I am almost finished reading Fabiola. In case you missed my previous article, Fabiola, also known as “The Church of the Catacombs,” written by Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman, is a story about the Christian martyrs during the Roman Emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians in the 300s A.D. Recently, I read about the martyrdom of St. Pancratius.
Pancratius became a Christian after he met Pope Cornelius in Rome. The emperor had Pancratius executed after he rejected the emperor’s order to renounce the Christian faith and offer sacrifice to the false Roman gods.
Wiseman wrote portraying the youth St. Pancratius standing before Emperor Diocletian in the arena of the coliseum, “You might have seen a tender youth, who had not entered his 20th year, standing without fetters, with his hands stretched forth in the form of the cross, and praying to God most attentively, with a fixed and untrembling heart; not retiring from the place where he first stood, nor swerving the least, while bears and leopards, breathing fury and death in their very snort, were just rushing on to tear his limbs in pieces” (Wiseman, Nicholas.”‘Fabiola: The Church of the Catacombs,” pp. 425).
Despite the transitory mundane power and military might of the Roman Empire, the emperor was enfeebled by a 14-year-old Christian boy, who by the grace of God remained stalwart in his Christian faith and love for Jesus Christ, and willingly laid down his life bearing witness to Christ.
Tertullian wrote, “The blood of martyrs are the seeds of Christians.”
Christian martyrdom in the time of Pancratius was frequent and could happen anytime to Christians in pagan Rome. Being Pope in the early Church was synonymous with being a martyr. The Christian witness of these martyrs inspired Pancratius and thousands of people to become and to remain Christian.
The saints, especially the martyrs, still bear witness to Christ and His Church. The saints not only inspire, but intercede for us in heaven to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. We are called to holiness and to become saints. We should emulate the lives of the saints and frequently ask them to intercede for us.
St. Pancratius’ feast day is May 12. His image is shown holding a book with the Latin words “Venite ad me et ego dabo vobis omnia bona,” which means “Come to me and I will give you all that is good.”
He is shown with his right index finger pointing heavenward, suggesting that these words of promise come from God. He is cloaked in a red cape like that of a centurion. He is also holding a palm leaf, indicating that he died a martyr.
He is an advocate for young soldiers, for children and teenagers to remain steadfast in their faith to resist trials and temptations, and for people seeking employment. St. Pancratius, pray for us!
By Father Eric Tolentino, pastor of Annunciation BVM, Catasauqua.