saint Hippolytus, Priest

Saint Maximilian Kolbe


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