Father Lusvardi said someone is considered a martyr when killed out of hatred for the faith. It is not necessary that the perpetrator demand that a martyr deny the faith at the time of his or her death.
“Other martyrs, like St. Thomas Becket or St. Oscar Romero, come to mind who were ambushed by assassins and not asked to deny the faith; but they were killed out of hatred for the faith and they continued to be faithful right up until the end, to bear witness up to the moment of death,” he said.
At the Ulmas’ beatification Mass in Markowa on Sunday, Father Witold Burda, postulator of the cause of beatification, said the family’s martyrdom resulted from the Nazis’ motive.
Those who called for the massacre, the commander Eilert Dieken and the gendarme Józef Kokott, “were moved — we read in the postulation — by anti-Semitic hatred and an even prevalent anti-Christian aversion,” Burda said.
Why is the newborn, who was unbaptized, also considered a martyr?
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The Vatican’s note said that the child received a “baptism of blood” as a result of being murdered.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that although baptism is necessary for salvation, God is not “bound” by the sacrament of baptism.
So what is a ‘baptism of blood?’
Baptism of blood is a term used when referring to the martyrdom of a Christian who has not yet been baptized, according to Lusvardi.
The catechism says: “The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament” (No. 1258).
Petri said that St. Augustine taught in his book “City of God” that “anyone who dies for Christ without baptism is freed from their sins just as if they had been baptized in water.”
Petri pointed to the Holy Innocents as an example, when King Herod the Great of Judea attempted to kill the newborn baby Jesus by ordering the slaughter of “all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under,” as Matthew 2:16 records.
“The Holy Innocents are revered as martyrs for the infant Jesus,” he added.
Lusvardi said that both the Ulma newborn and the Holy Innocents are “very special cases” because “most of the time when we talk about bearing witness, we think of someone who professes belief explicitly and sticks to that belief even in the face of violence.”
“But I think that by recognizing such little ones as martyrs, we’re recognizing that even if they didn’t give testimony to Christ with their words, their brief lives in some way still pointed the way to him,” he added.