“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” -Tertullian. PERSECUTION in the EARLY CHURCH. PERSECUTION in the EARLY CHURCH. Shortly After the Death of Christ. -Christians were accused of cannibalism, perversion, and incest -Christians were used as scapegoats for every
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PERSECUTION in the EARLY CHURCH
-Christians were accused of cannibalism, perversion, and incest
-Christians were used
as scapegoats for every
Ignatius of Antioch
He was martyred around the year 107 in the arena. The Roman authorities hoped to make an example of him and thus discourage Christianity from spreading. Instead, he met with and encouraged Christians who flocked to meet him all along his route, and he wrote letters to the churches.
Bishop of Antioch
Perpetua and Felicity (d. 202)
Perpetua, her slave Felicity, and three men were arrested for converting to Christianity. The details of their visions while in prison and their martyrdom survive through Perpetua’s writings, which is the earliest surviving text written by a Christian woman.
Sts. Sergius and Bacchus were early Christian Martyrs. They were the leaders of a group of Roman soldiers under the Emperor Diocletian who were renowned for their bravery. When it became known that they were Christians, however, they were tortured to renounce their faith. St. Bacchus died during the torture, but St. Sergius continued to be tortured before he was beheaded.
He was the first to make Christian persecution world-wide. He was ruthless and violent.
“They seized first an old man and commanded him to utter impious words. They beat him with clubs, tore his face and eyes with sharp sticks, and dragged him out of the city to stone him. Then they carried to their temple a faithful woman. As she turned away in detestation, they bound her feet and dragged her through the city over the stone-paved streets, dashed her against the millstones, scourged her, and stoned her. Then they rushed to the homes of the pious to steal and plunder. Then they seized the most admirable virgin and broke out her teeth. They threatened to burn her alive if she would not utter impious cries. She leaped eagerly into the fire.
There was no street, nor public road, nor lane open to us, by night or day; for always and everywhere, all of them cried out that if any one would not repeat their impious words, he should immediately be dragged away and burned.”
Diocletian began his furious persecution against the Christians in 303. The emperor ordered the doors of a Christian church to be barred and then burnt with 600 Christians within. Many edicts were issued by him against Christians. Churches were demolished, Christian books were seized and burnt, Christians were persecuted, imprisoned, tortured and killed.
“We saw with our own eyes the houses of prayer thrown down to the very foundations, and the Divine and Sacred Scriptures committed to the flames in the midst of the market-places, and several of the shepherds of the churches captured and mocked by their enemies.” “We shall not mention those who were shaken by the persecution, nor those who in everything pertaining to salvation were shipwrecked…Let us therefore proceed to describe briefly the sacred conflicts of the witnesses of the Divine Word. It was in the nineteenth year of the reign of Diocletian, [A.D. 303] when the feast of the Savior's passion was near at hand, that royal edicts were published everywhere, commanding that the churches be leveled to the ground and the Scriptures be destroyed by fire, and ordering that those who held places of honor be degraded, and that the household servants, if they persisted in the profession of Christianity, be deprived of freedom.”-Eusebius (263-340) who witnessed numerous martyrdoms in Caesarea
The libelli were documents notarized by Roman authorities to certify that someone has offered sacrifice to their idols. In times of persecution these documents were accepted as proof that someone was not a Christian. Many of these libelli have been discovered in excavations in Egypt.
Confessors were Christians who confessed their faith (they did NOT commit apostacy). They were imprisoned for their faith, where other Christians flocked for strength and guidance. Many Christians even sought them for forgiveness of their sins, which became extremely controversial in the Church.
“…they think the Christians the cause of every public disaster, of every affliction with which the people are visited. If the Tiber rises as high as the city walls, if the Nile does not send its waters up over the fields, if the heavens give no rain, if there is an earthquake, if there is famine or pestilence, straightway the cry is, ‘Away with the Christians to the lion!’”
- Tertullian (A.D. 197)
Quote from a debate:“And now…corrupt ways of life are spreading…throughout the world, and those most abominable sanctuaries of impious assemblies are growing. This conspiracy must be absolutely eradicated and accursed. They recognize each other by secret marks and signs, and they love one another almost before they become acquainted. Everywhere they mingle together in a kind of religion of lust, indiscriminately calling each other brothers and sisters, with the result that ordinary debauchery…is converted into incest.”“If there were not an underlying basis of truth, shrewd rumor would not spread about them such a great variety of charges that can hardly be mentioned in polite company. I hear that persuaded by some absurd idea, they consecrate and worship the head of an ass, the lowest of animals. A religion worthy of the sort of practices that gave it birth! Some say that they worship the genitals of their own leader and priest, revering the sexual parts of their own parent. I do not know whether it is false, but certainly a suspicion is attached to secret rites performed at night.”-Caecillius in a debate with the Christian Octavius (second or third century)
“Now the story about the initiation of novices is as disgusting as it is well known. An infant covered with flour, in order to deceive the unwary, is placed before the one who is to be initiated into their rites. The novice, encouraged by the surface of flour to strike without harm, kills the infant with unseen and hidden wounds. The infant's blood - oh horrible! - they lap up thirstily; its limbs they parcel out eagerly. By this victim they ally themselves with one another; by their complicity in this crime they pledge themselves to mutual silence. These rites are fouler than any sacrifice.”
-Caecillius in a debate with the Christian Octavius (second or third century)
“And what happens at their banquets is well known; it is spoken of everywhere. The speech of our friend from Cirta testifies to it. On an appointed day they gather for a feast with all their children, sisters and mothers, people from both sexes and of every age. There after much feasting, when the banquet has inflamed them and they are burning with the drunken heat of incestuous lust, they provoke a dog tied to a lamp to leap forward by tossing a scrap of food beyond the length of the rope to which it is tied. The light, which would have been a witness, is thus turned over and extinguished, and in the shameless darkness, connections of unspeakable desire take place with the uncertainty of chance.”
-Caecillius in a debate with the Christian Octavius (second or third century)
Christian excavators built vast systems of galleries and passages on top of each other. They lie 22-65 feet below the surface. Narrow steps that descend as many as four stories join the levels. Passages are about 8’ x 3’
Burial niches were carved into walls:
16-24” high and 47-59” long
Some bodies were placed in chambers in stone sarcophagi in their clothes and bound in linen. Then the chamber was sealed with a slab bearing the name, age and the day of death.
Religious persecution continues around the world…many argue that today’s persecution is worse as it is more wide-spread and results in more martyrs.
Pope John Paul II wrote in his 1994 apostolic letter TertioMillennioAdveniente (The Coming Third Millennium), "The Church has once again become a Church of martyrs."
Christians today are the most persecuted religious group in the world. Torture, enslavement, rape, imprisonment, killings...even crucifixions are among the atrocities perpetrated upon believers around the world.
The terrorist government of Sudan has been waging a holy war against the country's Christians for years. Scenes such as these sketches depict are far too common. One and a half million people have been slaughtered in the war, and many women and children have been sold into slavery by government-armed soldiers.
Who are these heroic men and women? In one sense, people very much like us—people who never expected to be honored as martyrs, any more than we might. But for them, it really happened. And thus we are bound to them, bound by a debt that can never be fully repaid.
St. Edith Stein, a convert from Judaism to Catholicism who died at the hands of the Nazis in Auschwitz in 1942.
St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Franciscan priest who gave up his life for that of a fellow prisoner in Auschwitz in 1942.
The Archbishop of San Salvador was a champion of the poor who was assassinated while celebrating Mass in 1980.
St. Josephine Bakhita
Born in southern Sudan, Josephine was kidnapped at the age of seven, sold into slavery and given the name Bakhita, which means fortunate. Her body was mutilated by those who enslaved her, but they could not touch her inner spirit. She was later baptized and became a Canossiansister.
St. Charles Lwangaand Companions
Charles was a servant of King Mwanga of Uganda. He converted to Christianity in 1885 and then instructed his friends in the Catholic Faith. He inspired and encouraged his companions to remain chaste and faithful against the immoral acts and homosexual demands of King Mwanga.
In June 1886 Charles was sentenced to death by burning. While the pyre was being prepared, he asked to be untied so that he could arrange the sticks. He then lay down upon them. He made no cry of pain but just twisted and moaned, "Kotanda! (O my God!)."
How do you compare with modern martyrs?
Do you take advantage of being able to freely attend Mass?
Do you appreciate open religious dialogue?
Are you spreading
Message of Christ?
Are you living
Message of Christ?