by Fr. Walt Wainwright

When parents present their children for baptism they are naturally filled with joy and happiness.  Their prayer and wish is that their newly baptized will grow to be happy and filled with a joyous faith.  We know that there are children who have been martyred for their faith but in our culture something like that would never happen.

We know about the story of the life of beautiful Maria Goretti who was martyred for her faith when she was only twelve years old.  Her virtue was threatened and she resisted even accepting death rather than give in to something sinful.  She lived in the last decade of the 19th century and died in 1902 and just forty-eight years later she was canonized by pope Pius XII.  In that short span of time many miracles were attributed to Maria, many people praying for her intercession and God blessing his church with favorable answer to their prayers.  St. Peter’s Basilica and the great piazza was filled with thousands of people who came from all over the world to honor this young child, truly a saint, a martyr.

Lest we forget, there have been several other children who gave the ultimate witness to their faith when faced with the threats even of death.  I would like to give you just a sketch of a few of those lives.  One of these young saints who also became a martyr was Jose Sanchez del Rio.  When he was only 12 years old he convinced his mother to let him join his two older brothers in the peasant revolt against a Mexican government that was closing churches and exiling priests.  It was the movement called, ‘Cristo Re’ ‘Long Live Christ the King’.  Too young to fight Jose served by supporting all those who did fight.

On February 5, 1928 Jose was captured and held for ransom.  His family raised the money demanded for his release but Jose refused to accept the conditions of his release.  He would have to deny Jesus Christ.  He refused and the next morning he was taken to a public place where he was shot to death.  His last words were, “Long Live Christ the King” and “Long Live Our Lady of Guadalupe”.

And let us not forget the Holy Innocents, those very young children who died at the hand of Roman soldiers who were obeying the orders of King Herod who because furious when the Magi returned to their own homeland without telling him where the infant Jesus could be found.   The king Herod said he too wanted to worship the newborn king.  He had no intention of worshiping a rival.  He intended to have him killed.  We don’t know the number of these Holy Innocents but saints and martyrs they are.

There have been countless others down through the centuries and not all have been martyrs.  Saint Dominic Savio and the children of Fatima who were blessed by the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

We might think that sainthood comes only after a long life of faithful service and devotion to the Lord.  While that may be true of so many, children too, who never reach adulthood have gained sainthood as well.

Every time you gaze on a young child or a teen, he and she have been called to be saints.  Whether they became famous ones or not let us pray they will follow the Lord Jesus faithfully and joyously.

Fr. Walt