These two martyrs were brothers who lived in Rome, heirs of a family of great wealth, toward the latter part of the third century. It was through the assiduous love of Pope Felix I that they had the happiness, in their mature years, of being converted to the Christian faith; afterwards they encouraged each other for many years in the practice of all good works. They seemed to possess nothing but for the poor, and often, during the persecutions, they spent both nights and days with the confessors in their dungeons, or at the places of their torments and execution. Some they exhorted to persevere; others who had fallen, they raised again. They made themselves the servants of all in Christ, that all might attain to salvation through Him.
Though their zeal was very remarkable, they had escaped the dangers of many bloody persecutions; they had grown old in the heroic exercises of their virtue, when it pleased God to crown their labors with a glorious martyrdom. Primus was about 90 years old, when the pagans raised so great an outcry against the brothers that they were apprehended and put in chains. They were inhumanly scourged and tortured, and then sent to a town twelve miles from Rome to be chastised again, as avowed enemies to the gods, by a prefect who detested the Christians. There they were cruelly tortured to make them renounce their faith, both together and then separately, but the grace of God strengthened each of them. Felicianus was nailed by his hands and feet to a post and left without food or water for three days; Primus was beaten with clubs and burnt with torches. God spared them amidst these tortures, and wild beasts in an arena imitated their God’s mercy. Finally, they were beheaded on June 9, 286.
Reflection. A soul which truly loves God regards all things of this world as nothing. The loss of goods, the disgrace of the world, torments, sickness, and other afflictions are bitter to the senses, but appear light to the one who loves God. If we cannot bear our trials with patience and silence, it is because we love Him only in words. One who is slothful and lukewarm complains of everything, and calls the lightest precepts hard, says Thomas a Kempis.
Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints, and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).