Understanding Martyrdom: The Ulma Family’s Beatification
Father Petri, in an interview with CNA, clarified the concept of martyrdom, stating that when a person is martyred, it signifies their place among the saints in heaven.
This raises questions about why the Ulma family is considered martyrs when they were not explicitly asked to deny their faith.
Father Lusvardi explained that someone is regarded as a martyr when they are killed out of hatred for their faith, and it is not a requirement for the persecutor to demand a denial of faith at the time of death.
He cited examples like St. Thomas Becket and St. Oscar Romero, who were assassinated without being asked to renounce their faith but were killed due to their unwavering commitment to their beliefs.
During the Ulma family’s beatification Mass in Markowa, Father Witold Burda, the postulator of the beatification cause, emphasized that the family’s martyrdom was motivated by the Nazis’ anti-Semitic and anti-Christian hatred.
The Status of the Unbaptized Newborn as a Martyr
The question arises as to why the newborn, who was unbaptized, is also considered a martyr. The Vatican’s note explains that the child received a “baptism of blood” due to being murdered.
According to Father Lusvardi, “baptism of blood” is a term used to describe the martyrdom of a Christian who has not undergone the sacrament of baptism. The Catechism of the Catholic Church acknowledges that while baptism is necessary for salvation, God is not constrained by the sacrament.
The Catechism elaborates that the Church has consistently held the belief that those who suffer death for the sake of their faith, without having received baptism, are baptized by their death for and with Christ.
This “Baptism of blood,” akin to the desire for baptism, brings about the benefits of baptism without being a sacrament.
Father Petri referred to the Holy Innocents as an example of this concept. In the Bible, King Herod ordered the massacre of all boys in Bethlehem under the age of two in an attempt to kill the newborn Jesus. The Holy Innocents are revered as martyrs for their association with the infant Jesus.
Father Lusvardi emphasized that both the Ulma newborn and the Holy Innocents are exceptional cases because martyrdom typically involves a person explicitly professing their belief and standing by it even in the face of violence.
However, recognizing these young martyrs acknowledges that their brief lives, in some way, still pointed the way to Christ, even if they did not express their faith verbally.