As you are probably aware, the most famous daughter of Albania, Mother Teresa of Calcutta was canonised last Sunday and is now St Teresa.
On 5th November 38 Albanian martyrs will be beatified (the final step before canonisation), representative of many bishops, priests, men and women religious, and laity who accepted death rather than deny their faith under one of the most despotic communist regimes in Europe.
Among them is a young young teacher who was preparing to join an order of religious sisters. Maria Tuci was 21 years of age when she was arrested in 1949 while teaching at a primary school run by the religious order she intended to join. Maria died a martyr’s death the following year at the age of 22.
In prison, she was brutally tortured for her faith and her religious vocation, humiliated and sexually assaulted by the prison guards. One of the guards told her: “I will reduce you to a state that even your family would not be able to recognize you.” That is exactly what happened.
Resisting to the end, she was tied naked inside a sack with a feral cat whom the guards had beaten and tormented for days. Inside the sack, the cat was again beaten by sticks. Maria was scratched and repeatedly bitten by the cat. Puncture wounds from cat bites can be serious, introducing bacteria deep into the flesh. Infection can be lethal if not quickly attended to.
After days of brutal torture, Maria was admitted to the hospital, disfigured and bruised over her whole body. She died an agonizing death on October 24, 1950, holding a rosary in her hands.
Before her death she said: “I thank God because he gave me the strength to die free.” Despite terrible torture, the 22-year-old forgave her tormentors and the prison guards.
Such witness to faith should prompt us to ask ourselves, what does my faith cost me?