June 30: THE FIRST HOLY MARTYRS OF THE HOLY ROMAN CHURCH
Just after the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the Church celebrates the memory of those Christians who, together with their pillars, suffered martyrdom during the persecution under the Roman emperor Nero. They suffered atrocious torments because of their belief and persevered till the end. They were people of all professions and levels of society.
They suffered because of jealousy, and are great examples to us
From a letter of Pope St Clement I to the Corinthians
Moving on from examples in the past, let us come to those who entered the contest in modern times – let us take the noble examples of our own generation. Through jealousy and envy the greatest and most righteous pillars of the Church were attacked and they kept up the struggle until death. Let us consider the holy apostles: Peter, who because of unrighteous jealousy suffered not one or two but many trials, and having thus given his testimony went to the glorious place which was his due. Paul, who through jealousy and strife showed the way to the prize of endurance: seven times he was in bonds, he was exiled, he was stoned, he was a herald both in the East and in the West, he gained the noble fame of his faith, he taught righteousness to all the world, and when he had reached the limits of the West he gave his testimony before the rulers, and thus passed from the world and was taken up into the Holy Place — the greatest example of endurance.
To these men with their holy lives were added a great multitude of the chosen, who were the victims of jealousy and offered among us the fairest example in their endurance under many indignities and tortures. Through jealousy women were made to appear as Danaids and Dircae, suffering terrible and unholy indignities; they finished the race of faith unshaken and received a noble reward, weak in the body though they were. Jealousy has estranged wives from husbands, and made of no effect the saying of our father Adam, This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. Jealousy and strife have overthrown great cities and uprooted mighty nations.
My beloved, we are not only writing these things to you to teach you but also to remind ourselves, for we are in the same arena, and the same struggle is before us. Therefore let us put aside empty and vain cares, and let us come to the glorious and venerable rule of our tradition, and let us see what is good and pleasing and acceptable in the sight of our Maker. Let us fix our gaze on the Blood of Christ, and let us know that it is precious to his Father because it was poured out for our salvation and it brought the grace of repentance to all the world.
O God, who consecrated the abundant first fruits of the Roman Church by the blood of the Martyrs, grant, we pray, that with firm courage we may together draw strength from so great a struggle and ever rejoice at the triumph of faithful love. Through our Lord.
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