That was the title of a book on the Trappist martyrs of Algiers.
As our Lord revealed, a martyr is like the 'seed that falls to the ground and dies'. Martyrdom is the supreme annihilation of self. In this vein, I often recall what St. John of the Cross taught regarding the self-denial the Christian must embrace - sooner or later - and how difficult it is: “Oh that someone might show us how to understand, practice and experience what this counsel is which our Saviour here gives us concerning the denial of ourselves, so that spiritual persons might see in how different a way they should conduct themselves upon this road than that which many of them think proper.... Oh that someone would tell us how far Our Lord desires this self-denial to be carried!”
This morning, the daily meditation in Magnificat reminded me once again of how necessary and extremely difficult this self-abnegation can be.
Oh how different are the ideas of God from our ideas...
The Blessed Virgin Mary
and the Annihilation of Matthew
Oh how different are the ideas of God from our ideas. Oh how far removed from our ways are the ways he takes to attain his ends! How pleasing in his eyes are obscurity, humility, retirement, solitude, and silent prayer! A thousand times greater in his sight are they than all sorts of brilliant exterior works! Oh how true it is that to be anything in the sight of God we must be nothing, we must pretend to nothing; we must only desire to be ignored, forgotten, despised, and considered as the most vile and abject thing in the world.
If the life of the Blessed Virgin does not teach us this great truth, if it does not make us love it and embrace it, if it does not stifle in us the desire of appearing as something of importance, if it does not convince us that to find ourselves in God we must first lose ourselves entirely, what more touching example, what more powerful lesson, could ever be able to persuade us? Jesus and Mary demonstrate to every Christian that God finds his greatest glory in this world in our annihilation. And they also demonstrate to us that the more we are annihilated on earth, the greater, the happier, and the more powerful shall we be in heaven.
How shall we then show our solid devotion to the Blessed Virgin? By striving to imitate her interior life, her lowly opinion of herself, her love of obscurity, of silence, and of retirement; her attraction to little things, her fidelity to grace, the beautiful simplicity of her recollection and prayer, the only object of which was God and his holy will, Jesus Christ and his love, her continual sacrifice of herself and of all she loved most dearly and had the greatest reason to love. Let us ask her every day that she may serve us as our guide and model in the interior life, and let us beg of her to obtain for us the graces which are necessary for us, that we may correspond to the designs of God upon us. And these designs are most certainly our death to ourselves and the destruction of our self-love.
Father Jean-Nicolas Grou, s.j.
Father Grou († 1803) was a French Jesuit priest and a beloved spiritual master. - Source
"Oh how true it is that to be anything in the sight of God we must be nothing, we must pretend to nothing; we must only desire to be ignored, forgotten, despised, and considered as the most vile and abject thing in the world."