In June, we honor the memorials/feasts of several martyrs of the Early Church: Justin (June 1), Marcellinus and Peter (June 2), Nativity of John the Baptist (June 24), Peter and Paul (June 29), and the Church also honors a day dedicated to all of the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome (June 30).
As a family, how can we honor these martyred saints and draw nearer to Christ through them?
We can educate ourselves on the Early Church, the Great Persecution, and the learn how to respond when faced with the "great apostasy" argument. I read a wonderful book written by Rod Bennett, The Apostasy That Wasn't. In easy to read, story-telling form, Bennett tells the "extraordinary story of the unbreakable church". The majority of other religions hold to the belief in a "great apostasy" in some way or another and Bennett offers his readers concrete tools and evidence to bring up in conversation/debates/evangelization. Other resources on the unbroken Apostolic succession include: The Fathers Know Best by Jimmy Akin, and Four Witnesses: The Early Church in her Own Words.
As a family, we can pray any of the prayers from the Liturgy of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church. I like this one in particular:
"O God, who consecrated
the abundant first fruits of the Roman Church
by the blood of the Martyrs,
grant, we pray, that with firm courage
we may together draw strength from so great a struggle
and ever rejoice at the triumph of faithful love.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever."
We can reflect on the profound bravery and joy of the early martyrs and be strengthened & driven to share the Gospel at any cost. Read one or all of the epistles of St. Ignatius of Antioch (available free here) & notice the overwhelming joy he expresses to his fellow Christians, despite writing these letters on the way to Rome to face his own martyrdom (which, by the way, meant being fed to lions at the Circus Maximus). Read the letters of Paul and be strengthened by his great courage and steadfastness. Read Justin Martyr's First Apology.
"I write to all the churches and charge them all to know that I die willingly for God, if only you do not hinder. I beseech you, do not unreasonably befriend me. Suffer me to become the food of wild beasts, through whom I may attain to God. I am God's grain, and I am ground by the teeth of wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ. Rather entice the wild beasts to become my tomb and to leave no trace of my body, that when I have fallen asleep I may not be a burden to anyone. Then I shall truly be a disciple of Christ, when the world shall not see even my body. Entreat the Lord for me, that by these instruments I may be found a sacrifice to God." - Ignatius, Letter to the Romans
"6 For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. 8 From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance." - Paul, 2 Timothy 4:6-8
As we look back on the lives and deaths of the earliest martyrs, we can also open our eyes to those currently facing martyrdom across the world. Find a trustworthy Catholic charitable organization & give financially if you can to parishes and areas in most need. Reach out to your parish to see if you are able to help any refugees who might be in your area or see if they are focusing any efforts towards the persecuted Church . Continue to share the gospel every day, in any way you can, being brave in any circumstance. And most importantly, pray. Pray that God's will be done in all circumstances.