Today, in the 1962 Dominican Rite Calendar, we commemorate the feast of Blessed Sadoc and his companions, martyrs of Poland. The ferial office is prayed, according to the rubrics and at Lauds and Vespers, the commemoration of Blessed Sadoc and his companions is made. A second commemoration is made of Ss. Marcellinus, Priest and Peter, Exorcist, both of whom were martyrs.
The joy of Ascension-tide is pierced through by the back-to-back feasts of Dominican martyrs, celebrated today and tomorrow. However, we should recall the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, regarding the perfect charity of those who shed their blood, or indeed forfeit their lives, for our Lord's sake:
"We, therefore, say that the martyrs did a most perfect work; for they renounced, for the love of God, life itself, which others hold so dear, that, for its sake, they are content to part with all temporal goods, and are willing to purchase it by any sacrifice whatsoever." ("The Perfection of the Spiritual Life", Opusculum XVIII, St. Thomas Aquinas, tr. by Fr. John Procter, O.P., Newman Press, 1950)
From the Martyrology:
At Sandomir, the suffering of forty-nine martyrs of the Order of Preachers. They were warned by these selfsame words (miraculously) inserted in the martyrology the day before, and while they were in the church singing to the Mother of God, the infidels put them all to death at the same time.
From “Short Lives of the Dominican Saints” (London, Kegan Paul, Trench, and Trübner & Co., Ltd., 1901):
Throughout the whole of his apostolic career, the desire which lay nearest to the heart of Saint Dominic appears to have been that of devoting himself to the conversion of the Cumans, a savage horde who had established themselves on the north-east of Hungary. It was not God's will, however, that the Father and Founder of the Friars Preachers should carry the light of faith to these poor barbarians; the work which he was not permitted himself to undertake was reserved for his sons. In the General Chapter of A.D. 1221, held only a few weeks before the death of the Saint, Father Paul of Hungary, who had recently joined the ranks of his disciples, was dispatched to found the Order in the lands bordering on the Danube, having as his companions Blessed Sadoc, who was of Sclavonic origin, and three others. When they reached the confines of Hungary, Blessed Sadoc, praying during the night, as was his custom, for the extension of the Order and the success of their mission, saw himself surrounded by a troop of demons, who cried out: "Woe to us! You are come to snatch from us our rights, to drive us from our possessions." Then, pointing to the young novices recruited on the way, the infernal visitants exclaimed in despairing accents: "And must it be by mere children like these? O what confusion!"
Father Paul eventually realized his holy Patriarch's desire and won a martyr's crown among the Cumans; and Blessed Sadoc, who had shared his labours for several years, became Prior of the Convent of Sandomir in Poland. In the year 1260, this town was attacked by a fierce horde of Tartars, led on and encouraged by those inveterate enemies of the Polish nation, the Russians, who, finding the place strongly defended and almost impregnable, treacherously proposed a suspension of hostilities. During the night previous to this truce, the Community had assembled to sing Matins and Lauds. At the conclusion of the Office, one of the novices going out according to custom into the middle of the Choir to sing the Martyrology (i.e. the list of the Saints to be commemorated on the morrow) saw in the place of the book where he should begin, these words in letters of gold: "At Sandomir the passion of forty - nine Martyrs." The novice was greatly perplexed at the sight; nevertheless he mastered his emotion, and, to use the words of the old chronicler, "with the simplicity of a dove and the voice of a swan sang out to the Brethren the words which he saw before him." The astonished Prior desired the novice to bring the book to him, and the miraculous inscription was distinctly seen by the entire Community. Then the holy Prior, filled with the Spirit of God, counted his Friars, and found that with himself they numbered exactly forty-nine. "Brethren," he exclaimed, "these words are for us; and doubtless it is the Tartars who will open for us the gates of heaven; and that to-morrow. Now, therefore, all that remains for us to do is to prepare by confession and by a devout reception of the Bread of Angels for our happy martyrdom." The religious listened to him with tears of joy and thankfulness. Not knowing when the destined hour might be, they immediately got ready for Confession, and spent the remainder of the night in prayer and in calm preparation for the morning's Communion and for a holy death.
At daybreak, they all approached the Holy Table, with wonderful peace in their breasts, knowing that to them it was indeed to be the Viaticum. As the day wore on and no signs of the expected barbarians appeared, they fulfilled their accustomed offices and duties, yet with a sweet impatience for the hour of deliverance.
At length, at the hour of Compline, they went to the Choir to offer up the last act of worship they should be called on to render in this life. They sang that office with unusual solemnity and gladness, and at its conclusion went out into the body of the church in procession, as the manner is in our Order, to sing the Salve. As they were sweetly entoning this Antiphon to the Blessed Mother of God, a band of Tartars, traitorously admitted into the city by the treacherous Russians, burst into the church and cut them all to pieces. One of the Friars was seized with the impulse to flee and succeeded in hiding himself in the belfry; but (we quote again from the old Chronicle), "perceiving that the mangled bodies of his companions, whose souls were now singing Alleluias in heaven, continued, though dead, to chant that sweet melody of the Salve, he regained courage, offered himself of his own accord to the swords of the barbarians, and went to join his fortunate Brethren in the courts of Paradise. Thus they died, like heavenly swans, whose death-songs were the sweet praises of their Mother Mary, and doubtless her virginal hands very lovingly crowned them with the garland of immortality."
From this time the custom was introduced into the Order of singing the Salve at the death-bed of its members, in order to beseech Mary to change the labors and trials of this vale of tears into the eternal possession of the blessed fruit of her womb.
These blessed Martyrs were beatified by Pius VII.
After this our exile may the merciful and loving virgin Mary show you to us, Lord Jesus, whom the blessed Sadoc and his companions hailed amidst the fierce attacks of the foe, and thereby deserved to receive from you the longed-for palm of martyrdom. For you live and reign....