Today, Roman Catholics commemorate the deaths of Andrew Dung-Lac and his companions, who were martyred in a wave of persecution in nineteenth century Vietnam. I am always stirred by stories of the martyrs, wondering whether I too would prove willing to take a bullet in the head, or something far worse, rather than keep silent about my faith in Jesus. It requires fortitude, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit; but also, in most cases, perseverance, and that may be a rarer and more precious gift still. Which reminds me of a passage I read recently in Josef Pieper's Faith, Hope, Love, to the effect that Thomas placed those who sally forth in intellectual battles for the faith alongside the martyrs of blood. Thomas' reasoning was that those fighters too require great courage. They must not only preach the truth; they must wade into the marshes where errors lurk, and confront them directly, discovering in them what truth they distort, and separating it from the distortion, and, in general, to use St. Paul's bracing admonition, quitting themselves like men.
I confess that I'm far from that martyrdom -- and that may explain my sometimes wistful admiration for the martyrs of blood, who seem to have had the more terrible battle, but also the clearer battle. Meanwhile, I see young apologists for the faith going forth to brave the dragons in their lairs -- may God increase their number! May the Lord who teaches our fingers to fight bestow upon them his Spirit of wisdom, to thresh out falsehood and unfold the truth. Give us the signal, unsurpassable Commander! We cannot each of us fight across the whole of the field, but what we can do, give us the heart to do, that we may bear upon our hearts, if not our limbs, the scars of nobility.