Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church

Everyday Martyrdom

by Br. William Sprauer, OSB

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This week we celebrated the Solemnity of our beloved martyr Meinrad, a ninth-century monk and hermit who offered hospitality to the very men who would later beat and kill him. And he did this all the whileknowingtheir evil plan, and for this he is known as the "Martyr of Hospitality."

While reflecting on the life and death of our holy patron this year, I couldn't help but think that we, too, share in his martyrdom, although for most of us, it is not as violent or acutely painful.

Each and every one of us participates in an "everyday martyrdom," a daily dying to self that is part of Jesus' initial call to "take up your cross daily," and perhaps even St. Benedict's commission to "keep death daily before your eyes."

These daily deaths, these daily crosses, come in many forms, but they are perhaps more acutely felt in the idiosyncrasies of those closest to us. "Why does she talk with food in her mouth?", "Why does he just stand around all day?" "Why did that guy just cut me off in traffic?! Who does he think he is?!", "Why does he track dirt on the carpet?"

The list goes on and on. And we can drive ourselves mad by constantly making others' hang-ups a source of frustration and, in doing so, forget to "sweep in front of our own front door."

When we are too hung up on the things that drive us nuts about others, there is no room for love, which is our ultimate goal, to love as Christ loved. Our daily martyrdom is to see past these idiosyncrasies and learn to love despite them. But to do that, we have to let go of our own preferences. We have to let go of our own false-self that inhibits this love. This is true intimacy.

Michael Casey, in his book Strangers to the City, writes that monastic life is like "death by a thousand tiny pinpricks." While I haven't seen that written on any of the tombstones in the graveyard, I can certainly attest to the truth of this statement. Living closely with many others, and learning to accept their shortcomings (and learning to accept your own shortcomings!), can be very painful!

But it's those very people closest to us who both hurt us and, perhaps more importantly, heal us. The pain of this everyday martyrdom is ironically soothed sometimes by the very people who have caused the hurt. This is intimacy in action.

While we certainly aren't all called to the explicit martyrdom like that of St. Meinrad, we are all called to bear insults patiently, to welcome our persecutors as Christ, and we have to do it each and every day. And we, like St. Meinrad,knowwho our persecutors are, but by following his example, we continue welcoming them into our lives each and every day, because in them we see Christ.

Echoes from the Bell Tower is a blog devoted to observations on Christian faith, spirituality and everyday events, by authors with a connection to the Benedictine values found at Saint Meinrad Archabbey and its Seminary and School of Theology. Contributors include students, permanent deacons, Benedictine oblates and Saint Meinrad monks. Their stories, thoughts and ideas highlight the mission and vision that ring out from the bell towers on this Hill in southern Indiana.


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