Archives For Martyrs


People of the Liturgy

A Review of

The 21: A Journey into
the Land of Coptic Martyrs
Martin Mosebach

Hardback: Plough Books, 2019.
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ]  
[ Hearts & Minds Books ]

Reviewed by David W. Swanson
I am ashamed to admit that I had forgotten about the twenty-one men whose beheading in Libya by ISIS fighters was broadcast around the world in 2015. In the ensuing years my memory has constricted to the frenetic pace of our world’s rolling timeline of disasters and tragedies, whether close to home or, as with those young men kneeling before their masked captors, on a lonely beach on the other side of the world. It was the cover image on Martin Mosebach’s recently translated book, The 21: A Journey into the Land of Coptic Martyrs, that jostled my mind. On it we see a procession of bound men in orange jumpsuits, their heads bent under the heavy hands of their captors, dressed head to toe in black. Even those readers who had forgotten this story, or had somehow managed to miss it the first time, will understand that this choreographed march will end terribly for the men in orange.
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February 23 is the Feast Day of St. Polycarp of Smyrna, a martyr of the second century. In remembrance, we offer the story of his martyrdom…

The Encyclical Epistle
of the Church at Smyrna
Concerning the Martyrdom
of the Holy Polycarp

Modern paraphrase of a 19th century translation,
excerpted from [easyazon_link identifier=”0974479691″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Water, Faith and Wood:
Stories of the Early Church’s Witness for Today[/easyazon_link]

C. Christopher Smith. Doulos Christou Press, 2003.

— PAGE 1 —

The following text tells the story of Polycarp’s martyrdom. Polycarp
was born in approximately 70 A.D. to a wealthy family. He
eventually was discipled by the Apostle John and later became the
bishop of Smyrna. His martyrdom took place in either 155 or 156,
and this text was recorded at some point after that date in the second

The Church of God which sojourns at Smyrna, to the Church of God
sojourning in Philomelium, and to all the congregations of the Holy and
Catholic Church in every place: Mercy, peace, and love from God the
Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, be multiplied.

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St. Julia of Corsica

Today, May 23, is the feast day of St. Julia of Corsica, a martyr of the fifth century.


Her story… 

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Seven Martyred Monks of Gafsa
Liberatus, Boniface, Servus, Rusticus,
Rogatus, Septimus, and Maximus

Martyred 483 A.D.


Today (August 17) is the traditional feast day for these seven martyred monks.  This is their story… 

HUNERIC, the Arian Vandal king in Africa, in the seventh year of his reign, published fresh edicts against the Catholics, and ordered their monasteries to be demolished everywhere. Seven monks, named Liberatus, Boniface, Servus, Rusticus, Rogatus, Septimus, and Maximus, who lived in a monastery near Gafsa, in the province of Byzacena, were at that time summoned to Carthage. They were first tempted with great promises, but as they remained constant in the belief of the Trinity, and of one Baptism, they were loaded with irons and thrown into a dark dungeon.

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[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”333″ identifier=”0874867045″ locale=”US” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”216″]Dying for the Faith

A Review of 

Bearing Witness: Stories of Martyrdom and Costly Discipleship
Charles Moore / Timothy Keiderling, Eds.

Paperback: Plough Books, 2016
Buy now:  [ [easyazon_link identifier=”0874867045″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Amazon[/easyazon_link] ] [ [easyazon_link identifier=”B01CGQQ76Q” locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Kindle[/easyazon_link] ]


Reviewed by Fred Redekop


Bearing Witness: Stories of Martyrdom and Costly Discipleship is a disturbing book. The book comes out of a project called Bearing Witness conducted at Goshen College ( a Mennonite college ). The foreword is written by two people from Goshen College, John Roth and Elizabeth Miller.  Charles Moore and Timothy Keiderling have organized the stories into time periods. The book begins with two stories of Stephen and Polycarp, and the first chapter is about Christians who live out their faith in the presence of the Roman Empire.

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St. Stephen Today is the Feast of St. Stephen, whose story is told in Acts 6:8-8:2

Here is a poem of uncertain medieval origin for the occasion.

(This version in modern English is from The Oxford Book of Ballads, Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed., 1910)

St. Stephen and King Herod.


SAINT STEPHEN was a clerk
In King Herod’s hall,
And servéd him of bread and cloth
As every king befall.
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Tomorrow is All Saints Day, the day when the Church remembers the faithful ones who have gone before us.

To help you get acquainted with the saints, we recommend the following books.  We’ve tried to emphasize collections that feature the stories of a wide range of saints, as a reminder that we are all saints, and not just the super-heroes of faith (the Francises, the Mother Teresas, etc).

[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”0060692995″ cloaking=”default” height=”500″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”317″ alt=”All Saints Day”] > > > >
Next Book

[easyazon_link asin=”0060692995″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”douloschristo-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]Butler’s Lives of the Saints: Concise Edition, Revised and Updated[/easyazon_link]

*** For a limited time, this paperback edition is available for $6.98

A decent FREE ebook edition of the original work is available from Project Gutenberg. Note that navigating this massive work on your e-reader might be a challenge…

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An excerpt from

Water from a Deep Well:
Christian Spirituality from Early Martyrs to Modern Missionaries
Gerald Sittser.
Hardback: IVP Books, 2010.
Buy now: [ ]

Soon to be released in paperback!


A Brief Review of

Oscar Romero and the Communion of Saints
Scott Wright.
Photos by Octavio Duran.
Paperback: Orbis Books, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Chris Smith

Easter itself is now the cry of victory.
No one can quench the life that Christ has resurrected.
Neither death nor all the banners of death and hatred
raised against Him and against His church can prevail.
He is the victorious one!
Just as He will thrive in an unending Easter,
so we must accompany Him in a Lent and a Holy Week
of cross, sacrifice and martyrdom.
As He said, blessed are they who are not scandalized
by His cross.

— Oscar Romero

So begins this lovely new biography of Oscar Romero, which was released just in time for the 30th anniversary of his assassination.  Not only does this book trace the narrative of Romero’s life, it also is chock full of black and white photographs, many of which were taken by Octavio Duran, a Franciscan from El Salvador, who served as Romero’s personal photographer.  The photo-record of Romero’s life is the book’s greatest asset, as most of the stories told here can be found elsewhere.

This is a wonderful book, accessible in its format and yet challenging us at every turn with the story of Romero’s faithfulness.   Oscar Romero and the Communion of Saints is the finest introductory biography of Romero, and I highly recommend it for readers of all ages.  Indeed, it is perfect reading for the Easter season, as it embodies for us Romero’s deep faith in the resurrected Christ for whom “Neither death nor all the banners of death and hatred raised against Him and against His church can prevail.”

[ Download a free eBook edition of


“Bearing Witness in Her Body”

A Review of
Redeemed Bodies:
Women Martyrs in Early Christianity

by Gail Streete.

Reviewed by Kate A.K. Blakely.

Redeemed Bodies:
Women Martyrs in Early Christianity

Gail Streete.
Paperback: WJK Books, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Gail Streete - Redeemed BodiesThe female martyr has her own place both alongside and apart from her male counterparts. She stands in history alongside Paul as Thecla, and with her sister martyr, as in two female victims of the Columbine massacre, Cassie Bernall and Rachel Scott. Streete adds to these accounts the less easily appropriated martyrdom stories of female suicide attackers, which she proposes to examine in light of the same lens she uses with more traditional accounts, like those of Perpetua and Thecla. Streete notes the often conflicting responses of readers to stories of martyrdom. Some see these stories as attestations to ancient appreciation for unique female power and testimony. Others are not so complimentary, noting the pressures placed upon females to become “male,” or to epitomize certain characteristics, like chastity. Writes Streete, “because the model is ambiguous, so is its appropriation” (11). Streete’s focus in Redeemed Bodies is two-fold: 1) to demonstrate that the lens of gender is a valid one through which to view and evaluate martyrdom, and 2) to illuminate the complexity and ambiguity of Christian interpretation of martyrdom.

The martyr eschews legal and social standards specifically because of prior religious convictions. This inappropriate action of refusing to submit to standards is subversive. When such subversive actions lead to torture and martyrdom, Streete proposes, the martyr’s bodies (alongside their speeches) serve as the voice of witness. Martyrological literatures imbues the death itself with meaning through the body of the martyr. Streete then argues that the bodies of martyred women signify and signified something meaningful about power, both as symbols of gender and more generally of physicality, as both subject and object of powerful actions. Streete argues that, seen in tandem with Platonic and Aristotelian anthropologies, the female body was something that was to be doubly controlled, as both physical (contrary to the eternal spiritual) and passionate (contrary to the desired rationality).

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