June XVII SS. Nicander and Marcian, Martyrs

2017-06-19 10:09


SS. Nicander and Marcian, Martyrs

From their genuine acts in Mabillon. Mus Italic. t. 1, and Ruinart, p. 551.

about the year 303

These saints, as appears from the circumstances of their acts, suffered under Dioclesian, and probably in Mœsia, a province of Illyricum, under the same governor who condemned St. Julius; though some moderns place their martyrdom at Venafro, at present in the kingdom of Naples. They had served some time in the Roman troops, but when the edicts were every where published against the Christians, foregoing all expectations from the world, they forsook the army. This was made a crime in them, and they were impeached before Maximus, the governor of the province. The judge informed them of the imperial order that all were commanded to sacrifice to the gods. Nicander replied, that order could not regard Christians, who looked upon it as unlawful to abandon the immortal God, to adore wood and stones. Daria, the wife of Nicander, was present, and encouraged her husband. Maximus interrupting her, said: “Wicked woman, why would you have your husband die?” “I wish not for his death,” said she, “but that he live in God, so as never to die.” Maximus reproached her that she desired his death, because she wanted another husband. “If you suspect that,” said she, “put me to death first.” The judge said his orders did not extend to women; for this happened upon the first edict, which regarded only the army. However, he commanded her to be taken into custody; but she was released soon after, and returned to see the issue of the trial. Maximus, turning again to Nicander, said: “Take a little time, and deliberate with yourself whether you choose to die or to live.” Nicander answered: “I have already deliberated upon the matter, and have taken the resolution to save myself.” The judge took it that he meant he would save his life by sacrificing to the idols, and giving thanks to his gods, began to congratulate and rejoice with Suetonius, one of his assessors, for their imaginary victory. But Nicander soon undeceived him, by crying out: “God be thanked,” and by praying aloud that God would deliver him from the dangers and temptations of the world. “How now,” said the governor, “you but just now desired to live, and at present you ask to die.” Nicander replied: “I desire that life which is immortal, not the fleeting life of this world. To you I willingly yield up my body: do with it what you please, I am a Christian.” “And what are your sentiments, Marcian?” said the judge, addressing himself to the other. He declared that they were the same with those of his fellow-prisoner. Maximus then gave orders that they should be both confined in the dungeon, where they lay twenty days. After which they were again brought before the governor, who asked them if they would at length obey the edicts of the emperors. Marcian answered: “All you can say will never make us abandon our religion, or deny God. We behold him present by faith, and know whither he calls us. Do not, we beseech you, detain or retard us; but send us quickly to him, that we may behold him that was crucified, whom you stick not to blaspheme, but whom we honor and worship.” The governor granted their request, and excusing himself by the necessity he lay under of complying with his orders, condemned them both to lose their heads. The martyrs expressed their gratitude, and said,—“May peace be with you, O most clement judge.” They walked to the place of execution joyful, and praising God as they went. Nicander was followed by his wife Daria. with his child, whom Papinian, brother to the martyr St. Pasicrates, carried in his arms. Marcian’s wife, differing much from the former, and his other relations followed him, weeping and howling in excess of grief. She in particular did all that in her lay to overcome his resolution, and for that purpose often showed him his little child, the fruit of their marriage; and continually pulled and held him back, till he having rebuked her, desired Zoticus, a zealous Christian, to keep her behind. At the place of execution he called for her, and embracing his son and looking up to heaven, said,—“Lord, all-powerful God, take this child into thy special protection.” Then with a check to his wife for her base cowardice, he bade her go away in peace, because she could not have the courage to see him die. The wife of Nicander continued by his side, exhorting him to constancy and joy. “Be of good heart, my lord,” said she, “ten years have I lived at home from you, never ceasing to pray that I might see you again. Now am I favored with that comfort, and I behold you going to glory, and myself made the wife of a martyr. Give to God that testimony you owe to his holy truth, that you may also deliver me from eternal death;” meaning that by his sufferings and prayers he might obtain mercy for her. The executioner having bound their eyes with their handkerchiefs, struck off their heads on the 17th of June.

Faith and grace made these martyrs triumph over all considerations of flesh and blood. They did not abandon their orphan babes, to whom they left the example of their heroic virtue, and whom they committed to the special protection of their heavenly Father. We never lose what we leave to obey the voice of God. When we have taken all prudent precautions, and all the care in our power, we ought to commend all things with confidence to the divine mercy. This ought to banish all anxiety out of our breasts. God’s blessing and protection is all we can hope or desire: we are assured he will never fail on his side; and what can we do more than to conjure him never to suffer us by our malice to put any obstacle to his mercy? On it is all our reliance for the salvation of our own souls. How much more ought we to trust to his goodness in all other concerns!

St. Botulph, Abbot

SS. Botulph and Adulph were two noble English brothers, who opened their eyes to the light of faith in the first dawning of the day of the gospel upon our ancestors. Astonished at the great truths which they had learned, and penetrated with the most profound sentiments which religion inspires, they travelled into the Belgic Gaul, there to find some religious houses and schools of virtue, which were then scarce in England. Such was the progress of these holy men that they soon were judged fit to be themselves masters. Nor was it long before Adulph was advanced to the bishopric of Maestricht, which he administered in so holy a manner, that he is honored in France among the saints on the 17th of June. St. Botulph returned to England to bring to his own country the treasure he had found. Addressing himself to king Ethelmund, he begged some barren spot of ground to found a monastery. The king gave him the wilderness of Ikanho where he built an abbey, and taught the brethren whom he assembled there the rules of Christian perfection, and the institutes of the holy fathers. He was beloved by every one, being humble, mild, and affable. All his discourse was on things which tended to edification, and his example was still far more efficacious to instil the true spirit of every virtue. When he was oppressed with any sickness he never ceased thanking and praising God with holy Job. Thus he persevered to a good old age. He was purified by a long illness before his happy death, which happened in the same year with that of St. Hilda, 655. His monastery having been destroyed by the Danes, his relics were part carried to the monastery of Ely, and part to that of Thorney. St. Edward the Confessor afterwards bestowed some portion of them on his own abbey of Westminster. Few English saints have been more honored by our ancestors. Four parishes in London, and innumerable others throughout the country, bear his name. Botulph’s town, now Boston, in Lincolnshire and Botulph’s bridge, now Bottle-bride, in Huntingdonshire, are so called from him. Leland and Bale will have his monastery of Ikanho to have been in one of those two places; Hickes says at Boston; others think it was towards Sussex; for Ethelmund seems to have been king of the South-Saxons. Thorney abbey was situated in Cambridgeshire, and was one of those whose abbots sat in parliament. It was founded in 972, in honor of St. Mary and St. Botulph. In its church lay interred St. Botulph, St. Athulf, St. Huna, St. Tancred, St. Tothred, St. Hereferth, St. Cissa, St. Bennet, St. Tova, or Towa, to whose memory a fair chapel called Thoueham, half a mile off in the wood, was consecrated. Thorney was anciently called Ancarig, that is, the Isle of Anchorets. Part of the relics of St. Botulph was kept at Medesham, afterwards called Peterburgh. See Dr. Brown Willis, on mitred Abbeys, t. 1, p. 187, and the life of St. Botulph published by Mabillon, Act. Ben. t. 3, p. 1, and by Papebroke, t. 3, Junij, p. 398. The anonymous author of this piece declares he had received some things which he relates from the disciples of the saint who had lived under his direction. There is also in the Cottonian library, n. 111, a MS. life of Saint Botulph compiled by Folcard, first a monk of St. Bertin’s at St. Omer, afterwards made by the conqueror abbot of Thorney in 1068. See also Narratio de Sanctis qui in Anglia quiescunt, translated from the English-Saxon into Latin by Francis Junius, and published by Dr. Hickes, Diss. Epist. pp. 118, 119. Thesauri, t. 1.

St. Avitus, or Avy, Abbot, Near Orleans

He was a native of Orleans, and retiring into Auvergne, took the monastic habit together with St. Calais in the abbey of Menat, at that time very small; though afterwards enriched by queen Brunehault, and by St. Boner, bishop of Clermont. The two saints soon after returned to Miscy, a famous abbey situated on the Loiret near the Loire, a league and a half below Orleans. It was founded towards the end of the reign of Clovis I. by St. Euspicius a holy priest, honored on the 14th of June, and his nephew St. Maximin, or Mesmin, whose name this monastery, which is now of the Cistercian order bears. Many call St. Maximin the first abbot, others St. Euspicius the first, St. Maximin the second, and St. Avitus the third. But our saint and St. Calais made not a long stay at Misci, though St. Maximin gave them a gracious reception. In quest of a closer retirement St. Avitus, who had succeeded St. Maximin, soon after resigned the abbacy, as Lethuld, a learned monk of Misci, assures us, and with St. Calais lived a recluse in the territory now called Dunois, on the frontiers of la Perche. Others joining them, St. Calais retired into a forest in Maine, and king Clotaire built a church and monastery for St. Avitus and his companions. This is at present a Benedictin nunnery called St. Avy of Chateau-dun, and is situated on the Loire at the foot of the hill on which the town of Chateau-dun is built, in the diocese of Chartres. Three famous monks, Leobin, afterwards bishop of Chartres, Euphronius, and Rusticus, attended our saint to his happy death, which happened about the year 530. His body was carried up the Loire to Orleans, and buried with great pomp in that city. A church was built over his tomb which still subsists, and his feast is kept at Orleans, Paris, and in other places. Some distinguish St. Avitus abbot of Miser from the abbot of Chateau-dun; but all circumstances show that it was the same holy man who retired from Misci into the territory of Chateau-dun. See the life of St. Avitus published by Henschenius in 1701; the New Paris Breviary the 17th of June; Le Cointe’s Annals, and chiefly the book entitled, Les Aménités de la Critique, t. 2, p. 8.

St. Molingus, Alias Dairchilla, Bishop, Confessor

He was born in the territory of Kensellagh, now part of the county of Wexford, and in his youth embraced a monastic life at Glendaloch. The abbey of Aghacainid, on the banks of the Barrow, being put under his direction, received the greatest lustre from his prudence and sanctity, and ever since has been called from him Teghmolin. This saint is celebrated in Ireland for his eminent sanctity, manifested by the gifts of prophecy and miracles. St. Edan, commonly called Maidoc, or Moeg,* who was consecrated first bishop of Ferns in Leinster about the year 598, dying on the 31st of January in 632, (or according to the annals of the Four Masters in 624,) St. Moling was placed in that see. At the petition of the clergy and nobility he was acknowledged archbishop of Leinster, as his predecessor had been. St. Moling was a singular benefactor to his country by persuading king Finacta, in 693, to release to the kingdom of Leinster the heavy tribute of oxen, called the Boarian tribute, which had been imposed by king Tuathal Techmar in 134, and been the cause of many bloody wars. Our saint resigned his see some years before his death, which happened on the 17th of June, 697. He was interred in his own monastery of Teghmoling. Giraldus Cambrensis calls SS. Patrick, Columb, Moling, and Braccan, the four prophets of Ireland, and says their books were extant in his time in the Irish language. See his Hibern. Expugn. l. 2, c. 33; Colgan in MSS. ad 17 Jun.; Ware, p. 437.

St. Prior, Hermit,

Was a native of Egypt, and one of the first disciples of St. Antony. He died towards the end of the fourth century, and was about one hundred years of age. See the Bollandists.

* See this saint’s life on the last day of January.

It must be observed that in the early ages of Christianity in Ireland, the title of Archbishop was frequently conferred on some prelates on account of their extraordinary sanctity and merits. Thus Fiech, bishop of Sletty, or of the mountains, is said to have been consecrated archbishop of Leinster by St. Patrick, So Conlaeth, bishop of Kildare, was called high-priest, and archbishop of Leinster; St. Albe of Emelye, archbishop of Munster; and several other prelates took the title of archbishops from the province at large before the regular concession of four palls to the four metropolitans in the year 1152.

Butler, Alban, The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints (New York 1903) II, 593-597.