St. Venantius, Martyr
Today’s Martyr carries us back to the persecutions under the Roman Emperors. It was at Camerino, in Italy, that he bore his testimony to the true Faith; and the devotion wherewith he is honoured by the people of those parts, (which are under the temporal Sovereignty of the Roman Pontiff,) has occasioned his Feast being kept throughout the Church. Let us, therefore, joyfully welcome this new champion, who fought so bravely for our Emmanuel. Let us congratulate him upon his having the privilege of suffering Martyrdom during the Paschal Season, all radiant as it is with the grand victory won by Life over Death.
The account given by the Liturgy, upon St. Venantius, is a tissue of miracles. The omnipotence of God seemed, on this and many other like occasions, to be resisting the cruelty of the executioners, in order to glorify the Martyr. It served also as a means for converting the bystanders, who, on witnessing these almost lavish miracles, were frequently heard to exclaim, that they too wished to be Christians, and embrace a Religion which was not only honoured by the superhuman patience of its Martyrs, but was so visibly protected and favored by heaven.
Venantius, who was born at Camerino, was but fifteen years of age when he was accused of being a Christian, and arraigned before Antiochus, the Governor of the City, under the reign of the Emperor Decius. He presented himself to the Governor at the City Gate, where, after being long and uselessly coaxed and threatened, he was scourged, and condemned to be chained. But he was miraculously unfettered by an Angel, and was then burned with torches, and was hung, with his head downwards, over a fire, that he might be suffocated by the smoke. One of the officials, by name Anastasius, having noticed the courage wherewith he suffered his torments, and having also seen an Angel walking, in a white robe, above the smoke, and again liberating Venantius,–he believed in Christ, and, together with his family, was baptized by the priest Porphyrius, with whom he afterwards merited to receive the palm of martyrdom.
Venantius was again brought before the Governor; and being solicited, though to no purpose, to give up his Faith, he was thrown into prison. A herald, named Attalus, was sent thither, to tell him that he also had once been a Christian, but had renounced the profession on discovering that it was false, and that Christians were duped into giving up the good things of the present by the vain hope of what was to follow in the next life. But the high-minded soldier of Christ, knowing well the snares of our crafty enemy the devil, utterly spurned his minister from his presence. Whereupon, he was again led before the Governor, and all his teeth were beaten out, and his jaws broken; after which, he was thrown into a dung pit. But, being delivered by an Angel, thence also, he again stood before the judge, who, whilst Venantius was addressing him, fell from the judgment-seat, and died exclaiming: “The God of Venantius is the true One! destroy our gods!”
When this was made known to the Governor, he immediately ordered Venantius to be exposed to the lions: but those animals, forgetting their own savage nature, threw themselves at his feet. The Saint, meanwhile, instructed the people in the Christian Faith, and was therefore removed and again thrown into prison. On the following day, Porphyrius told the Governor, that he had had a vision during the night, and that he saw that those who were bathed with water, by Venantius, were brilliant with a splendid light, but that the Governor was covered with a thick darkness. This so irritated the Governor, that he immediately ordered Porphyrius to be beheaded, and Venantius to be dragged, until evening, along places covered with thorns and thistles.
He was left there half dead; but he again presented himself, in the morning, to the Governor, who at once condemned him to be cast headlong from a rock. Again, however, he was miraculously preserved in his fall, and was once more dragged, for a mile, over rough places. Seeing that the soldiers were tormented with thirst, Venantius made the sign of the Cross, and water flowed from a rock, which was in a neighboring dell; on which rock, Venantius left the impress of his knees, as may be still seen in the Church which is dedicated to him. Many were moved, by that miracle, to believe in Christ, and were all beheaded, together with Venantius, on that very spot, by the Governor’s orders. So awful were the lightnings and earthquakes which followed the execution, that the Governor took to flight. But he was not able to escape divine justice; and, a few days after, met with a most humiliating death. Meanwhile, the Christians gave honorable burial to the bodies of all these Martyrs, and they are now reposing in the Church, which is dedicated to Venantius in the town of Camerino.
Dear youthful Martyr, loved of the Angels, and aided by them in thy combat! pray for us. Like thyself, we too are soldiers of the Risen Jesus, and must give testimony, before the world, to the Divinity and the Rights of our King. The world has not always in its hands those material instruments of torture, such as it made thee feel; but it is always fearful in its power of seducing souls. It would rob us, also, of that New Life, which Jesus has imparted to us and to all them that are His members; holy Martyr, protect us under these attacks! Thou hadst partaken, during the days of thy last Easter, of the divine Flesh of the Paschal Lamb, and thy courage in Martyrdom redounded to the glory of this heavenly nourishment. We, also, have been guests at the same holy Table; we, also, have partaken of the Paschal Banquet. Like thee, we have known our Lord in the breaking of BREAD (St. Luke, xxiv. 35): obtain for us the appreciation of the divine mystery, of which we received the first-fruits at Bethlehem, and which has been gradually developed, within our souls, as well as before our eyes, by the merits of the Passion and Resurrection of our Emmanuel. We are now, at this very time, preparing to receive the plenitude of the divine gift of the Incarnation. Pray for us, O Holy Martyr, that our hearts may more than ever fervently welcome, and faithfully preserve, the rich treasures, which are about to be offered us, by the sublime mysteries of the Ascension and Pentecost. Amen
The Liturgical Year. 1904. Abbot Dom Gueranger, O.S.B. Translated from the French by Dom Laurence Shepherd, O.S.B. Imprimatur, 1910.