July 18 – St Symphorosa and Her Seven Sons, Martyrs
For the second time in July a constellation of seven stars shines in the heavens. More fortunate than Felicitas, Symphorosa preceded into the arena the Seven Sons she was offering to God. From the throne where he was already reigning crowned with the martyr’s diadem, Getulius, the tribune, father of this illustrious family, applauded the combat whereby his race earned a far greater nobility than that of the patrician blood, and gave to Rome a grander glory than was ever dreamed of by her heroes and poets. The Emperor Adrian, corrupt yet brilliant, skeptical yet superstitious like the society around him, presided in person at the defeat of his gods. Threatening to burn the valiant woman in sacrifice to the idols, he received this courageous answer: “Thy gods cannot receive me in sacrifice; but if thou burn me and my sons for the name of Christ, my God, I shall cause thy demons to burn with more cruel flames!” The execution of the mother and her sons was, indeed, the signal for a period of peace, during which the Kingdom of our Lord was considerably extended. Jerusalem, having under the leadership of a last false Messias revolved against Rome, was punished by being deprived of her very name; but the Church received the glory which the Synagogue once possessed, when she produced the mother of the Machabees.
Another glory was reserved for this 18th day of July, in the year 1870: the First Vatican Council, presided over by the immortal Pius IX, defined in its Constitution, Pastor Æternus, the full, supreme, and immediate power of the Roman Pontiff over all the Churches, and pronounced anathema against all who should refuse to recognize the personal infallibility of the same Roman Pontiff, speaking ex cathedra, i.e., defining, as universal Pastor, any doctrine concerning faith or morals. It should also be noted that during these same days, viz., on Sunday in the middle of July, the Greeks make a commemoration of the first six general councils, Nicea, Constantinople, Ephesus, Chalcedon, and second and third of Constantinople. Thus, during these midsummer days, we are in the midst of feasts of heavenly light; and let us not forget that it is martyrdom, the supreme act of faith, that merits and produces light. Doubtless, Divine Wisdom, who plays in the world with number, weight, and measure, planned the beautiful coincidence which unites together these two days, the 18th of July 136, and that of the year 1870. If in these latter days the word of God has been set free, it is owing to the blood shed by our fathers in its defense. The Liturgy gives but a very short account of the immortal combat which glorifies this day.
|Symphorosa Tiburtina, Getulli martyris uxor, ex eo septem filios peperit, Crescentium, Julianum, Nemesium, Primitivum, Justinium, Stacteum, et Eugenium: qui omnes propter christianæ fidei professionem una cum matre, Adriano imperatore, comprehensi sunt. Quorum pietas multis variisque tentata suppliciis, cum stabilis permaneret, mater, quæ filiis fidei magistra fuerat, dux eisdem ad martyrium exstitit. Nam saxo ad collum alligato, in profluentem dejicitur: cujus corpus conquistum a fratre ejus Eugenio sepelitur. Postridie ejus diei, qui fuit decimoquinto calendas augusti, septem fratres singuli ad palum alligati, varie sunt interfecti. Crescentio guttur ferro transfigitur: Juliano pectus confoditur: Nemesio cor transverberatur: Primitivo trajicitur umbilicus: Justinus membratim secatur: Stacteus telis configitur: Eugenius a pectore in duas partes dividitur. Ita octo hostiæ Deo gratissimæ sunt immolatæ. Corpora inaltissimam foveam projecta sunt via Tiburtina, nono ab Urbe lapide: quæ postea Romam translata, condita sunt in Ecclesia sancti Augeli in Piscina.||Symphorosa, a native of Tivoli, was the wife of the martyr Getulius. She bore him seven sons, Crescentius, Julian, Nemesius, Primitivus, Justin, Stacteus, and Eugenius. Under the Emperor Adrian, they were all arrested, together with her, on account of their profession of the Christian faith. Their piety was tried by many different tortures, and, on their remaining constant, the mother, who had taught her sons, led the way to martyrdom. She was thrown into the river, with a huge stone tied round her neck. Her brother Eugenius searched for her body and gave it burial. The next day, which was the 15th of the Calends of August, the Seven Brothers were tied to stakes and put to death in different ways. Crescentius had his throat transfixed; Julian was wounded in the breast; Nemesius was pierced in the heart, and Primitivus in the stomach; Justin was cut to pieces, limb by limb; Stactus was pierced with darts, and Eugenius was cut in two from the breast. Thus eight victims were immolated. Their bodies were thrown into a deep pit on the Tiburtian Way, nine miles from Rome; but they were afterwards translated into the city and buried in the Church of “the holy Angel in the fish-market.”|
O Symphorosa, thou wife, sister, and mother of martyrs, thy desires are amply fulfilled; followed by thy seven children, thou rejoinest in the court of the Eternal King thy husband Getulius and his brother Amantius, brave combatants in the imperial army, but far more valiant soldiers of Christ. The words of our Lord: A man’s enemies shall be they of his own household, are abrogated in heaven; nor can this other sentence be there applied: He that loveth father and mother more than me, is not worthy of me; he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me. There, the love of Christ our King predominates over all other loves; yet, far from extinguishing them, it makes them ten times stronger by putting its own energy into them; and, far from having to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, it sets a divine seal upon the family and rivets its bonds for all eternity.
What nobility, O heroes, have ye conferred upon the world! Men may look up with more confidence towards heaven, for the Angels will not despise a race that can produce such valiant combatants. The perfume of your holocaust accompanied your souls to the throne of God, and an effusion of grace was poured down in return. From the luminous track left by your martyrdom, have sprung forth new splendors in our own days. With joyful gratitude we hail the providential reappearance, immediately after the Vatican Council, of the tomb which first received your sacred relics on the morrow of your triumph. Soldiers of Christ! preserve in us the gifts ye have bestowed on us; convince the many Christians who have forgotten it, that faith is the most precious possession of the just.
This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)