martyr

Greek: a witness

A person who, for the Christian faith, freely and patiently suffers death at the hands of a persecutor. A martyr chooses to die rather than deny his faith by word or deed; he suffers patiently, that is, after the example of Christ, he does not resist his persecutors; he suffers death at the hands of one who, though he may assign some other reason, really acts through hatred of the Christian religion or of some Christian virtue. The early Christians, who bore witness to the truth of those facts upon which Christianity rests, were liable at any time to be given a choice between death and a denial of their testimony. Many of them, refusing to deny Christ, actually suffered death. Thus the name martyr, which in the very beginning of the Christian era meant a witness of Christ, was after a while given to those alone who suffered death for the faith.

There are five categories of martyrdom:

  • in odium fidei – from hatred of the faith
  • in defensum castitatis – in defense of chastity
  • ex aerumnis carceris – from the hardships of incarceration
  • per testimonium caritatis fortis – by witness of heroic charity
  • ex acertatibus et vexationibusque pro fidei quibus pertulit – by reason of the force and violence which were endured for the faith

See also