20121217 Martyrs held firm to Faith 殉道者堅守信德

After the resurrection and ascension of Our Lord, the Roman Empire persecuted the Church for 300 years. There were ten official persecutions by the following Roman emperors: Nero (64-68), Domitian (94-96), Trajan (98-117), Marcus Aurelius (166-180), Septimius Severus (202-211), Maximinus Thrax (235-238), Decius (249-251), Valerian (247-259), Aurelian (270-275), and Diocletian (284-305).
The Romans considered the state divine and the emperor was looked upon as a god. The Christians did not accept these teachings, and thus embracing Christianity was regarded as treason. With ignorance, hatred and mob spirit, the pagans falsely accused Christians of immorality and of killing children in sacrifice. When problems arose in society, the pagans would blame the Christians, saying that the gods were angry because the Christians refused to worship them.
It was during the persecution under Nero that St. Peter and St. Paul martyred in Rome. Peter was crucified and was buried at the foot of Vatican Hill. St. Paul was beheaded. Nero set Rome afire and blamed the Christians for it. He killed the Christians by the thousands with great cruelty.
Under Domitian, St. John of apostle was plunged into a caldron of boiling oil but miraculously escaped. He was then banished to the island of Patmos, where he received divine revelations and wrote the Book of Revelation.
Pope St. Clement was martyred under Trajan. St. Ignatius of Antioch was devoured by lions in the Roman amphitheater around 110. While he was on his way to martyrdom at Rome, Ignatius wrote seven beautiful epistles to various churches.
According to legend, St. Cecilia suffered under Marcus Aurelius. Cecilia made a vow of virginity. Her parents arranged a marriage for her. Cecilia converted her husband Valerian to the Faith and they agreed to live in continence. Cecilia was condemned to be suffocated by steam, but was miraculously preserved. She was then killed with the sword.
During the reign of Septimius Severus, five catechumens (including Sts. Perpetua and Felicity) were arrested at Carthage. St. Saturus, their teacher, voluntarily joined them in prison. The catechumens were baptized in prison. They were martyred at the Arena.
Popes Pontian and Anterus suffered martyrdom under Maximus Thrax. The pagans blamed the Christians for repeated earthquakes and cried: “The Christians to the lions!”
For fifty years after Septimius Severus, the Christians were left more or less at peace. Due to unrest and discontent throughout the Empire, the emperor was occupied with other concerns. The Christians were allowed to own properties and to build churches. However, some Christians also became worldly and less fervent and their faith was weakened. Hence, during the persecution under Decius many Christians were wanting in courage. Some offered sacrifices to pagan gods and others, through bribery or political influence, obtained certificates saying they had done so. After the persecution, the Church received the apostates back into the fold, but also imposed severe penance on them.
Before the reign of Decius, persecutions were only limited to certain provinces. But under Decius there was general and systematic persecution against the Christians. Decius targeted especially the bishops and priests of the Church. St. Agatha was martyred under Decius.
Pope Sixtus II and his deacon, St. Lawrence, suffered martyrdom under Valerian. The persecution under Aurelian did not last long, for the emperor soon met a violent death.
The persecution under Diocletian was the most violent. Some of the martyrs under this persecution are best known to us: St. Sebastian, the Roman soldier whose body was shot with arrows but who survived and was killed by the sword; St. Tarcisius, the acolyte who died defending the Blessed Sacrament; St. Lucy, St. Agnes, and many others were martyred who had consecrated their virginity to Christ.
“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”— Tertullian

耶穌升天後,羅馬帝國迫害了聖教會三百年。十個皇帝發動了十次官方的迫害: 尼祿(64-68)、多米提安(94-96)、圖拉真(98-117)、馬可.奧勒留(166-180)、西弗勒斯(202-211)、馬克西勉.朱肋斯(235-238)、德西烏斯(249-251)、維利安(247-259)、奧留利安(270-275)和戴克里先(284-305)。
羅馬人視國家為神聖的,更奉承皇帝為神明,但基督徒並不以此為然,遂被視作叛國。羅馬人對基督宗教的一知半解,又懷着仇恨,肆意誣蔑基督徒,說他們越軌生活,把兒童祭神;每當發生事故,都責難到基督徒的身上,稱因為他們對神明的不敬,致所有人都遭受天遣。
聖伯多祿和聖保祿,均在尼祿皇帝統治下殉道 —— 聖伯多祿被反倒釘死在十字架上,死後葬在梵蒂崗崗下;聖保祿則被斬首致命。尼祿縱火燒毀羅馬,竟嫁禍基督徒,他把數以千計的基督徒,殘酷地處死。
多米提安皇帝在位時,聖若望被投到沸油鍋中,卻奇蹟地絲毫無損,後來被放逐到帕特摩島,他在那裡得到啟示,寫下「默示錄」。
教宗聖克勉在圖拉真皇帝時捨生,聖安底約.納爵在公元110年,被投進羅馬競技場餓獅群中,當他被押赴義時,給各地教會,遺下七封言詞美麗的牧函。
傳統認定聖則濟利亞是在馬可.奧勒留皇帝執政時殉道:聖女則濟利亞向天主發了守貞願,但被配婚給另一貴族;她卻把新郎感化成基督徒,同渡守貞生活。聖女曾被當局嘗以熱蒸氣烘死,不果,終被斬首致命。
在西弗勒斯皇帝統治下,有五位慕道者(包括聖伯爾伯都亞及聖斐理謙)遭到逮捕,解送卡地卓,聖撒多寧作為他們的導師,甘願與他們一起受囚禁,且在獄中給他們付洗。結果,一夥人同在競技場為信德而致命。
馬克西勉.朱肋斯皇帝在位時,聖秉天和聖安祿兩位教宗,先後致命。當時,發生多次地震,羅馬異教徒指責基督徒的拖累,大喊「把基督徒投到餓獅群去!」。
西弗勒斯死後約五十年的光景,羅馬帝國經歷外患,無暇理會國內基督徒,使到教會稍有喘息的機會,甚至基督徒可以擁有物業,並興建聖堂。但有些基督徒變得世俗化,信仰薄弱;因此,德西烏斯皇帝迫害教會時,不少基督徒就範背教,敬拜邪神;另有些基督徒則賄賂官員,得到敬拜邪神的証書。教難過後,教會重新接納背教的人,亦要他們嚴做補贖。
德西烏斯皇帝統治前,教難集中於數個羅馬省份,但德西烏斯卻大規模和有計劃地迫害基督徒,並特別針對教會的主教和神父。聖女亞加大亦於此時殉道。
維利安皇帝時,教宗聖思道二世和他的執事聖老楞佐,雙雙致命。奧留利安皇帝迫害教會時間不長,因為他不久便慘死。
戴克里先皇帝對教會的迫害,最為殘酷熾烈。是時箸名的致命烈士有聖巴斯弟盎,他原是羅馬士兵,但因基督徒身分而被亂箭射傷,終被刺死;聖泰西修是送聖體員,為保衛聖體而被棍棒活活打死。聖路濟亞、聖依搦斯和很多童貞聖女都為主捨生。
特道納名言:「殉道者的血是教會的種子。」

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