We’re so excited to reveal the 2015-2016 OCF theme, chosen by the Student Leadership Board just for you!

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So why this theme?

Usually the first thing that comes to mind when we think about martyrs are the Christians today and throughout the history of the Church who have been killed because of their allegiance to Christ. Under the authority of some regime that found the message of the Gospel abhorrent–whether it was the Jews, the Romans, the Turks, the Soviets, or ISIS–certain Christians have found themselves faced with the decision: deny Christ or lose your life. And time and time again, the martyrs have shown us an example of bold faith in saying yes to Christ and proclaiming their faith in him even in the face of certain execution.

But the truth is that being killed isn’t what makes the martyrs, well, martyrs.

The word μαρτυρέω (mar-tee-REH-oh) in Greek does not itself denote death for a cause but rather means to bear witness, to give evidenceto testify. This is what makes a martyr a martyr–that he or she was willing to bear witness to Christ, give evidence of His salvific love toward mankind, and testify on His behalf before the world. Certainly, those who have been willing to and have faced death for the sake of this witness have left an immeasurable impact on the Church and on the world, often bringing many others to Christ because of their unwavering hope and trust in Him. Tertullian went as far as to say,

The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.

But the calling to martyrdom is a calling for all of us. Each Christian is the representative of Christ to those around Him. We, too, should bear witness to Christ by following His commandments. We, too, should give evidence of His salvific love toward mankind by loving our neighbor and defending the oppressed. We, too, should testify on His behalf by boldly challenging the worldly authorities and the principalities and powers of darkness which find the message of the Gospel abhorrent. And we, too, should not be afraid of the consequences of radically devoting ourselves to Christ, for the reward is a crown of incorruption and life eternal.

That is why we chose this theme. So that we can honor the martyrs who are dying even today for their faith in Jesus Christ. So that we can talk about the worldly and spiritual authorities that challenge us everyday. So that we can accept the calling to martyrdom with faith and endurance. So that together this year, we can learn from the martyrs, both modern and ancient, who gave their lives for Christ how to become witnesses of the Word, giving our whole lives to Christ our God.