We are celebrating today the heavenly birthday of a martyr. We must not consider ourselves altogether strangers to his virtue of patience. If with the Lord's help we are striving to observe the virtue of patience, though we are living in a time of peace for the Church, yet we are holding the palm of martyrdom. There are in truth two kinds of martyrdom: one in the heart, the other in heart and action at the same time. And so we can be martyrs, even if we are not slain by anyone's sword. To die at the hands of a persecutor is unmistakably martyrdom; to bear insults, to love one who hates us, is martyrdom in our secret thought.
Truth, who asked the sons of Zebedee: “Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” testifies that there are two kinds of martyrdom, one in our secret actions, the other in public. When they immediately answered: “We are able,” the Lord replied: “You will indeed drink my cup”. What do we understand by his cup except his passion, of which he said elsewhere: “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me”? (Mt 26,39) But the sons of Zebedee, James, that is, and John, did not both die as martyrs; yet each heard that he would drink of the cup. John did not end his life in martyrdom, yet was a martyr, because he sustained in his heart the suffering he did not undergo in his body. We too, following his example, can be martyrs without a sword, if we truly guard patience in our minds.
By St. Gregory the Great (c.540-604)
St. James, Apostle
Silver Casket Containing the Relics of the Apostle Saint James, Santiago De Compostela, Spain