In Lumen Gentium, promugated in 1962, Pope Paul VI spoke about martyrdom, suggesting that while few of us will be called upon to lay down our life in imitation of Christ, we who call ourselves Chritians must always “be prepared to confess Christ before men.”
One of the risks of holding up Christ’s supreme self-sacrifice as a model is that we think we have to do really big things to live up to that model. Then, finding ourselves unable to perform big deeds, we are discouraged.
In a homily he gave on May 15, 1977, Oscar Romero talked about the need to possess a “spirit of martyrdom” – a willingness to give up our lives for God – and about what it means to do so. The offering of one’s life, he explained, does not only occur when one is killed for one’s faith. Rather
[t]o give one’s life and to have this spirit of martyrdom means that one is faithful to one’s obligations, to prayer, to the honest fulfillment of one’s duties. In the fulfillment of our every day obligations we are like the mother who with no great emotional display, with the simplicity of motherly martyrdom, gives birth, nourishes, and cares for her children. This is indeed the meaning of giving one’s life.
No need to leap off tall buildings in a single bound. No need to go anything big and flashy. No need to even shed any blood. No big fanfare. Just to fulfill our everyday obligations in a spirit of prayer and love. Surely we can all do that.