Saint Maurice and the Theban Legion

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Saint Maurice and the Theban Legion

Soldiers and Martyrs
(† 286)

The Roman legion of Christians, called the Theban Legion, under the presidency of their General, Maurice, numbered more than six thousand men. They marched from the East into Gaul, which was in revolt. They were camped near the Lake of Geneva, when they received orders to join with the others in a solemn sacrifice to the gods. They retired a little farther away, to a site today called Saint Maurice d’Augaune, in order to abstain, but were told to return and join in the festival with the others. They found themselves in the sad necessity of disobeying the command. It was not an act of felony for these brave soldiers, who had already fought many battles, but of heroic loyalty. Nonetheless, the barbaric prince gave the order to decimate the Legion. It would seem the emperor’s messengers might have feared a forced resistance, but the disciples of Jesus Christ hoped for nothing but a peaceful victory over the world and the demon, with all his false gods.

The names of the soldiers were written on papers and placed in the caps of the centurions, for 600 were destined to perish as examples. These embraced their comrades, who encouraged them and even envied their fate. The plain soon flowed with the blood of the martyrs. The survivors persisted in declaring themselves Christians, and the butchery began again; the blood of another 600 reddened the waters of the Rhone. The others all persevered in their faith, and Saint Maurice sent to the tyrant an admirable letter, saying: Emperor, we are your soldiers; we are ready to combat the enemies of the empire, but we are also Christians, and we owe fidelity to the true God. We are not rebels, but we prefer to die, innocent, rather than to live, guilty. The Emperor, seeing himself defeated, ordered them all to be massacred. As the massacre began, these generous soldiers deposed their weapons, offered their necks to the sword, and suffered themselves to be butchered in silence.

Reflection: Thank God for every slight or insult you have to bear. An injury borne in meekness and silence is a true victory. It is the proof that we are good soldiers of Jesus Christ, disciples of that heavenly wisdom which is both pure and peaceable.

Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l’année, by Abbé L. Jaud (Mame: Tours, 1950).

 

St. Thomas of Villanova

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St. Thomas of Villanova, Archbishop

Among the many Saints, celebrated on account of their virtues and miracles, who adorned the Catholic Church at a period when a great number of heretics revolted against her, one of the most famous was St. Thomas of Villanova. He was born 1488, in Castile, and received his surname from the city where he was educated. His parents were very pious, and besides possessing other virtues, they distinguished themselves by their liberality to the poor. Thomas followed closely in their footsteps, and even in his childhood gave all he could to the poor. The bread given him for his breakfast he laid by and gave it to the needy. More than once he took off his own coat and gave it to some poor man whom he met, and when reproved for it he said: “He to whom I gave it, needed it more than I.” The same he did with his shoes and other garments. His devotion to the Blessed Virgin was so great and so constant, that he was called the child of Mary. But notwithstanding his piety and devotion he applied himself so earnestly to his studies at Alcala, that he had hardly reached the age of twenty-six years, when he was appointed to teach philosophy and theology. He kept his purity and innocence unspotted in numberless dangers, making use of the same means that preserved other Saints in similar circumstances. While he was engaged in his studies, he lost his father, and inherited from him, among other property, a large house, which he changed into a hospital.  Continue reading