On this Tuesday of Holy Week, when we are to be preparing ourselves for the Holy Triduum with prayer and fasting, the calendar of the Holy Catholic Church remembers Saint Matthew of Beauvais, as a martyr for the Faith.
Saint Matthew was from Agnetz, France. He took the Cross from Bishop Roger of Beauvais and set off to battle in the First Crusade, which had recently been called by Pope Urban II to aid the Byzantine Emperor, in order to help free the Holy Land which had come under the siege of Islamic domination. Since St. Matthew of Beauvais, served in the First Crusade, I just wish to point out that this Crusade was called as a last measure to protect the Catholic faithful from the onslaught of Muslim invaders that were running rampant and threatening to destroy the Christian way of life.
We should know that there was a time, when good, Christian, God fearing men recognized that it was their duty to defend the Church and Her faithful. Over the years there has been so much misinformation concerning the Catholic Church and the Crusades… So much of it is just blatant lies that seek only to attack the Church.
Many of the men who went and fought in these Crusades, did so as a means of making reparations for their sins. These men were good citizens, and many of them had wealth and power…they had much to lose, so to speak. But they also knew were their loyalty lie. They knew that they were not living the Faith the way that God wanted them to live and as a means of repenting for their sins, they offered to fight in Her defense. Most of the men who joined these battles did so as to bring Glory and honor to God. The use of the sword was not a means of converting, but rather was looked upon as a last ditch measure in sparing their homelands…in protecting the Faith. And although sometimes, these men carried things a bit too far, they were obligated to act and defend the Church. In fact the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
“(2265) Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.”
So before you dismiss this saint because he participated in the Crusades read about what the Church teaches before casting him aside. But now...let’s get back to Matthew of Beauvatis… and what made him saint.
During the Crusade he was captured by the Saracens, which were the Arab Muslims. Along with the other captured Christians, he was tortured and imprisoned. He was promised freedom if he would denounce the Faith. When given the offer he told them he would consider their request and give them his answer on Friday, which was Good Friday. Although St. Matthew pretended to think about their offer, his decision had already been made, and when Good Friday came along they brought him out of prison to the town square to hear his answer.
He said to them, “I give my life to Him who laid down His for mankind.” And with that, he was immediately beheaded, gaining for the soldier the red crown of martyrdom, and so for Matthew of Beauvais, it was a Good Friday turned great, the year was 1098.
What do you think? Would you be willing to stand up for your faith? Can you imagine if one night you go to bed and in the morning when you wake up, you find that radical Muslims have invaded your homeland… Destroying your towns and many of the homes… violence is erupting everywhere. These angry mobs are going from town to town killing people… specifically the Christians… and gathering up the rest. Before you know what is going on, they come into your town, many people have already been killed…their throats cut… You are one of the lucky ones…they round you up and throw you into a prison with the other Christians. They tell you that all they want from you is to denounce your Faith. They aren’t asking for conversion…they just want to hear you say the words that denounce Christ. They ‘just’ want you to deny the Truth….
To make things simple, they even give you the phrase you are to say: “I denounce Christ and all His teachings.” Seven little words. That’s all they want… Would you do it? Or would you stand up for The Faith? Stand up for the Truth… Well, its precisely moments like these that separate the saints from the rest of us. As we make our way towards Good Friday… towards the Cross of Calvary, we need to meditate upon Christ’s Seven Last Words before we make our decision… And we need to pray for the intercession of all the saints who made the journey with Christ, shedding their blood for His Holy Church. Are you prepared? Can you make the journey that Saint Matthew made? How would you respond? It’s something to think about, that’s for sure.
As a faithful Christian, as a faithful Catholic, I’d like to think that I would be able to place my life in the hands of the Lord, trusting in His goodness and His mercy. Trusting that He would pour the graces upon me in that particular moment, to help me stand when I feel too weak to even breath. Because I recognize the reality of my own inadequacies, sometimes this scenario seems impossible…for I am too much of a coward on my own…
But I also know…that God is constant…and His goodness endures and that ‘with His strength I can do all things’. So on this Tuesday of Holy Week, on this memorial of St. Matthew of Beauvais, I am going to humbly pray that God will keep this brave saint’s name at the forefront of my soul so that if I am ever confronted with a situation that calls for this kind of courage, this level of bravery…. I may invoke the help and intercession of this great and courageous saint, so that I might face the enemy standing, praising God and giving Him the Glory…. because on my own, I would surely fall. Saint Matthew of Beauvais, pray for us.