Because it is September 11 and September 11 can never be just another date, at least not yet in this solipsistic western world, I am trying to re-order a few thoughts.
Eight years ago I woke up on September 11th – a gorgeous late summer day – and thought it was going to be a very rotten day for me, because it would have been my 25th wedding anniversary. If I were still married, which I was not. Then I went to see my therapist.
Not that this day is so much more replete with gruesome tales of martyred saints than any other day, but just because it is today they seem illuminated. And while we are thinking of all the dead in the towers and in the field in Pennsylvania, I have to remind myself: For certain Muslims, the martyrs of 9/11 are the hijackers of the planes that flew into the towers. There are the martyrs who choose their death, and the martyrs whose death is imposed upon them. But couldn’t it be said that they too – the missionaries, the recusants, the defiers – choose their fate? Consider those saints whose feasts are celebrated today, one day among 365.
• The Irish Martyrs of 1649: Blesseds Dominic Dillon, Peter Taaffe, John Bathe, Richard Overton;
• Blessed Charles Spinola, a Jesuit missionary to Japan who spent 4 years in a cage before being slowly burned to death in Nagasaki, 1622. Yes, Nagasaki.
• Bd. Francesco Giovanni Bonifacio, who was killed by Yugoslav communists (Druses) in what is now Croatia, in 1946. His body was never found.
• Sts. Hyacinth and Protus, Romans who were buried alive in 257 AD. Or else they were burned alive.
• St Jean-Gabriel Perboyre (1802-1839), also a missionary, was martyred in China; he was lashed to a cross on “red mountain” and then strangled alongside 5 ‘common’ criminals. Because of what he suffered, in 1842 the British Government inserted a clause into the Treaty of Nanking stating that any foreign missionary arrested should be handed over to the consul of his own nation, and not be dealt with by the Chinese.
• St Vincent of Leon was slaughtered by Aryan Visigoths in 554 AD – the details are not given, but they were not called Visigoths for nothing.
On a more cheerful note, St Sperandia was an Italian mystic who died of natural causes in 1276. Because of all the miracles attributed to her intercession, her body was examined 2 years after her death, and found to be perfectly fresh. Since then, Sperandia has been exhumed no less than 8 times, and every time her body continues to be lovely. The most recent exhumation was in 1952. If you are curious how she is holding up, you can find her tomb in the Benedictine convent of Cingoli, Italy.