The Forty Holy Martyrs of Sebaste

     The feast day of the Forty Holy Martyrs on March 10th commemorates the sacrifice of 40 Christian Roman soldiers who were condemned to death for their Faith in Jesus Christ while serving in Sebaste, Armenia (the city of which St. Blaise was Bishop). They were condemned to death by freezing, sentenced to be laid out unclad on a frozen lake throughout a bitterly cold night. In order to tempt their resolve, a large cauldron of warm water was set on shore under guard with the understanding that anyone who tried to escape the ice was thereby renouncing his faith in Christ. They had made a pact among themselves that all 40 of them would be resolutely faithful, even down to the youngest — a teenager of 17 years. Yet, one of the condemned men weakened and sought relief from the warm bath, only to die as soon as he entered the water. One of the guards then saw angels with 40 crowns descending upon the remaining 39 martyrs. He then and there decided that he would claim the 40th crown, professed faith in Christ and went to join the others on the ice.

These 40 martyrs would be excellent patrons for Catholics who are suffering with debilitating illnesses. Stretched out valiantly on their "bed" of suffering, enduring patiently the rigors of their torment for Jesus Christ, what a marvelous example they set for those who are confined to bed for a long time by illness or injuries. If we could be like them, setting an example of faith and fortitude for all around us — rather than by complaints and impatience making life miserable for everyone!

It would be a wonderful work of charity for a Catholic to devote himself to this work of comforting the sick, the invalid, the terminally ill, under the patronage of these Forty Holy Martyrs, by bringing them comfort and encouragement to persevere. One could pray the Rosary with them. One could supply them with resources such as recordings of sacred music, sermons and conferences which would help them spend their time profitably, rather than wasting their lives with frivolous and degrading TV "entertainment" or wallowing in self-pity. One could take a few moments out of the day and a few steps out of the way in order to visit the sick and suffering and show that they are not forgotten and that someone does care about them. There is no better time to do all of this than during the season of Lent. "Behold, now is the time of grace...!"