The Riches of the Roman Martyrology

We recently spoke here recently of the importance of the Divine Office and I wish to now turn your attention to the Roman Martyology.

The martyrology is filled with all sorts of nuggets of information for your edification and is certainly worthy of your attention.  One of the great blessings of daily reading from the Martyrlogium is gaining contact with the early martyrs and early Christian history generally, particularly in relation to the Roman Church and Empire; saints who perhaps do not enter into our day to day vocabulary but for a few popular exceptions. Yet, surely are they worthy of your attention.

There is such a historical richness that the Martyrology can provide and it augments the accounts of Roman historians such as the estimable Tacitus who, in The Annals, speaks, for example, of the persecution and martyrdom of some of the Christians in the time of the Emperor Nero:
Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.

Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man's cruelty, that they were being destroyed.

Annals, 15.44
The Torches of Nero, by Henryk Siemiradzki
The martyrology helps to bring these same events to life, but through the voice of the Church herself and, what's more, brings to mind the early sojourn of the Church as it struggled to establish itself.

It strikes me that in our day we should strive to be more conscientious of the sacrifice made by the early martyrs. What better way than by reading each day the brief and commemorative accounts carried in the Martyrology, to at least bring them, however briefly, to our daily recollection?

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