Saint Cyriacus and his Companions
Saint Cyriacus, born of a noble patrician family, embraced the Christian religion and gave all his wealth to the poor. He was ordained a deacon at Rome, under Pope Marcellinus. Diocletian was emperor at that time, assisted by Maximian, his favorite. The latter decided to build a beautiful palace for the emperor, with magnificent baths, and to make the Christians work at the construction. Among the new slaves were elderly gentlemen and persons of the highest rank, clerics and priests. The labor was hard and the food scanty. A Roman nobleman desired to relieve the sufferings of these laborers and sent four Christians with alms and encouragements; these were Saint Cyriacus, Saint Sisinius, Saint Largus and Saint Smaragdus. They pursued their charities at the risk of their lives, and they worked vigorously alongside those who were growing very weak. When Maximian heard of it, he had Saint Sisinius and an old gentleman whom he had helped, decapitated.
Saint Cyriacus was well known to Diocletian, who was fond of him. Suddenly Diocletian’s daughter became possessed by a furious demon, and she announced that only Cyriacus could deliver her. Diocletian sent for him, and he cured her. She became a Christian like her mother, who is today Saint Serena. A short time later the daughter of the king of Persia also became possessed, and cried out like Diocletian’s daughter that she could be delivered only by Cyriacus, who was in Rome. A message was sent to Diocletian, who asked his wife to persuade the deacon to go to Persia for this purpose. He did so with his two remaining Christian companions, and again cast out the demon, thus bringing about the conversion of the king, his family and four hundred persons, whom he baptized. The three confessors returned to Rome, having refused all compensation for their services, saying that they had received the gifts of God gratuitously and wished to share them gratuitously, not deriving profit from them. The barbarous Maximian, hearing of their return in 303, had them seized, imprisoned and tortured, and finally decapitated with twenty other courageous Christians. Their bodies were first buried near the place of their execution on the Salarian Way, but were later removed to the city. An abbey in France, at Altorf in Alsace, possesses relics of Saint Cyriacus and bears his name.
Reflection: To honor the martyrs and duly celebrate their feasts, we must learn their spirit and study to imitate them according to our state of life. We must, like them, resist evil, subdue our passions, suffer afflictions with patience, and bear with others without murmuring or complaining. The cross is the ladder by which we must ascend to heaven.
Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 9; 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)