Martyrdom is one true painful but eternally rewarding test and affirmation of faith in God. Just like the early apostles of Christ some priests of the Church have been equally murder for their faith and work of faith for God.
As familiar as persecution of Christians is, to persecute a priest in the middle of a Holy Mass is one rare act of persecution. But it has happened couple of times in the history of the Church.
Below are top three (3) Catholic Priests whose murder during a Holy Mass shock the world:
1. Pope Saint Sixtus II
Pope Sixtus II was Pope of the Catholic Church in the very early age of the Church when Valerian was the emperor of Rome. The Emperor, Valerian gave an order forbidding Christians from having any meeting of any kind. But Pope Sixtus II and his rest of the church persisted in serving the Lord, celebrating mass and praying in secret places.
One Sunday when Pope Sixtus II was celebrating a Holy Mass with his congregation in secret catacombs, the Valerian soldiers came for them. Pope Sixtus II knowing that him and his deacons running will result to the death of some faithfuls if not all, decided to turn-in himself in place of the rest of the worshipers present in the Mass.
He and his four deacons present at the Holy Mass were both beheaded in front of the worshipers by the Valerian Soldiers in the middle of the Mass.
2. Saint Stanislaus of Poland
At that period, the king of Poland was Boleslaus II, who was hated and despised by every one on account of his cruelty and great immorality. As no one else dared to censure his vicious conduct, Stanislaus fearlessly exposed to him the scandal which he gave to others, and exhorted him, with tears in his eyes and upon bended knees, to reform. The King promised to follow the bishop’s admonition, but instead of so doing, his conduct became worse than ever. Among other vicious deeds, he abducted the wife of a nobleman and kept her to the great indignation of the whole nobility. Stanislaus went to the King a second time, and like John the Baptist, conjured him most solemnly to change his scandalous life, remonstrating with him on the enormity of his crime in living with another man’s wife. Boleslaus, enraged at this, turned away from him, resolved to put the severe lecturer out of the way. This he determined to do by means of a false accusation. The Saint had bought, of a nobleman by the name of Peter, an estate for his church, for which he had paid in money. The purchase had taken place with the consent of the King, and the estate had been in the possession of the Church three years, when Boleslaus caused the heirs of Peter (who had meanwhile died), to be informed, that if they wished to obtain the estate for themselves, they should bring an action against the bishop, and that he would assist them. The heirs followed the advice, alleging that Stanislaus had purchased the estate from their father, but had not yet paid for it. The bishop declared the accusation false, and summoned witnesses. The latter appeared but gave no evidence, as they had been forbidden so to do. Trusting in God, the Saint said to the king and the assembled counsellors; “Well, as these witnesses do not dare to speak, I shall, in three days, place, before you one whom you will be forced to believe, namely the former proprietor of the estate, himself.” The King laughed derisively, as the latter had been dead more than two years: he, however, received the bishop’s word.
The Saint fasted and prayed during three days and nights. On the fourth day, clad in his priestly robes, after Mass he went to the grave of Peter, and having caused the earth to be removed, he prayed, and then called on the dead and commanded him, in the name of the Holy Trinity to arise and go with him to testify to the truth. And behold a miracle! The dead arose in the presence of all the assembled people and followed the bishop to the King and the councillors. Mute with amazement, they gazed at the unexpected witness; but Stanislaus said: ” Here is he whom I promised to summon; he will reveal the truth.” Upon this Peter distinctly said; “Yes I have of my own free will sold my estate to the bishop and received the price of it in money. My heirs wrong him.” Having given this evidence, Peter was led back to his grave. Stanislaus, against the wish of the King, was discharged and lived for some time unmolested.
When, however, the conduct of the King became more and more scandalous, the nobles of the country requested the bishop once more to remonstrate with him. The fearless Saint gave several days to fasting and prayer, and also offered to God other penances that his exhortation might be more successful than the former. After this, he went to the King and represented to him the danger of eternal damnation, which became more imminent, with the increased years that God gave him to repent and do penance. When he, however, saw that neither remonstrances nor entreaties were of any avail, he threatened him with excommunication. This threat the Saint at last put into execution as the King instead of reforming, became daily worse. At length the King, unwilling to be longer censured by the Saint, sent some men of his guard to the Chapel of St. Michael, to which he had been informed that the Saint had gone to say holy Mass, with orders to put him immediately to death. The soldiers went to the Chapel to obey the royal command, but seized with sudden fear, they fled and frankly confessed to the King, that it was impossible for them to lay hands on so venerable a man. He then twice more sent other soldiers with the same order, but all returned saying that a heavenly light, which surrounded the Saint, prevented them from touching him.
Wild with rage, the King rushed into the chapel and running towards the bishop who stood officiating before the holy Altar, he clove his head with one stroke of his sword, and the Saint sank dead upon the ground. Having had the body dragged out of the Chapel, the King caused it to be cut in pieces, and gave orders that it should be left a prey to the birds. But Divine Providence decreed otherwise. Four large eagles guarded the mangled members of the holy body until some persons, taking courage, laid them together with the intention of burying them. A new miracle, however, took place. By the power of the Most High, the members were joined in such a manner that the entire body of the Saint was lying before the eyes of those who had come to take it away. All present thanked God and praised the Saint’s fearlessness and constancy. They laid the body in a grave before the door of the Chapel where he had received the Crown of Martyrdom. Ten years later, the sacred remains were transferred to the Cathedral of Cracow. During the ten years that the body lay before the Chapel-door, bright, heavenly, lights were seen upon it, with which God glorified his faithful servant upon earth.
3. Archbishop Oscar Romero
Archbishop Oscar Romero the Catholic Archbishop of El Salvador in Central America who spoke out against all the time against the wickedness of the government, given the death squad slaughter gathering steam in the US backyard that kept increasing in that time. The ranks of El Salvador’s left-wing rebels were being swelled by priests who preached that the poor should seek justice in this world, not wait for the next. Romero was the “voice of those without voice”, telling soldiers not to kill.
In order to silent Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero who was becoming an encouragement to other priests to rise up as a strong voice against the killings, a plot to murder him was planned. In the bright morning sunlight of March 24 1980, a car stopped outside the Church of the Divine Providence. A lone gunman stepped out, unhurried. Resting his rifle on the car door, he aimed carefully down the long aisle to where El Salvador’s archbishop, Oscar Arnulfo Romero, was saying mass. A single shot rang out. Romero staggered and fell. The blood pumped from his heart, soaking the little white disks of scattered host. Archbishop Romero’s murder was one of the most notorious unsolved crimes of the cold war.
These servants of God did not only worship God and served his people, but also lived the words of Jesus, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” He was a good and peaceable priest. He was a good shepherd.